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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Anatomy of a Bad Interview

True Story:  Three applicants for the same position.  Remarkably similar backgrounds: All three graduated from the same college; near the top of their class; Each of their cover letters were well written and their resumes were thorough.  All were approximately 20 years old. Same field of study.  All were smartly dressed.  All were the same race, which differs from mine.  All were approx. 40 years my junior.  All took public transportation to arrive at the interview.

All three applicants were interviewed by me.  I provided them with a tour of the facility and covered their job duties and expectations.  In my mind I gave them all the exact same interview.  All interviews were conducted back-to-back on the same day.  I shall refer to them as Jane, John, and Joe.

Here is what transpired:  Jane was 20 minutes early for her interview.  She listened intently and nodded throughout while I was talking.  She was clearly an introvert as she had said very little.  Was I intimidating?  I told her that she needed to ask questions in order to pass this interview.  I said “ask me 5 questions”.  Question 1: How did your business get started?  Questions 2: “What would me typical day be like?”  Those were good questions.  Unfortunately there were no questions 3, 4 or 5.

John’s interview was scheduled for 11 a.m.  At 11:20 a.m. he had not arrived.  I checked my phone and there were no calls or messages.  I then figured that he had changed his mind about the interview. I went about my routine.  35 minutes more had passed and John had finally arrived. He apologized for being late.  Clearly John was an extrovert, great smile, asked lots of questions.  EXCEPT, after he would ask a question he would fidget with his phone just below the plane of the desk.  Was he texting? Reading email? Reading notes? Making notes?  Not sure, but I did draw it to his attention that I could wait until he was done with whatever he was doing on his phone.  He did not get the hint that it was a hint to stop dicking around with his phone.

Joe’s interview was at 1 p.m.  He arrived at 12:20 p.m.  Joe wore a genuine smile during the entire interview.  He was delighted to be at the interview. He did not fully understand all of the things I had described and asked many clarifying questions.  Without prompting he told me of his interests and that he had become so very frustrated at a prior volunteer position.  “People just don’t follow rules” he said.  “It really bothers me when people do not follow the rules.”

Which of these three do you suppose is being called back for a second interview?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Using Monkeys to Understand and Cure Parkinsons Disease

This article for Using Monkeys to Understand and Cure Parkinsons Disease is linked to a special report by the Hastings Center.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Weakest Link: “Proper Procedures Were Not Followed”

The laboratory science world was aghast this week on the news from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC),  [Emphasis is on CONTROL] where researchers were exposed to Anthrax due to procedures not being followed. “Shortcuts may have been taken” and “untrained staff may have…” were phrases that peppered news accounts of the incident.  In the coming weeks and months we will hear the extent of their exposure.  At this writing the number of researchers exposed was raised from 75 to 84.  The CDC has been the global standard to protect (and advise) humankind in regards to health and safety threats.  With an annual budget of $11.3B they seem to be well funded to achieve their mission.

However that organization, along with all others, is only as strong as their weakest link. Please pardon the cliché’.  It seems in this case the weak link is not following procedures.  A few televised news reports placed blame on untrained staff.  I would like to assure you that there is also a procedure in place to train staff.  So rather than a training issue, it is actually a not following procedure issue.  Supervisor did not follow up on the employees?  Also a not following procedure issue.  I feel confident in saying that a Federal Investigation will ensue and blame will be officially placed.

The take home opportunity for those many of us who work in laboratory settings is to use this unfortunate story to reinforce with our staff the necessities for following Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s).  While many SOP’s do not deal with such acute life and death scenarios they do speak directly to adherence to regulations and good scientific practices.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Who Owns Your Opinion?

A close acquaintance of mine is a right-wing ideologue.  A short while ago after sometime between jobs he landed a plum position in a small company, where his jack-of-all-trades skills paid off.  He was recognized for his efforts and after about a year was given a nice title and placed on their board of directors.  “Joe” was not only a jack-of-all-trades at work, he was also a jack-of-all-trades on social media.  No social media was immune from his often hate-filled rhetoric.  It was fairly frequent that his entire email list would receive an almost overtly racist cartoon regarding the POTUS.  Some emails and FB posts were more subtle.  Mostly not too subtle.  One day “Joe” was, without notice, let go of his job.  Company struggling in the economic climate? No, the company was doing fine.  “Joe” said they did not tell him why he was let go and had no idea.  Gosh, he was on their board and was a critical member of the organization.  Recently “Joe” got a new position at another company after a rather desperate, prayer-filled  search.  His new job is going well and of course he is happy to be working again. “Joe” no longer streams his hate-speech across the internet.  I’d like to think that he has had a change of heart.  That seems unlikely.  More to the point it would seem he’s finally put 2 + 2 together.  While he is certainly entitled to his opinion, the company does not have to hold that opinion and if he represents the company, he represents the company too when he is “off the clock”.  Unfair?  Perhaps.

“Joe” and the rest of us represent our companies around the clock.  When you meet someone outside of work, how quickly does the conversation get to “what do you do”? The internet is littered with notorious stories of people who send controversial tweets, emails and posts.  These famous folks make the news so the “Joe’s” of the world need to not re-invent the wheel on how you represent yourself (and your company). 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Partnership for Success: Laboratory Operations and Quality Assurance

A long while ago an employee told me, "QA forgot that we are working for the same company". His inference was that the Quality Assurance Unit was deliberately looking for faults within his department. GLP Compliance will be difficult to achieve if the Operations Group and the Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) do not understand and respect each other’s role.  Building an effective partnership involves investing time to train on the requirements that each area operates under.  Training the technical groups of GLP requirements by the QAU unit and educating the QAU on the   It should be the goal of the QAU and Ops Group to meet the GLP requirements on the front end rather than at the conclusion of the study. The technicians will become confused about data documentation when some pre-clinical studies are conducted GLP and others conducted [by design] Non-GLP. To that end Operations management must ensure that Standard operating procedures are adhered to, even when conducting non-GLP studies, so that data quality will remain consistently high.    Daily quality control inspection of the data by the Operations Group prevents voluminous QAU findings to correct at the conclusion of a study.  Tracking internal inaccuracies within the department will aid in preventing repeat errors.
technical subtleties by the Operations Group will ensure that each has full understanding of the required and feasible data documentation.