As I mentioned in an earlier post, my job (originally a two year position ending in November 2009) has been extended "indefinitely" (i.e. for as long as funding is available). My original salary support was provided by a tumour group - i.e. a group of pure scientists, pure clinicians, and clinician-scientists who work on a specific kind of cancer. This funding may or may not be renewed in the tumour group's next budget - the decision is not solely in my primary supervisor's hands, and apparently other members of the group are divided on the usefulness of continuing to pay all or part of my salary. (As I've observed before, I'm in a classic Catch 22 situation in that I'm most useful to the junior members of the group, but the decision about keeping me is made by the senior members).
So, for now, I'm being supported mainly by funds from my primary supervisor's academic department. Said department contains a couple of MD/PhD PIs whose research overlaps with the original tumour group, but also PIs who work on other kinds of cancer. So I will be working on fewer purely clinical grants, and will see more diversity of tumour types within the set of translational and basic research projects I handle. This is fine by me - my training was in basic research, and while I've learned a lot about clinical research in the last couple of years, I'm still much more comfortable writing and editing grants that focus on lab work. I've also learned an awful lot about the tumour type I've been working on so far, and am looking forward to learning more about other forms of the disease.
Would a Venn diagram help at this stage? Well, you're getting one anyway...
I once was
lost blue but now I'm found red
The remainder of my salary comes from specific grants - I was listed in the proposal budgets as a project manager, typically at 2.5% - 5% effort. I am also taking on more of a project management role on other projects which do not provide any specific salary support. My key role is to track progress compared to the milestones laid out in the grant proposals, and write the resulting progress reports as required by the various funding agencies.
To PMP, or not to PMP? That is the question
Now, I don't have much (some would say "any") project management training. I've been to one half-day course, and have tried to pick up the best practices in the field by observing other people in a similar role. (In some cases I learned more about bad practices to avoid, but that's a post for another day). I know several people who have gone through the training and exams to become a Project Management Professional, which apparently is hellishly difficult. At the moment I don't really feel the need to go this route, although part of this preference may be a reluctance to be pigeon-holed as a "proper" project manager when I prefer to be thought of primarily as a writer and editor. (And really, I'm only responsible for the pieces of the project management pie that facilitate progress report writing). Long-term, the qualification would certainly open up a wider range of future jobs - always a concern when you're geographically limited in your career and there are maybe one or two local jobs a year you would be qualified for / actually want to do. But for now, I'm following the "wing it" philosophy.
Winging it: methods
Every project is different, and is best fitted to different management practices.The common thread in my department is that we're going all high-throughput and fancy, with interconnecting and crossing pipelines all over the place. My boss has said that we need to adopt a "more corporate approach" to our projects in order to cope. This is where my industry experience comes in; I've tried to adopt the best practices of my former company in ways that fit my department's different projects. My next couple of posts will describe a couple of different examples, and I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences (more best practices to adopt!)
It's an evolution, not a revolution...