Tag Archives: microbiology laboratory

“The Ageing Microbiologist”

“Predicted self-portrait in 2050.”

At the age of 44, I like to think I am not old. But I am not young either…

In my last year at primary school, the first school computer arrived, a “BBC Micro”, and it was trundled from classroom to classroom on a trolley.

Whilst at medical school in the early 1990s, email was very much a novelty, and we used to email jokes to each other in the university library. There was even a few people that had (very large) mobile phones.

I gave my first powerpoint presentation in the year 2000. Sadly it wasn’t the last…

Whilst training in clinical microbiology in the early 2000s, all the culture work-up was written on the back of the request form. The average turnaround time for a sample was still about 3 days. “APIs” were all the rage. MALDI-TOF for organism identifcation didn’t even exist. Molecular diagnostics was highly specialised and painstakingly slow. And if you had mentioned bacteriology automation, you would have been laughed out of the laboratory!

Change in the practice of microbiology is difficult to perceive from month to month, even year on year. But over a generation, and particularly the last one, it has changed out of all recognition.

Even though I am ageing, I still feel quite young. I try to observe younger microbiology scientists and clinical microbiologists and then think to myself. What do they know that I don’t? How can I upgrade my skills to match someone half my age!

The knowledge and skills that were essential for me 20 years ago are only partially useful to me today. I have had to “re-invent myself” and acquire lots of new skills; Real-time PCR, pivot tables, middleware, website development, just for starters. I have had to learn about new assays that didn’t even exist when I first qualified as a microbiologist… And I have also forgotten a lot of the old stuff.

That’s ok.

But age does have one big advantage.

Experience.

The ability to spot the unusual, to recognise patterns, to (sub-conciously) know when to follow up on a result and when it can be left alone. All these things are painstakingly learnt over time, and by learning from your previous mistakes and failures.

The combination of experience and re-invention can be a potent one.

It is easy for the ageing microbiologist to look back at how things used to be. But it is even more important to look forward and try to predict how things are going to be in the future.

Michael

Are you an ageing microbiologist? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

“My cubicle”

Here is my cubicle, where I live.

There is just room enough for me, as I have boxes of old files stacked up in the space where one could potentially squeeze an extra seat in. I have no great desire to sort through and clear them all. Any meetings with colleagues or visitors can take place at nearby cafes, which is probably not a bad thing…

I spend at least 4 hours a day in my cubicle and it is the nerve centre of my working life.  It is where all the “execution” happens, where policies are drafted, where presentations are written, where results are processed. It is not however where I generate my ideas. That seems to happen elsewhere,  in the car, in the shower, in bed.

Sitting in front of a computer is simply not conducive to deep thinking and idea generation.

It is quite a cluttered cubicle, with a fair amount of paper floating about. So much for a paperless workplace! Sometimes I don’t always practice what I preach…

I never was one for tidying up before guests arrive.

The same 4 walls (or 3 walls and a glass partition), day after day, week after week, month after month. “The daily grind”, ad infinitum.  It is quite comforting in a way, protecting me from whatever dangers the outside world might hold. It is easy to become trapped inside, metaphorically if not physically speaking.

I have become quite attached to my cubicle. However there is always the danger of staying too long… One more email to write, one more paper to read, one more phone call to make. It is very difficult to make personal connections when you are cocooned inside your cubicle. I suspect our most important work is done when we finally manage to escape from our cubicles.

I guess I have become a little institutionalised in a way, in my cubicle. It is my comfort zone. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit comfortably. No standing office for me!

I will miss it when I go…

Michael

“Are you a leader or a manager?”

Have a think about the colleagues that you work with. Who are the natural managers amongst them, and who are the natural leaders?

I always find the “natural” managers tend to occupy the more senior positions, whilst the leaders can be found throughout the organisation, at all levels and payscales. Maybe it is because as a society living in the late industrial age we recognise and acknowledge good management more than good leadership. I really don’t know.

Is it possible to be good at both? Contrary to what some web articles might say about these two “personality types” being mutually exclusive, I think it is possible to be strong in both areas. Often good managers are good leaders as well and vice versa.  I do believe however that people are almost always stronger in one area than the other. 

For clinical microbiology laboratories (amongst other organisations) to thrive, they need a good balance of both.

Is it possible to have too many managers and leaders in the workplace? Maybe, but I would rather have too many than too few…..

And myself? Well, I like to think I have some degree of leadership qualities, some ability to inspire, and have some vision of the future direction of the clinical microbiology laboratory and where I want to take it.

As for management, let’s not go there! I don’t have a managerial bone in my body. Never have had, and never will have…..

Have a think about yourself. Regardless of your position, do you see yourself as a manager, or are you a leader?

or are you a follower…?

Michael

For a couple of interesting articles on the above click on the articles below:

https://www.srpl.net/are-you-a-manager-or-a-leader/

http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/manager-or-leader-which-are-you/