After almost 9 yrs. working for the same company, I had to say goodbye last Friday. So, I think I’ll take a moment to reflect.
I started working for a tiny little biotech company in June 2000, fresh out of college. It had a funny name and no one understood what I did for a living when I tried to explain it. I was hired as a Quality Control Technician. It was my job to test the company’s DNA based HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) typing tests. At the time, these tests were used solely for research purposes as doctors and researchers studied the link between HLA typing and the success/failure of organ and bone marrow transplantation. After only a few months on the job I was promoted to Quality Control Technologist and was given a 15% raise. Pretty much unheard-of, but my starting salary was pretty low, so even that 15% didn’t move me up much. Still, I was happy with my job and was learning a lot, which meant more to me than a fat paycheck. After one year on the job, I was sent on my first business trip to learn more about HLA. I got to go to Philadelphia just a month before my wedding. My coworkers threw a big shower upon my return. I really loved working there. The company gradually grew, becoming more successful in it’s little scientific niche, and eventually our products became approved for laboratory use. Over time my job became more challenging, more interesting, and more structured. As changes were made and new products were developed, I never got bored.
After a few years, our company had made a name for itself and larger biotech companies took notice. We were bought out by a company of roughly 500 employees, based in Norway, with locations around the globe. Things got even more complicated, and stayed interesting as well. We were always busy, never bored, and I was involved in new product teams as a representative of my department. I had new responsibilities and was told I’d be my department supervisor some day. In 2003 I got to attend the big annual conference where my company always has a booth and presentations. Another great learning opportunity. Then, in 2004, I had my daughter Emily. As much as I loved my job, I couldn’t bring myself to return to work full-time while she spent 10 hr. days in daycare. So, I approached my boss and asked if I could return to work part-time. I was blessed to be able to keep doing the job I loved 3 days/week (24hrs.) and have 4 days at home with my little girl. I was able to keep doing most of the same work as before, but unfortunately lost my ability to be on new product teams. It was hard to lose that, but I knew I had the “best of both worlds” and just kept doing the best work I could.
Our company was bought out again. This time, by a 5000 employee company based in California, the hub of biotech. Once again, good news and bad. Not everyone takes change well. There were a lot of projects and new things to worry about. I took it all in stride. I had another small promotion and my title changed to QC Analyst II to fit into the new framework of positions/levels.
Shortly after my supervisor nagged me to return to work full-time and I said no, I became pregnant with our second child. Well, make that second and third children. The news of twins, while exciting, did not go over well at the office. It was obvious I wouldn’t be able to keep working. My boss asked me to research the cost of child care to see if we could “work something out”. When I told her I’d need a 40% pay increase just to break even, she was pretty bummed. I continued to work until I reached 33 weeks and was put on bedrest. My coworkers were very supportive. A couple of them even stopped by with food and gifts and helped w/ a few things around the house. I wished I could go back, but the cost was far too much.
One day I got a call from my manager. She had gotten permission for me to work from home part-time, to help keep up with paperwork and any other tasks that could be done via the computer. It seemed like a great idea. Some of my coworkers were receptive and had great ideas for ways that I could help. Others were not so happy with the arrangement and tried to make excuses for why I couldn’t help w/ things I was perfectly capable of doing from home. It was a bumpy road, but I was able to squeeze in a few hours/week while the kids napped and after they went to bed at night. Some weeks I didn’t have any work at all, but it balanced out okay. I was salaried to work 10hrs./week, and got paid that amount whether I worked 2 hrs. or 16. Couldn’t ask for a better deal.
After almost a year with this arrangement, the new parent company decided to get rid of all part-time positions in my department as well as several others. Any part-time work needed was to be filled by contract employees. So, 3 months after my position elimination, my manager was able to rehire me on a 1 yr. contract. I was no longer salaried, I would only be paid for the hours I worked, and my title changed again to Associate Scientist II. Some great projects came my way which netted up to 14 hrs./week. Those weeks, my house definitely suffered, but I made up for it on the weeks that didn’t bring any work. For a few months in the winter, I didn’t get anything. But then just this month, a big project was dropped in my lap with another to follow. My manager begged to extend my contract, but once again, the big-guys changed the rules. Just recently the company merged with another large biotech firm and changed their name. They also changed the rules for contract employees… no contracts over 10 months. I’d already gone 2 months over that limit, so there was no stretching it further. It felt good to know that my boss didn’t want to let me go and that she fought to keep me on. There is still the possibility to be re-hired on shorter contracts for special projects, but only time will tell if that pans out.
I can honestly say I really enjoyed my job, even with all the ups and downs, office politics, and the occasional bizarre coworker. In my time there I’ve had 4 different managers and 2 supervisors, and the company has been changed over 4 times. I owe a great deal to my last manager. She recognized me for my work and fought for me when I didn’t even know it. I will truly miss her and a few others I’ve grown close to over the years. I’m lucky to have left on a high-note with relationships in-tact. No hard feelings, no reason to have let me go other than that my time was up. Someday I’ll get back to that career, but for now, I get to spend some time focusing on my home and family, and I will enjoy it while it lasts.