I fell into Research Administration just over a year ago after following a corkscrew career path that would not have very logically lead anyone to prognosticate this particular destination.
My journey to the halls of research in higher education began as a college dropout, in my twenties. Poo-pooing a future with a degree and a decent paying career, I opted instead for the glamorous world of graveyard shift work on an assembly line. I didn’t spend long there however, as I was spared the certain eventuality of repetitive motion induced carpal tunnel syndrome by displaying a proficiency in data management. This was in the very early days of Microsoft Office when a knack for formulas and light Virtual Basic coding went a very long way. That beautiful skillset shot me straight up to the dizzying heights of the quality assurance world and then eventually, planning and scheduling.
It is here that our story diverges.
In late 2015, my personal and professional life went into a major transitional stage that found me trading in a very cozy job as a military testing site planner and life in the small town that I lived in for the big city of Mesa, Arizona and a new job as Director of Operations at a wedding venue in Gilbert, AZ.
Here I learned the ins and outs of running a small business and the joys and heartbreaks that go with working to keep the bride (and her mother) happy. This happened while I also became politically active for the first time in my life. This awaking that came to me in my mid-forties was a direct result of the recent upheaval in my life that I had felt was an unfair result of mis-guided, discriminatory laws and attitudes in Arizona that needed to be changed. (that will be the extent of my political rant for this story). Soon I found that my volunteer work in this area became a full-time endeavor that would soon lead me to leave the bucolic and flowery setting of the wedding venue for the rough and tumble life of helping to run a non-profit. It was there that I first encountered the quirks and bureaucratic ephemera of working with grants. It was also were I first encountered the beginning symptoms of high-blood pressure. Though the work that I was doing at that time was deeply rewarding, I began to realize that my young kids would be much better off with a parent that didn’t succumb to a stroke or heart-attack.
University life called.
That was when I saw the ad for a Business Operations Specialist for the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. I was all about social change and was definitely all about doing it in a much slower and quieter way than I had been. This turned out to be a very good move. I now had a job that felt meaningful while also being much less life-threatening. It was the best of both worlds….and then our research administrator quit. I had worked with her many times on post-award issues that required data analysis and found that I enjoyed digging into the depths of the accounts and deciphering their status among the numbers. Stepping up to that role was an opportunity that I relished. It has now been more than a year and has proven to be every bit as interesting and satisfying as I had hoped. Supporting the anthropological work of our research faculty gives me a feeling of true connection to meaningful change and working with numbers is still my happy place. I have noticed a bit of a rise in my diastolic though…