New Job, to start May 16, 2011

OK, I have landed a new job, to start May 16. This is a job as a biostatistician at a Rockville-based contracting/consulting company named GLOTECH. I gather that the bulk of GLOTECH’s business is providing IT support to the federal government. But one of their contracts is to provide statistical consulting for the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research Branch (DESPR) in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH, and it is under this contract that I’ll be working.

So, I will be a statistical consultant! One of the last courses that I took in my Master’s was on statistical consulting. It occurred to me during that course that I might find statistical consulting very enjoyable. This is my chance to test that hypothesis.

Here’s a short account of my job search. I don’t claim to be particularly good at searching for jobs, but this is how it unfolded.

For about one to one-and-a-half years before I was laid off, I already had an inkling that things weren’t going well in my division of the company. Sales were down, we were missing deadlines, and our major client was grumbling. I was expecting something Big and Bad to happen — perhaps layoffs, a wholesale shutting down of my division, or the loss of our big contract. During this time I was constantly worrying: suppose I was laid off tomorrow? Would I have enough cash socked away in my savings account to tide me over for 3-6 months while I conducted a job search? Would I then have enough money left over to move to another part of the country, if my new employer didn’t provide support for moving? How badly would the current recession affect my job search? I started saving up money in my bank account preparing for the Big Bad Event.

On November 17, 2010, a research scientist that I know from my NIH days, B.G., emailed me out of the blue. B.G. is now working at a research hospital in D.C., and was asking me whether I’d be interested in working at the hospital as an MRI Scientist. I was still employed at the time, so I declined pursuing the job opening, but I kept it in mind.

Then the Big Bad Event occurred on February 3. It manifested as layoffs of about 25% of the people in my division, and I was one of the people who were cut. I immediately started my job search. I decided to first restrict my search to the D.C. area, and if that failed then I would expand my search to the rest of the country.

The first thing I did was to contact B.G. regarding the MRI Scientist position at the D.C. hospital. It was still open! After some time, I landed an interview there. As part of this interview, I gave a scientific talk via slide presentation, which is the usual custom with academic/research type positions. Unfortunately, this job interview didn’t result in a job offer.

I also contacted my thesis advisor, G.L., and asked him whether he knew of any job opportunities. Almost immediately, he put me in contact with a Bethesda-based consulting company that specializes in health economics, and after some time I landed an interview there. Unfortunately, this job interview didn’t result in a job offer, either.

I also aggressively searched several job boards and job board aggregators, including Indeed.com, LinkUp.com, SimplyHired.com, and Monster.com. I also tried three job boards specific to quantitative analysis, AnalyticRecruiting.com, JobsInData.com, and icrunchdata.com. Using these various sources, I forwarded my résumé (actually, it’s more like an academic/research C.V.) to about twenty places, mostly in the D.C. area.

Now unemployed, I had no income, a stash of cash in the bank, and lots of free time — sort of like being retired. I took advantage of the free time to travel. I visited my parents in Florida for three weeks, from February 21 through March 14, and during the second week (February 27 – March 5) we were in Orlando, visiting Disney World. On March 4, I had a telephone screening interview with GLOTECH, one of the companies which I had applied to via online job listings (Monster.com, via the aggregator Indeed.com). After I returned home from Florida, I proceeded to two in-person interviews, on March 16 and March 24; the first was with GLOTECH staff, and the second was with our NICHD clients. I received the formal job offer via email on April 8.

Then I was in Hawaii from April 9 through April 24, attending a lucid dreaming workshop hosted by The Lucidity Institute, held at a wonderful retreat named Kalani Oceanside Retreat Village . (I will have to devote a whole other post to this important experience). I faxed my acceptance of the job offer to GLOTECH while in Kalani, on Tax Day, April 15. I start the new job on May 16; I am looking forward to it very much.

Since I had saved up a lot of money in my bank account in preparation for the Big Bad Event, I didn’t feel particularly rushed or pressured in this job search. Certainly there was a sense of urgency, but not panic. Actually, I mostly had a feeling of exhilaration, potentialities, optimism, and expansiveness, reminiscent of the feeling of driving that Chevy Impala.

As part of my severance package, my former employer included three-months use of a career counselling service, Lee Hecht Harrison. Because of my trip to Florida, I decided to delay the start of this career counselling service, and didn’t actually start it until I was well into my job search. But I was pleased with the services that Lee Hecht Harrison provided, however briefly. If I ever find myself in job search mode once more, I would certainly consider using Lee Hecht Harrison’s services again.

Here are some things that I learned from this job search:

  1. There’s a difference between résumés and C.V.s.
  2. In academia/research, a multi-page C.V. is expected. In most of the rest of the world, a one- to two-page résumé is standard, but this may be changing.
  3. In your résumé, it might be advisable to avoid dating yourself, because some industries (I think infotech, especially) practice age discrimination, sometimes not so subtly. For example, maybe you shouldn’t list the dates of your education. And instead of saying something like “nineteen years experience” like I did, say instead “fifteen years plus of experience”. Apparently, fifteen years is the maximum you should own up to; it’s sizable enough to be impressive without being so large that you look like a dinosaur.
  4. In academia/research, a job talk is expected, but in most of the rest of the world it’s not. I learned from one of my colleagues at Lee Hecht Harrison that sometimes they give job talks in advertising and marketing.
  5. Currently, about 75% of all job interviews are landed via personal contacts. The remaining 25% were through job listings. (Lee Hecht Harrison statistic.) I myself landed two job interviews through personal contacts and one through job listings.
  6. Despite the statistic in #5 above, it is still very worthwhile to pursue job listings, as my own experience attests — my job offer actually came via the job interview I landed via job listings. So, it’s probably best to expend a large chunk of one’s time in pursuing jobs through personal contacts, but also spend some effort pursuing jobs through listings. My analogy is with diversifying a stock portfolio — typically it’s advised to place some funds in stocks and some in bonds.
  7. One of the most valuable components of the Lee Hecht Harrison program is the weekly Job Search Work Team meeting.
  8. LinkedIn (not to be confused with LinkUp.com) has become an important tool for conducting a job search. Here are some things about LinkedIn that I learned.
    • It’s a good idea to post your photo in your profile, although some disadvantaged groups (women, minorities, older people) are sometimes reluctant to do so for fear of discrimination. I felt comfortable posting my own photo.
    • It’s also a good idea to bring your profile to 100% complete. This includes getting at least three recommendations.
    • One should expend some effort building one’s professional network on LinkedIn.
    • One should join relevant professional groups on LinkedIn.
  9. On March 28, I attended a 2.5-hour class on how to be an independent consultant, via First Class, Inc. The class was taught by an independent consultant and small business owner named Steve Veltkamp. In this class, I learned of three websites for freelance work: Elance.com, Freelancer.com, and Guru.com.
  10. I actually didn’t fare too badly in this job search. From layoff on February 3 to job offer on April 8 was two months and five days, and I had constrained my job search mostly to the rather restricted region of the D.C. metropolitan area. I thought I was doing only a mediocre job with my job search, but one of my Lee Hecht Harrison colleagues said that converting twenty job applications to three job interviews and one job offer was actually pretty good. I must consider myself very fortunate; some of my Lee Hecht Harrison colleagues have been conducting their job search for a much longer period of time.
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Deer Strike, November 21, 2010

A week ago, Sunday, November 21, 2010, around 6:00 PM, I hit a deer! I had spent the weekend at my sister’s new house out in Loudoun County to help her and her husband with moving and unpacking boxes. That Sunday, I excused myself to attend a 2 PM ragtime piano concert, hosted by the Northern Virginia Ragtime Society, with Perfessor Bill Edwards performing. After the concert, the plan was for me to return to my sister’s house.

I had been driving back to my sister’s new house and was just about to get off Route 7 when I hit the deer. At that point, Route 7 is two lanes going east and two going west, and I had been headed west in the right lane. There was another car in the left lane right next to me, and we were about head-to-head. Suddenly, the deer appeared just to my right, appearing to be moving from left to right. There was no time to react. I clipped it with the right front corner of my CRV; I believed I saw a spray of stuff upon impact, but I’m not sure whether the stuff was plastic material from the car or organic material from the deer. I suspect that the car to my left was lucky, and the deer had gotten out of the left lane into my lane.

For about a second I thought of just driving all the way to my sister’s house and inspecting the damage there, but within a second or two I realized that I didn’t have brakes; when I tried mashing on the brakes, there was strong resistance and no response with the brakes. Then I realized I didn’t have acceleration either! I was just coasting. So the only thing left to do was to maneuver the car to the side of the road before it lost momentum (mass times velocity). I brought the car to a stop at the intersection between West Loudoun Road and Route 7, facing west.

Here’s a street-level view of that intersection; it’s from the perspective of the Google Van in the street, but I was off the road, on the shoulder. Looking up through my windshield, I could see a street sign labeled “W LOUDOUN ST”, which is not seen in Google’s street-level view. Perhaps the street sign is a relatively new addition.

I didn’t see the deer after that; maybe it hobbled off into the woods. I myself was uninjured. No other cars or people were involved, so this was thankfully a relatively simple case.

I used my cell phone to telephone my sister to let her know what had happened. I was then fumbling about with my wallet, looking for my AAA card when the blue flashing lights of a police car show up in my rear view mirror. I would estimate that barely five minutes had elapsed between hitting the deer and the police showing up.

The policeman, a deputy sheriff, took my driver’s license and insurance information, and filed an accident report. He then kindly offered to summon a towing truck for me, explaining that if I did it myself (e.g., perhaps through AAA) it might take longer. I guess towing companies are a little more responsive when the request comes from the sheriff! I took him up on the offer. And indeed, the towing truck appeared extremely promptly, probably within ten minutes. To my amusement, the towing truck’s license plate was REPO GOD. The deputy sheriff then gave me a ride to my sister’s new house; with a chuckle, he said that if it helped me feel any better, I had made it almost all of the way to my destination before hitting the deer. And as he dropped me off, he gave another chuckle — he told me that the neighbors are now wondering about this new family that just moved into town, and that are now having a police car show up on their driveway. (There go the property values!)

Monday morning, I telephoned my insurance company, State Farm, and gave them information regarding the accident, including the accident case number. I also had to give the approval to have the towing company bring my car to Craftsman Auto Body in Purcellville. I could have had them tow it to Arlington so that if/when my car was repaired it would be close by, but I thought that towing my car all the way from the Purcellville area to Arlington wasn’t such a good idea.

Most everything went surprisingly smoothly, from the appearance of the deputy sheriff and the towing truck to State Farm’s handling of the matter. I think it’s because deer collisions are very common in Loudoun County, at this time of year. Indeed, this very timely article appeared in the Loudoun-Times-Mirror on November 24. Maybe if my case weren’t so cut-and-dry, e.g., if a second automobile were involved, things wouldn’t have gone so smoothly.

The only glitch in the whole process, and it is a very minor one, really, was with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I had telephoned them on Monday to reserve a mid-sized car, which I wanted pick up on Tuesday morning. I didn’t want too large a car because the parking spaces at River Place are rather narrow, and because the $900 that my insurance covers towards rental cars might last long with a larger vehicle (which incur a higher daily rate). When I showed up to Enterprise on Tuesday morning, there had been a small error — they thought I had wanted the car on Wednesday morning. The car they assigned to me was a Chevy Impala, which I don’t think is mid-sized; actually, it seems rather full-sized. I suspect that I wasn’t given a true mid-sized car because of the clerical error. Again, this was really a very minor error (in case you’re wondering, I am not being charged the rate of a larger vehicle). In fact, sometimes I enjoy using these minor errors in life to try something different. For example, if the waitress at a restaurant accidentally gives me the wrong dish and it isn’t a totally ridiculous error, I accept the dish anyway use it as an opportunity to try something that I might not otherwise have ordered. Here, I was given the opportunity to try driving a Chevy Impala, and am currently greatly enjoying this car.

Wednesday morning, November 24, I stopped by the auto body shop to get some things out of my CRV, including the parking hang tag for my parking garage, as well as some of my favorite CDs. While there, I took a few photos of the CRV with my cell phone camera.

Poor Fats Waller Has A Black Eye and a Broken Nose


Oblique View of Fats' Black Eye



Green Goop Dribbling Out Of Fat's Broken Nose (Probably Radiator Fluid)


Green Slime! Don’t Touch It! It is Certain Death! Look Out! It’s Dripping!
Green Slime — the movie
Ex-Nickelodeon Stars Relate Horrors Of Green Slime Syndrome

Deer Fur Stuck To Fats' Chin


En Face View of Fats' Broken Nose


Close-Up Of Black Eye


Fats' Profile, from Right


Right Superior Oblique View Of Fats' Forehead


Rental Car, a Chevy Impala

At the time of this writing/typing (Sunday afternoon, November 28, 2010), I haven’t yet heard from State Farm about their assessment of the damages. I think everybody was off on vacation for the Thanksgiving Holiday. So, I think I’ll hear about the damage assessment maybe tomorrow or Tuesday.

A final note on the Chevy Impala. The four previous cars that I have driven, a Mitsubishi Colt, a Nissan Sentra, a Nissan Maxima, and my current Honda CRV, have all been Japanese. All had a techy, perhaps slightly geeky engineerish feel to them. NOT SO with this Impala. In contrast, this car has a very masculine, very American, bold, brash, confident, expansive, romantic, optimistic, adventurous feel to it. It’s the kind of car that a wealthy older retired couple (probably named Marge and Herbie) would take on a cross-country tour, going through the Great Plains and the West and the Grand Canyon. It’s the kind of car that a teen-ager might commandeer without his parents’ approval and go drag racing with, and maybe he’d fool around with his girlfriend in the back seat on prom night. It’s the kind of car that a big fish in a small pond (maybe a small-town judge or a small business owner) might drive. This car is a cowboy! I can imagine a cool twenty-something dude buying such a car second-hand, and souping it up into a muscle car, a la Greased Lightnin’.

(As an aside, ragtime composer Joseph Lamb wrote a piece entitled Greased Lightening [sic].)

While the musical Grease evokes the 1950’s, this Impala evokes nostalgia for the Seventies and the big cars that you’d see on TV shows and movies of that era. Even the fonts on the dashboard (sans serif, italicized) feel 70-ish. It is no accident that the legendary JATO Rocket Car is traditionally said to have been a Chevy Impala. From page 4 of the Rocket Car story:

One aspect of the Rocket Car legend that always tickles me is that no matter how much the story varies, the make, model and year of the car is always specified. Sure this is a nice detail to have on hand, but considering the details left out of the description, it looks… sorta silly. In the Darwin Award version, there’s no mention of which highway the car was on, or even whereabouts in Arizona the story took place. And Arizona is a pretty big place. There’s also no mention of any investigation that took place afterwards. But despite all these oversights, the story did specify that the car was a 1967 Chevy Impala. I think the reason this detail is always supplied is because it’s critical to make the listener think the test pilot at least looked cool when he flew into the cliff. You’ll never hear someone tell a story about a guy in a rocket-powered K-car or a Volkswagen Beetle. It has to be a car that deserves to have a rocket attached to it.


Addendum (11/30/10):
It could have been worse: Road fatalities involving animals (USA Today)


Addendum (12/18/10): Stayed overnight at R. & K.’s. This morning, helped them move boxes from their garage to the basement. Then I drove the rental Impala — which K.C. dubbed “Jerry” — to Craftsman Auto Body, while R. & K. (& S.) followed in their van. I picked up the key for Fats, and then R. and I transfered stuff from Jerry to Fats. Fats looked good as new!

Then I drove Jerry to an Enterprise location very nearby, and again R. & K. followed. I surrendered Jerry’s keys to Enterprise, and discovered that I didn’t have Fats’ key, even though I just had it back at Craftsman. After checking with R., my hunch was that I had accidentally left it in Fats’s trunk along with stuff had transfered there from Jerry. We returned to Fats in Craftsman’s lot and indeed the key was there, in Fats’ trunk!

We then drove to Ford’s Fish Shack in Ashburn and had lunch. I had their root beer float, a cup of New England style clam chowder, and their Ipswich clam dinner. (The New England theme — how about a Dunwich or Innsmouth clam dinner? — and the current Christmas season made me think of this Lovecraft-inspired video.) R. and I also split an order of deviled eggs. From there, R. & K. had to split off to do an errand, while I went home. On my way home, I stopped by a Trader Joe’s in Falls Church and bought their macaroni and cheese (because it was highly rated here), as well as a bottle of cherry juice. Then I stopped by a Dunkin Donuts to pick up a medium coffee, and then stopped at a gas station to refuel Fats.


Addendum (09/03/11): Deer ‘pill’ curbs aggressive mating. “The aggressive mating causes an estimated $1bn (£600m) in damage to property each year and an upsurge in collisions with cars.”