Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

Make Something Happen

You went through college, studied hard, perhaps got an advanced degree, and later landed the perfect research job. Years passed. One day you found yourself wondering if there wasn’t something else you could be doing, something more challenging, more rewarding—emotionally and financially.

by Pamela Ahlberg
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This month’s cover story identifies three individuals who made such changes and now share their unique approaches for moving beyond the lab bench. If you’re ready for a career change, their stories just might inspire.

Whether you’re looking for a quantum leap kind of change or just a move up from your current situation, the ability to rally support for your ideas is critical. This month’s Leadership & Staffing article, “Getting Heard,” looks at strategies for selling your ideas to upper management. From getting buy-in from your reporting manager, to aligning your idea with your organization’s business goals, author Lina Genovesi provides a roadmap for successfully presenting and gaining support for your ideas. “A lab manager who presents well-thought-out proposals that are convincing and effective improves the odds of getting the approval he or she is seeking,” says Glen Fine, chief executive officer at Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute. “In the process, the lab manager is also building longterm credibility as an independent thinker and leader within the organization.”

In addition to selling your ideas to upper management, lab managers today must also know how to work with and cultivate cross-disciplinary research teams, since the need for those kinds of teams continues to grow. “It is important to create an environment that is enriching with fulfilling work, that gives people the freedom to work under the tutelage of their principal investigators, and to have a sense of ownership,” says Devin Hodge, business operations manager, Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), Argonne National Laboratory. Check out “Building a Cross-Disciplinary Team” on page 22 to learn more.

It’s not only cross-disciplinary teams that labs need to manage, there is also the growing issue of cross-generational teams. As we saw in last month’s Salary and Employee Satisfaction Survey, baby boomers are still hanging on in sizeable numbers, working alongside and sometimes being managed by Gen Xers and Millennials. Turn to Mark Lanfear’s Science Matters article on page 28 for his thoughts on this unique challenge facing most workplaces today. “Even baby boomers, who tended to stay at jobs longer, now realize…that workers have become more mobile and the workplace less rigid, leading to the rise in contract work and a general feeling that we all have to take responsibility for the trajectories of our careers.” Which brings us back to the message of this month’s cover story—that individuals need to make something happen for themselves.

When it comes to laboratory safety however, the idea is to not make something happen, “something” being an accident or injury. One way to prevent laboratory accidents related to servicing or maintaining equipment is through a well-executed Lockout/Tagout program. While we’ve discussed Lockout/ Tagout before, it is worth revisiting since data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that in 2006, these kinds of accidents accounted for 17 percent of the total.

This past weekend I had a yard sale and today my basement is tidier and less cluttered and I feel inspired to make more changes and improvements. It is probably no coincidence that this happened in early fall. Both the cool, crisp air and memories of heading off to begin a new school year make one feel like setting new goals and taking on new challenges. I hope it’s the same for you and that this season provides the spark you need for moving ahead and making your necessary changes.

Good luck.

Pamela Ahlberg