Dave Jensen wrote:Thanks Nate. We've seen a lot of that here. I had only one mention of it in my article, but the quality of the mentor/PI is one of the major factors in whether a person can feel "in control" during their early career. At that stage of your career, in your training, you're very much in need of people to download what they know so that you can later become independent.
I remember writing years ago about this other concept, a sliding scale left to right, with "Dependence" on the left, "Independence" in the middle, and then "Interdependence" on the right. You start out on that scale almost completely to the left, because you're fully dependent on others to download as I said, and to start becoming somewhat independent. The postdoc is supposed to be the time that you move to center, to Independence. But that doesn't happen for so many people here on the forum who have complained about their overly aggressive PI's. But if done in a good postdoc, you become independent when you leave there.
The final stage of Interdependence comes as you realize later, whether in academia or industry, that while you have control over your career, you are still building relationships and trusting on collaborators and team members for so much of your work. You've reached, at that point, the pinnacle -- which is Interdependence. That's a concept that industry is looking for (the "teamwork" angle you've heard so much about) when they make hiring decisions. We look to see where a person is on this sliding scale, wanting to hire people who are on the center-to-right side but finding so many others who are still in the left to center. The worst hiring decisions of all come when someone hires a person who is stuck squarely in the middle of that sliding scale, in a rut on Independence, and unable to move to the right. He or she feels that they can operate as an island, and that's not how it works in a company.
Thanks for the comments. Oddly, this situation forced me to be quite independent to the point where the PI eventually just signed off on things or edited something when he had the time between clinical rounds. He even argued with the peer reviewers suggesting helpful experiments w/o any good reasons. Finally, I had to address reviewers comments. I was doing everything from start to finish. I really hand to force the hand to get my dissertation done and published. Sadly, I will never be rewarded for that effort given my PI's demeanor.
I think the concept you are thinking about is talked about in Stephen Covey's book; 7 habits of highly effective people. My PI treated everyone who worked for him as a dependent and never as an independent. It was a narcissism control issue with him and other faculty members saw this in him. It is hard once you are half way in a project and not to go home empty handed because of a PI's rotten demeanor or a bad lab situation.
The private sector has been refreshing. You are given a project and expected to complete it using any possible resources; including the expertise of your coworkers. Their cooperation depends on me building the right relationships. So, my success and the firm's success is interdependent on those relationships with my coworkers. There is no BS from an overbearing boss who judges people by how well they are a sycophant with the him. Be reasonable, get results, and work well with others.
Sadly, my former PI's behavior was inexplicable and other faculty wouldn't talk about it at all or in a constructive manner. Frankly, I will never understand the politics or management style of administrative faculty; I have 15 yrs experience in academia. Academia can be so strange sometimes.
PS: You don't have to comment, Dave. Let others contribute. That's all for me.