Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Apprentice

As it happens, I saw one episode of the recent series while in Belgium, and it seemed to consist of nasty poseurs taking taxis around London, desperately selling gimmicky overpriced tat to unwilling shop managers. If that is business, they can keep it. But this post isn't about the TV program, or even about her. There is of course a climate science connection due to her recently terminated employment at the Met Office. Actually, as jules pointed out, if canoodling with a married colleague in a field is beyond the pale there, then we'll have to cross them off our list of possible future career moves :-) Come to that, if canoodling with a colleague who is married to someone else is beyond the pale at scientific institutes in general, then there are a whole lot of scientists who should be worried right now - such behaviour is probably more the rule than the exception, judging from the tip of the iceberg that I know about.... Interestingly, the only other other probationary sacking that I recall from my time in the UK was also a youngish (for her position) uppity female. While I will not criticise that decision in any way (nor the Apprentice case about which I probably know even less than those who have read the papers carefully), I can't help but think that youngish uppity females are, by their mere existence and irrespective of their behaviour, more likely to upset the clubby middle-aged grey men who run British science, than some upstanding young chap who may have gone a bit off the rails, but, you know, he's one of us really, and we should probably give him a second chance...

Oops. I said I wasn't going to write about that apprentice. The "apprentice" I'm more interested in is right now the one I'm trying to employ. (Of course using the term "apprentice" probably sounds a bit conceited of me - I'm really expecting that the new person will make a substantial contribution in their own right. But it segues nicely...). Since the process is still ongoing I'm certainly not going to say anything specific about the candidates, but we had several strong applications and in fact I'm confident that any of the shortlisted ones could do the job well. I advertised on the met-jobs mailing list which is a fabulous service - obviously it's widely circulated, and it's also free. I also found out that Nature had a special offer to waive its usual $300 fee, so I tried them too. Recently I got an email from them asking me if I wanted to pay for an extension to their advert - they told me that the page had had 102 reads and no applications. Thanks but no thanks! Perhaps they are more appropriate for bio/chemistry stuff. Through the met-jobs list we got about 20 applications from around 10 countries, at least half of which were pretty decent, and invited the top 4 for interviews here. Without having any official set procedure to follow, I asked each of them to give a seminar on their work, then after lunch (with some of the group members) we had a rather informal interview. I can't speak for the visitors, but from our point of view the process seemed to go pretty smoothly and we certainly enjoyed it. Conveniently, the most senior people here were all busy and could not attend, which stopped it turning into a horribly formal and stilted set-piece. Our own interviews here were a pretty nasty experience, which consisted of a short presentation to a stony-faced and silent panel, followed by some questions on the science and then abruptly "you can go now". No opportunity for discussion, or for us to ask any questions, because we are just lowly worms who should be grateful to accept any crumbs that they deign to drop for us. At least that's how it felt. It wouldn't have been out of place on a John Cleese "How not to manage" training video.

3 comments:

Chuck said...

"After quitting The Apprentice, Miss Hopkins chose to return to the West Country and her £90,000-a-year post as a "global brand consultant" for the Met Office."

How much do they pay their scientists?

James Annan said...

My understanding is that the UKP90,000 figure actually referred to a previous job, not the Met Office one (which at ~65k was still way more that any scientist her age would get, in fact few senior scientists could hope to reach that at the end of their careers).

However, it doesn't surprise me that people at the "business" end get paid substantially more than those who actually generate the products that the company sells.

EliRabett said...

Next year they are going to film: The Postdoc.