By the end of this week, I will have finished my fourth month at my current job. Time has gone by so quickly! I am still high off the fact that I actually made it here. Each day I am surrounded by such bright minds (engineers, doctors, scientists) and working on valuable tasks that benefit our society and the public at large.
And let me reiterate, I am seriously amazed by the type of people who work at our facilities. There are medical officers who have held their own medical practices and I can just walk down the hall to their office and consult with them on medical issues or strike up conversation. I find their anecdotes from decades ago exciting to listen to and these type of casual conversations I could not fathom having if I did not work here. Each person is chock-full of knowledge and, as a noob, I want to soak it all up.
However, at the same time, certain days can be overwhelming. There is A LOT of information to learn. Not only is there academic-type content I need to get acquainted with, but I also need to learn about the laws, statutes, and regulations related to my work. The first six months entails heavy training and, admittedly, without firsthand experience, I’m not so sure I really truly grasp what we are being taught. I work in a field of engineering that I have had little to no prior experience in. As an undergrad and graduate student, I focused more on the cardiovascular system and started to have a growing interest in the endocrine system (think, cortisol and stresses). My current focus in on orthopaedics, and after speaking with fellow colleagues, I learned that, for the most part, these folks had already performed research or had their focus in ortho. So, in that sense, I have a steeper learning curve than my peers. In addition, I did not do a thesis-based Master’s while my peers do or they achieved a PhD.
I know it’s probably not a good thing to compare oneself to others at work. But the feeling of Impostor Syndrome is real. I acknowledge that we all come from different backgrounds and we all are knowledgeable and intelligent and capable people. There is a reason why I was hired here. Actually, a big reason I was hired was because of my software/computer engineering background. Most of the people I work with have a biomedical or mechanical engineering background; thus, they may not have as as much experience as I do when it comes to understanding how software systems work in medical devices. So, YES, I do have a purpose to be here. I should also add that there is a chemical engineer PhD in our division so she also is sort of different in background. And this makes our division great. We come from different areas of expertise and we can contribute in other ways.
My co-workers told me that they, too, had feelings of impostor syndrome when they started working here. Even my branch chief at the time shared that feeling as well. That cooled down my stress levels a bit. They said after 6 months I may finally start to feel comfortable, but even then, after a year, they still felt like there was much to be learned. After two years, there can still be feelings of WTF I don’t get this. This is all to say: our working environment requires the eagerness to learn and adapt and to invite new knowledge. I’m all for it.
I like knowing that there are people who started off at one position and end up working in another branch or division or office. There is room for growth. I don’t have to be stuck in this one job position if I end up not liking it in the long run or if I find another opportunity elsewhere in the agency. I just hope that I find my niche because I really like our campus and the type of work that is being done. I also like that we have the opportunities to travel to conferences and sites related to the work we do.
I will continue to have an open mind and try my best to be inquisitive. I sometimes feel daunted at the tasks I’ve given and feel shy to ask questions. My mentor told me, There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. I will also say this…the work environment, while collaborative, tends to be quieter than my old job. I miss being able to talk to my coworkers about random stuff, like the latest hip hop songs I love or sports. But maybe I just need to find the right colleagues for those water cooler conversations.
Lastly, I want to share one conversation I had with my work mentor. We were consulting with a colleague about one of the cases I was working on, and the consulted lady called my mentor a nerd because of how enthusiastic he was about what he was talking about. Later, when we walked down to my office, he expressed how he loved being called a nerd because it shows he likes the work he’s doing. It made me think. I want to share that same enthusiasm. I’ve had my back-and-forths about how I perceive work should be. I want to learn to love what I do…even if I haven’t done so yet.
Thank you, God, for giving me the opportunity to be part of this wonderful agency. There are some days where I feel I’m not deserving because people here are just so damn smart. But I know I am able. I want to be my best.