Monday, May 2, 2011

Rip van Winkle

I didn’t sleep for a hundred years, but six months is a surprisingly long time.  In that short window of time, some of my friends’ kids went from being babbling babies to two year olds who can string together a grammatically correct sentence.  I missed an entire season (winter) and part of two others, which has caused these crisp spring mornings to seem like early fall.  Culture shock hits me like a ton of bricks at the most unexpected times, like when I’m grocery shopping.  My first day back in a Harris Teeter, I wandered dumbfounded through the store, amazed at the number of choices and unable to comprehend such simple questions as why we need ten different types of peanut butter.  Is there really a difference between crunchy and extra crunchy?  How important is organic when it comes to something growing inside a shell?

I was expecting some significant culture shock again today, since it my first day back at GSK.  Not only would I be meeting my new manager for the first time, we also had an all-hands meeting with our new (to me) group, which formed while I was gone.

I showed up at work this morning and went to the security desk just in case my badge didn’t work.  (Luckily it did.  Apparently security badges don’t get turned off as quickly as email passwords.)  The security lady, who was on her first day at that post, tried calling my manager but he wasn’t in his office.  I thanked her and said that I’d figure out his office location on my own.  I wandered over to the other building, passing a couple people on the way.  I recognized one of the men but wasn’t sure I had met the other.  They were kind enough to hold the door open for me as I passed them. When I got to the break area for my building, I was fortunate enough to run into a few of my colleagues who directed me to my manager’s office.

After a few minutes, my new manager arrived at his office.  Guess what?  He was one of the two guys I had passed on my way there.  I’m guessing this sort of thing doesn’t happen in a smaller company, but pretty much the entire pharmaceutical industry is in a state of flux these days, and GSK is no exception. 

As I’m getting back into my “normal” job, I’m starting to understand the intelligence of the academic sabbatical.  Leaving for six months is long enough to get a fresh view of the organization in a way that’s just not possible when you’re there day in and day out.  But it’s a short enough time that I haven’t completely lost touch with what we do as a group and a company.

I’m very fortunate that my management chain is giving me the time to close out my Pulse tasks, which should allow me to make a clean start in my somewhat new role.  They’re also giving me time where I will be most useful in the new organization.  Now I just have to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

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