Thursday, February 7, 2008

Going through the changes


No deep thoughts today: my head is already in vacation-space and I'm really looking forward to a few days down south. I need to find my way to RyanAir's Dusseldorf hub and on to Malaga on the 5 pm flight. 8 pm arrival, and on the beach (in the dark) by ten.

Thinking more broadly, I'm realizing that since starting the expatriate life a few years back, I haven't spent longer than a year in any one place. Life has just become a sequence of changes, always forward, never back. Riding the wave is an acquired skill, and one that I'm still trying to master.

Even so, this week was a challenge.

The new Research Manager arrived; I departed. The Dutch scientists who've been working for me made the switch smoothly (Dutch adaptability always amazes me). It was nice that a few came up to say how much they enjoyed working together, and I'll probably continue to have the occasional coffee to talk ideas with many of them. The new manager is enjoying his first encounter with a corporate environment (he'd worked in hospitals before). I've tried to drop in a half hour a day to answer questions and to take care of some lingering paperwork rather than pass it all off at once. It makes me aware of the large (and needless?) volume of processes and procedures that we all master, almost unconsciously.

My son called: I've been struggling with getting him launched in life and he recently made a decision to go to full-time work rather than full-time college. Now he's decided to go full-time Air Force. I'm not sure how I feel about that: my first reaction is 'Good idea; Bad timing". I grew up a bit of a 60's eco-peacenik, and long ago decided that I could never work in a military-industrial setting. But I'm not opposed: it may provide the discipline and training that he needs to find himself. At the same time, he stands a good chance of getting shipped to Iraq. The recruiter is giving him the "whatever you want" pitch, reminiscent of the pitch that pulled Bill Murray into the army in the movie Stripes. I've told him to really be aware of why he's doing it and what he expects to get out of it.

It looks like my expatriate contract will renew for another year. My corporate mentor was out for a visit this week: We've agreed that I should stay to finish my project (and my Dutch lessons) on the condition that I start training a successor. I took this posting on the handshake that "If it works, doors will open for you; blow it, and you had your shot.". It's gone well, and it's time to start thinking about next steps by summer. I'm making a list: I like building businesses, new technology, global assignments, and leading creative people. I'm not sure where the sum leads though.

No worries this week, though: a beach in Portugal beckons...


the rabbi's wife said...

Hi there. I wanted to comment and let you know that as a fellow ex-pat living in Israel, I really enjoy reading your blog. I noticed you don't get a lot of comments, so I decided to de-lurk myself. Good work. Don't worry about your son in Iraq. Air Force deaths are smallest after Marines. A different story if he had joined the Army...

Dave Hampton said...

Thanks for the encouragement and the perspective. It'a great to get your thoughts.

I had a long talk with my son last night, and he largely confirmed what you said. The recruiter is telling him that there are around 200 overseas airbases, and virtually none in Iraq, so he won't be doing foot patrols. He's off to take a physical and take some second-line test today, and we'll talk again tomorrow.