UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

February 2003

Mentoring talk offers tips for nonscientists

When it comes to thriving as a nonscientist at this scientific institution, Harriet Barker knows a thing or two.

UCAR’s first staffer spoke about a career she described as “checkered” and “fun” to an overflow crowd in the Damon Room on 2 December. Her informal talk, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” was sponsored by the recently formed Coaching Peers, or CoPs (see “On the Web”).

Now vice president emerita and program administrator for the HIAPER project, Harriet was hired by Walt Roberts in 1959 as his secretary several months before UCAR’s official startup in 1960. She began her talk by revealing what she called “a very strong bias” coloring her career: “I really love this place,” she confessed.

Her first precept? “I never pretended to know something that I didn’t know.” Her willingness to ask questions helped build interpersonal relationships and ensured that she learned.

Other suggestions

Expect to compromise. “If you have the same end goal, I’ve never seen a situation where you couldn’t find some way to get there.”

Be open to differences among people. It takes a wide variety of individuals to make a science institution run. By the same token, “being observant of the institution and respectful of its goals and its rationale for being here are way high up on my list of important things to be.”

Be willing to behave uncharacteristically. For Harriet that meant learning to be assertive. “But don’t burn any bridges.”

Never turn anything down because it’s not in your job description. “We didn’t have job descriptions at first. That paid off for me at the beginning.”

When it comes to workplace performance, “There are infinitesimal differences between men and women in management.” But she adds that it’s important to resist classifying managers as male or female. “I think the differences are more likely to adhere to individuals because of who they are” rather than their gender, she explains.

It’s also important to be realistic about the role of support staff. “The administration is never going to be more important than the science,” she noted. But gone are the early days when support staff were expected to remain invisible. And Harriet is encouraged by recent efforts such as NCAR director Tim Killeen’s support for professional development of all staff. “Things are changing.” •Zhenya Gallon


Also in this issue...

Coming soon:
New Mesa Lab attractions

Understanding cloud systems:
Are researchers closing in on a general theory of convective cloud systems?

Random profile: Pete Siemsen

A SOARS pacesetter

From Asia and Africa

Delphi Questions

Still soaring high

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