How do you spend a typical day?
I am now a first level supervisor at the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and as such I no longer do optical engineering in the more classical sense. As a manager, I spend time coordinating the work of my group ensuring that we are meeting deadlines while delivering excellent service to our customers both internal and external to NIST. I review budgets, read many emails per day, talk to individuals and attend many meetings. I meet many foreign visitors as my group runs a series of workshops where we bring standards experts from around the world to the United States to learn about the U.S. Standardization and Conformity Assessment system and the impact on trade.
What do you love about your job?
As I a manager, I love figuring out ways to motivate those who work for me to give their best and feel pride in their responsibilities, whether they have been in the government 30 years or less than five. I also like figuring out ways to provide excellent service even during times of reduced budgets. As a technical person I like to find solutions to the challenges at hand. And as a member of a large technical institution I like figuring out how the work of my small group contributes to the mission of the larger NIST.
What have you learned through experience that you wish you had known before starting your career in optics?
That getting along with people is just as critical to a successful career as developing expertise in the relevant optical sub-discipline. As I have matured I have realized that expertise alone often does not carry the day. The most clever and ingenious ideas sometime remain dormant or never get implemented if the people skills are so poor that a clear message is not delivered to upper management, the marketing folks or others who have a say on the funding and resources necessary to implement projects.