The here and now (The private part)

Feelings about my new job
Talking about my job with people has been a real struggle, because it seems like most people I’ve talked to take the position that I am the problem, that I haven’t given this job a chance, and/or that I am just never satisfied with anything. I know this is what most people think, but regardless of this, I am just going to write here my issues.
To begin with, I had a hard ride getting this job. I applied to 30 or more different positions, and of all those I applied for, only three gave me a call, and this was the only one that gave me a job offer. I did not enjoy the interview. I was interview by several people, and one of those people was very rude and talked down to me. I figured perhaps this was some sort of test to see how I would react to him under pressure. Still, I felt this was a pretty crappy way to potentially introduce someone into a position. After the interview, I was actually hoping they wouldn’t offer me a job, based just on this.
I wasn’t really happy with the offer I was given. $45K salary is really low for a computer science masters holder. Heck, that’s pretty low for a computer science bachelors holder. I agreed to the position because (1) They didn’t seem willing to negotiate on pay. (2) They said programming would only be a “small part” of my job and that I might even get a little bored. and (3) I had no other offers in sight. I figured even with the low pay, it would be okay and I’d get some job experience and maybe get opportunities to move up the company in pay rate and/or duties.
I also learned very quickly that the benefits were falsely advertised. By that, I mean that there are ZERO benefits. I get zero vacation time and zero sick leave for the first year (they didn’t tell me that to begin with), and very little after that. The health care “benefit” is absolutely horrible and so very expensive to the point that I don’t think it is ever worth having. The company does ZERO match on 401K, so you are completely left to fend for yourself on retirement. They let you buy company stock and, after a few years with the company, they’ll start giving you a 33% match percentage on your investments within the company (gee thanks…).
I work on a floor housed with all the IT staff in the company in Jacksonville. All the developers, all the quality assurance people, all the database people, all the help desk staff, everyone! We’re all in cubicle with phones. My supervisor is in California, and my supervisor’s boss in a few cubicles away from me. You have no idea how inefficient this setup is.
It became very apparent to me very quickly that my fellow employees are not happy people. Communication between divisions is always heated. Everyone yells all the time. It isn’t uncommon to hear people just randomly let out curse words and anger and frustration at one thing or another. When I’m in a conference call with my supervisor and a senior engineer in California, it is not at all uncommon for them to just start yelling at each other, while I’m just stilling there trying to figure out through the mess what I’m supposed to be doing. In the break room, it isn’t uncommon for me to hear people complain about their work or the company. I hear a group of people talking not long ago. One was talking about that they’ve been there 3 years, another 5 years, and another 8 years. They were asking each other if they’ve ever gotten a raise. Some said they had gotten new titles or more responsibilities, but all of them said they’ve never gotten a pay increase since they’ve been hired. I suppose this means that if I stay at the company 8 years, I’d still be expected to be happy making $45K with that much education and experience.
This isn’t as much of an issue now, but I have the horrible fear of overwork. One of the coworkers that sits near me comes in around 6:30AM and leaves around 4:00PM or 5:00PM or later; he eats lunch at his desk. My supervisor also seems to work from 6:30AM until 4:00PM (his timezone). I also know some of them work on weekends. Personally, I don’t see how they can be okay with this setup. To me, if you’re perfectly okay working 12 hour or longer days and sometimes weekend, you must really hate your family or something! Of course, we’re salary, so there’s no such thing as paid overtime. Maybe some people are okay with working all day long and going home only to sleep so you can come back to work; I’m not. I love my wife; I love hobbies; I love personal projects; I love learning. Luckily, I got some good reassuring news recently. My boss called me and said that in Florida, there is a law to protect entry level employees that says they cannot be exempt and must be paid overtime hour. My boss actually phrased this, “They aren’t allowed to take advantage of you like they do the rest of us.” As a result, my boss told me to work 40 hours exactly every week, unless told otherwise. Before knowing about this law, my boss told me 40 hours was “like a minimum” and that I should expect to work at least 9 hours per day. I seriously can’t imagine working that many overtime hours at my low pay rate.
Another big issue is that I simply do not enjoy my work. My desire is to work in research and academia, and I absolutely hate corporate living. I can’t stand the buzzwords, and I don’t care at all about what I’m doing. I don’t feel as though I’m doing anything worthwhile. I’m not inventing or discovering anything that benefits anyone. Furthermore, the programming environment I’m working in is far from ideal. There do not seem to be any established standards, all the nice standards I learned about in graduate school. There are no programming standards, there is no documentation, there is no pre-planning of software implementation, there are no in-code comments. Nothing is explained because no one knows how anything works. Instead of looking at some comments and learning how code working in 5-10 minutes, I spend 5-10 hours tracing through code trying to figure out what the heck the guy who wrote it was thinking. Of course I can’t ask the guy, because of course he isn’t there anymore and he didn’t tell anyone else how any of it works. Here’s what’s even better. My boss has been doing this since day two, but last week he actually said what he is doing. He said that I have learned the concepts of this code and very quickly and he sees that I’m a good programming and I push out good code quickly, so he wants me to focus 100% on programming and allocate any of the non-programming, easy, repetitive work to one of the senior engineers that doesn’t program as well. Seriously? They want me to do all the hard work because I’m good at it? They aren’t paying me enough to be their software engineer. Why do I assign easier work to senior employees that probably make twice or more money than I do?
When I’m at work, I work. There are no breaks, other than my unpaid lunch break that most other people take at their desks while working. The Internet is 100% locked down; I even have trouble at times searching and accessing tips and tricks on programming concepts. Basically, when I have to step away and take a breather, I sneak into the bathroom for a few minutes (I could go the entire day on one or two bathroom breaks, to be honest). Basically, when I’m at work, I’m expected to working the entire time with no breaks. This actually is counter productive, because I work much faster when I have a few things going on on my screen. Typically, when I program, I have a song going or maybe a YouTube video going, I have an IM/Social Networking client open also. I actually working two or three times faster with this comfortable environment.
People are always coming in sick! Since I am not eligible or interested in their crappy health coverage and I have no sick leave, this is pretty scary!
My job has no reward. If (and I already have TWICE IN THE FIRST MONTH) I program something that automates a task and saves the company dozens of man-hours, there’s no reward. I don’t go home early; I don’t get complimented; I don’t even think it is noticed. They just move me to another task. On the other hand, it seems like if I do anything incorrect or slowly (largely because they HAVE NO DOCUMENTATION), I do hear about it.

What’s the plan?
The original plan was for me to go into a PhD program, work in a modest research stipend, and work in science. I think I would have been much happier in this setup. I wouldn’t have been paid as much (at first), but pay would not be as important to me IF I ENJOYED MY WORK. It is my own fault that I didn’t go to PhD. I did not apply to enough schools. Although I got accepted into my target school, Julie did not. It was not her fault. Julie and I moved to Jacksonville and I said I would take a job. I felt Julie needed to go to law school now and I had marketable skills. Now Julie is a hot shot in law school. After her first term, she is ranked in the top 3% of her class. She can transfer to a better school in August, and I know she wants to. I would want to in her place, because she’s going to a tier 4 school that costs way too much. It would look so much better if she graduated from a tier 2 school, and she has the grades to do it.
But where does it leave me if she transfers. I’d have to quit my job. Quitting my job is something I wanted to do after the first week, so I won’t cry over that, but finding a new job is going to be horrible. Maybe I should try to go back to school and do what I wanted to begin with.

Computer Science to Mathematics to Statistics to Medical Informatics to Bioinformatics to Computational Science… wtf dude?!
I have a very varied background! If you don’t believe it, take a look at my vitae. I bet you’re wonder how this happened? I will try to explain.
Computer Science is my love. I do love programming, but even more so, I love theoretical computer science. However, computer science is dominated by corporate influence, and I absolutely hate business with a passion. I love science, and I love research, and I love learning, and I love academia. I wanted to apply computer science to science and research. I wanted to be a save-the-world kind of guy. Don’t necessarily care about my paycheck size, but I want to do something to help the society. I also have a love for math, specifically statistics. I love numbers. I love seeing trends in numbers. I might even love statistics as much as I love programming! I wanted to find a way to blend the two. Enter Medical Informatics! The idea of using computer science and statistics and database etc to help the field of medicine (electronic medical records, etc) absolutely caught my attention. This was a hot field I wanted to get involved in, so I delayed my masters graduation to pick up a graduate certificate in the field. I loved my medical informatics courses and made As in all of them. Part of the certificate was a bioinformatics component, and I did much research in my graduate course on this field. Even my masters research work was on a bioinformatics-ish topic. Genetics and computational biology also intrigued me, but I wanted to stick with the medical side. In “shopping” for PhD programs, I was never able to find a PhD program I could get into. They all were looking for someone with a medical background; most even had MD as a prereq to their PhD programs! This was very VERY discouraging. I decided my best bet was to look into the sister field, bioinformatics. Over the summer, I did some work with a professor unpaid and uncredited on the side to do some DNA annotation before starting my PhD program at FSU in Computational Biology. Although I believe I learned a lot from this experience, there was so much I did not learn. There was so much I was clueless about because I simply do not have the genetics or biochemistry background needed to survive in the field. I would have needed to have gone for a second bachelors degree in biochemistry, to be completely honest. In some ways, I think it is good that I did not go to PhD, because I do not think I would have passed. Medical informatics was what I was prepared for, but there was no where to go.
So where does this leave me? Confused. Miserable. Unfocused. Working at a job I hate. One thing I do know, I love Computer Science, I love programming, I love computation science, but these are really just skills. They are not a domain, and corporate business is not what I want to focus on. So what do I love… I love… Astronomy? Yeah… I really do. I love Astronomy and I love Space Studies. I do not have a background in this. However, I have been personally studying astronomy and space studies long before I ever had a computer. I have loved this field since I has 10 years old. I would think that the field would need computational experts and software engineers, right? Maybe… I’m not really sure. I need to talk to a professor/adviser some school to see if they could work with someone with a Computer Science and computational background. Maybe they can’t. Many of them seem to want someone with a Physics background, which I don’t have.
So where should I go to school? Maybe still FSU. The program I was previously accepted to was “Computational Science”. I was going to specialize in biology; however, I would have specialized in any science, astronomy, or science in general. They teach computational folks to apply shared computational skills to multiple disciplines, which I still am very interested in. I have also been looking at UND (frozen wasteland?). They have a Space Studies program that looks very interesting. Another option is an plain old Astronomy program (maybe UF), but they tend to only accept Physics folks and probably wouldn’t focus on computational astronomy. I doubt I’d get accepted.
Julie’s ability to get accepted to these schools is also a factor; although, not accepting Julie would be entirely based on the school she is from, rather than her efforts or rank. I believe she has more than proved herself. If FSU, for example, doesn’t take her, it would be purely because they are prejudice about the school she’s transferring from… this might actually be an issue with FSU. The other issue is that I will be expected to answer any acceptance months before she can even apply! I’d be excepted to say yes or no in April, and she’ll start applying in June. How can I say yes or no before I know where she can go?
I just know that something has to change. I feel my life expectancy dropping fast working at the job I’m at now!