Thursday, August 27, 2015

"free" conference

I was still technically part of a research group after I'd finished grad school. The primary grant that I had worked under had a few stipulations, one of which was that the research group would present the findings of the work at x number of national/international conferences. The grant-giving organization had money set aside specifically for the conference attendance, and to make a long story short, I was the only one available to give the presentation.

I had just started a new job. Conference attendance wouldn't be a problem, right? After all, my travel and conference costs were entirely covered. Plus, as a newly-minted employee, I would be representing my new firm as a technical expert at big conference (related to that industry).

Not so much. New employer was fixated on the three days of admin/non-billable work that they'd need to pay me to fly out and give the presentation, so I ended up promising that I would squash three days of overtime into two weeks to avoid any extra admin charges.

I was wiped out by that overtime, plus the presentation prep time (also not allowed to be charged to the firm), and so I didn't do any actual conference networking to support my new employer.

I thought that the firm was outrageously short-sighted for not wanting to take advantage of a (mostly) free conference. I eventually figured out the office politics around having a brand-new employee jet off to a fancy conference (even though it was my research), and considered myself lucky to be allowed to go.

Now if I have a conference I'd like to attend, I make sure to have a business case for going and not just argue that I can give a cool presentation. I do miss grad school in that respect - as a grad student, I'd be able to take a free conference in a heartbeat, and not worry about more complicated financial/business development considerations.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Ugh... this is what scares me about eventually maybe getting into environmental work (I'm almost four years out of grad school and have worked for an oil and gas exploration company this whole time). Obviously there are good and bad things about my gig too (and there are good times and bad times!), but not having to worry about everything being "billable hours" is amazing. I did a phone interview for one environmental job before I got this job, and it almost seemed like they were trying to talk me out of it with how bad they made that aspect of it sound! I'm not sure if you've already done a post on that, but I'm going to go take a look!