succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, August 03, 2007

Don’t tell me what to do

I had an unfortunate lunch experience during the conference, with two Indian men who are otherwise my friends and colleagues. I point out that they’re Indian because I’m hoping our interaction was some sort of weird cultural issue rather than the two of them actually being assholes, if even for a few minutes. We were discussing job prospects, and they both like to give me career advice, usually in a half-joking manner, because they know I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum from them in terms of priorities. They’re both interested in jobs with the highest salary and problems that have to do with finance and pharmaceuticals. Which is fine, for them, but all things that make my stomach turn and eyes roll. So it’s common for them to suggest I go work for Big Pharma, but not seriously. I don’t know if it’s because I’m nearing graduation (sort of) or what, but they both seemed much more adamant about my future decisions, and wouldn’t let things go. They kept contradicting things I would say about companies doing interesting research, essentially telling me that I’m just wrong. Well excuse me, but no, I am actually a statistician in my own right, with valid knowledge about the problems I find interesting and the people working on those problems. And I am more than capable of making informed, responsible decisions about places where I would and would not enjoy working, and you should take those opinions seriously and believe me instead of trying to convince me of all the ways in which I am wrong. Fuckers.

I'm back! Did you miss me? Did you even notice I was gone?

Fortunately, that experience was brief, and the rest of the conference, though exhausting (as all conferences inevitably are) was pretty awesome. I’m coming home with a very full brain, and a long list of papers to read and people to contact. The other cool thing was running into a bunch of friends from undergrad, with whom I had lost contact. It was particularly funny as we were saying our goodbyes, wondering when we would see each other again, when an older person walked by and said you fools, you’ll see each other at every stat conference every year for the rest of your professional lives! It’s how we all stay in touch! I had sort of forgotten that that was what we all had in common in the first place.

There were inevitably frustrating sessions, that either didn’t cover what I thought their titles implied they would cover, or were just plain boring, or poorly delivered, or whatever. But by and large those were balanced out by truly interesting and rewarding sessions. I’ll spare you the gory details of all the stuff related to my own research and instead just say that I also attended sessions about statistics in the media, innumeracy, the tomb of Christ (statistically speaking, what are the odds we’ve found it?), predicting the size of the German army during WWII (ok, outdated, but still interesting!), estimating the temperature thousands of years ago, and estimating mortality among Iraqi civilians. See? Statistics is totally interesting!

In between I slept too little (of course!) and ate too much (naturally) and discovered that despite being a dry city, Salt Lake makes some pretty damn good beer.