Allison Dick | Chemists in the Real World
Having a particular order for things makes it easy to be both thorough and efficient."
When Allison Dick finished her post-doc, she first turned to the ACS careers page for leads. However she actually found her position with Chemical Abstracts Service through a friend who already worked at CAS. Now, she analyzes scientific literature and inputs pertinent information into the CAS databases for others to search. Part of her position also includes project oversight and assistance to management.
Dr. Dick likes the flexible schedule and the benefits, but she says her coworkers are the best part of her job. “We come from very diverse cultural and educational backgrounds, and, even though our work is usually solitary, people are generally willing to help others.”
Today, Dr. Dick has been with CAS for more than five years and is an associate projects analyst.
What's a typical day on the job like?
I spend about 50-70% of my time on information analysis and drawing chemical structures. About 10-20% of my time is spent training other analysts in our processes, and a small percentage on quality control, ensuring that others are providing accurate information to our databases. The rest of my time I assist with testing and documenting new software, solving problems that arise in the department, and aiding management with various projects. Meetings are a very small part of my position.
Are there any apps/software/instrumentation/tools that you can't live without?
Most of the software we use was developed here at CAS to meet our specific needs. I can't imagine doing my job without our dual 24" monitor setup, reliable internet, and good technical support. Additionally, I use Excel on a regular basis for reports, and Word and PowerPoint on occasion.
Describe your work environment.
I work in a small office. It is not much larger than a cubicle, but it has a door, so it is easy to manage how much noise and traffic I deal with. I already mentioned that I can't live without two 24" monitors to do my work. Other than that, I have a pretty basic setup of computer, desk, a chair for visitors, and bookshelf space. I also can't live without my iPod dock for music. Although I do not share my office, I often travel to other parts of the building to consult other people in my department.
Does your job follow a typical 9-to-5 schedule?
Salaried full-time employees are required to work 40 hours a week. Because of my project responsibilities, I generally put in a little bit more than this. In my department, we have flexible working hours, so I generally work between 9 or 9:30 am and 6-7 pm. Some of my colleagues prefer to come to work much earlier and leave earlier.
What's your best productivity trick?
When I analyze documents, I have a very specific routine that I follow that I rarely deviate from. Having a particular order for things makes it easy to be both thorough and efficient.
What's the best career advice you've received?
To focus on one task at a time and do it well, and not to get overwhelmed looking at the to-do list. Also to always work with integrity.
Do you have any special talents or traits that make you a great fit for your job?
I am a very detail-oriented and conscientious worker. I am good at both time management and written communication.
What essential habit do you have now that you wish you'd started much earlier?
I am totally reliant on flagging e-mails for follow-up, then clearing the flag later as I complete the tasks. It helps me stay organized.
What is your favorite ACS resource?
I enjoy the national meetings. They are a great avenue for learning about the latest research and networking with others.