Chemists in the Real World

Bryan Balazs

 

Bryan Balazs, Associate Program Leader


Bryan Balazs has an exciting job at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, he says. “Our work serves the national security needs of the United States, and this is very valuable and challenging in terms of the combination of technical issues, global politics, treaties, intelligence, and guidance from Washington DC.”

Balazs is an Associate Program Leader of the Weapons and Complex Integration Principal Directorate. He assists in the management of about $140 million worth of research projects involving chemistry, physics, High Energy Density (HED) science and High Performance Computing (HPC). His job entails, as he describes it, “untangling the financial knots” as well as dealing with budgetary, planning, and performance metrics.

His degree in electroanalytical chemistry brought him to Lawrence Livermore for a postdoc after earning his Ph.D., and he’s spent his entire career there. He’s been an active ACS member for almost as long, and he says that his technical career and his activities with the ACS have complemented each other throughout his career.

“ACS has taught me leadership skills and people skills,” he says. “It’s given me the opportunity to work with volunteers, given technical insight, and has given me the opportunity to travel to many places in the world and work with some very talented individuals in the interest of science.”

What's a typical day on the job like?

About 40% is spent answering emails. About 30% is spent doing reports and other paper projects. About 20% is spent in meetings. The last 10% is spent talking to people one-on-one in their offices or in mine.

Are there any apps/software/instrumentation/tools that you can't live without?

I use Microsoft Office suite and a Web browser.

Describe your work environment.

I have my own office as does almost all of our staff. We are a very integrated program, in that there are many office and hallway conversations during the course of the day. At this stage in my career, I no longer work directly in a laboratory.

Does your job follow a typical 9-to-5 schedule?

It's pretty fast-paced, at least for my job, and I would estimate I work around 50 hours per week.Normal work days are 8 to 5:30 and working through lunch.

What is your best productivity trick?

Mercilessly delete emails that aren't relative to your job. Learn to use templates for emails so you don't have to recreate them. Avoid meetings that are unproductive.

What's the best career advice you've received?

Don't turn down opportunities that are offered to you.

What personal talent or trait makes you a great fit for your job?

Ability to handle many complex technical and personnel issues simultaneously. Good time management. Even tempered. Ability to spot political sensitivities before they become an issue. Ability to work well with many different types of personalities.

What essential habit do you have now that you wish you'd started much earlier?

Time management. The ability to say "no" to requests that will take more time and energy than they are worth, or when your plate is full. The ability to focus on mission and not let setbacks dissuade me from proceeding.

 What is your favorite ACS resource?

ACS Staff. They are phenomenal. No more needs to be said.