Friday, January 17, 2014

Corporate awards

At a company luncheon today I found out that I have won a big fancy award from my company for a product I conceived a year ago, and then another award for diversity and public relations for my role in my company's charity. All-in-all I take home $20,000, a plaque, and a vacation. Not bad, considering I do this because I enjoy it and want to help people.

I regularly say to my team, "would you feel comfortable using this on you child?", if we're creating a device that might not be up to our standards. I do this because I care. I overheard someone saying, "You can tell that Phindustry does this work to get company recognition and the awards. Phindustry is trying to make the move up."  Personally, I hate company awards. Supposedly, it gives employees something to strive towards, in actuality it inspires jealousy, resentment, and internal competition. We are on the same team. When something good happens we should all be rewarded here.  Maybe it's the socialist in me (although I consider myself a capitalist, tried and true) in academia, you're a little more on your own, so recognition should come on a more solo basis (although in academia, recognition rarely comes at all). I'm divvying up the part of the award for the invention among the three people that worked on this project with me. I did this with the last award I got, and it seemed to improve morale. 

The comment I overheard is annoying because I present myself as interested in the greater good. I don't care about patents or recognition. I want to have fun and help people. That's it. I felt so insulted. I understand why they said it: I work very hard, argue a lot, and dress up every day for work. The managers like me for my skills and for my public image. I really want to tell those jags (jackass douchebags) talking about me that I am trying to leave industry for good. That I moved up the ladder because that's how I could make a difference in patients' lives. Also, I want to tell them that they didn't get the awards because they suck. 

I know academic awards exists for all kinds of things with plenty of undeserving people getting them. But I've never seen someone in academia step up their game to get a specific award (unless it's a grant). Maybe I'm just naive, but science should be about improving the world and broadening our understanding. Not a plaque that I keep in my desk drawer. 


  1. Congratulations on the awards!

    But I've never seen someone in academia step up their game to get a specific award (unless it's a grant).

    Oh, there are all sorts of people who are into it for their ego more than anything. You especially see that at the level of society fellowships or the National Academies.

    The guys are jealous and are trying to cut you down. Talking about you like you are just a company-ladder climber makes them feel better about themselves and perhaps it's what motivates them so they think it motivates everyone; either way, it's not really about you. I don't think there is anything that you could do to change their mind.

    Enjoy your $20K (or I'll be happy to take them off your hands! :- ) and screw the petty colleagues.

  2. I love getting awards and recognition. It allows me to better figure out how I'm doing. How else would I know how or if I need to improve? These types of things have to be here, and the fact that you get more than a plaque would drive me to try even harder. What alternative is there to show employees that they are doing well?

  3. I had no idea this existed in academia. I knew about the egos, but I think my old advisor may have sheltered me from the egos for national awards and academy elections. Ugh. People need to check their egos at the door. The birth-canal door.

    You can know if you're doing well by your impact. Are the products you're making helping patients? Are you publications well-regarded? Do you get good questions during you presentation? All of these are good indicators without the cutthroat corporate awards.

    1. Doing well by your own standards versus company standards are two different things. You need company recognition to move up the ladder. Congrats!

    2. Thanks!

      I agree, you do have to do well to move up the company ladder. But why are we obsessed with moving up the ladder. Being focused on ladder-climbing takes away from the effort to save patients and discover the world and do great science. What's best for the company is not always best for the world. I've managed to move up without sacrificing my science, and I hope more scientists follow the model of doing great science without becoming the company's pawn.

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