OFJ Field Journal from Laura Barnard - 11/30/95Okay - I know. You clicked on my journal by mistake. But you haven't realized yet how deceptive the title of a job can be. "Secretary" originally was the scribe and keeper of the records. And those records kept secrets. So the secretary was the confidant of those in power, and they wrote and kept the secrets. Wow. Bet you didn't know that! Unfortunately the word has gone from being powerful and knowledgeable to one that answers the phone and shuffles papers. Wrong! I do not answer the phones in my job unless it is my own. I may shuffle paper, but only when I am agitated and I have to do something with my hands. The connotation that secretaries are menial and submissive is a stereotype that is perpetrated to keep you in the dark. Professional secretaries are smart, creative, and usually the helper behind the powerful manager in our executive world. If you have a good secretary, he/she is worth his/her weight in gold. The whole group dynamics of an organization can be affected by the secretary that pulls them together.
So what does a technical/science secretary really do during the day? I work with the science coordinators, and other staff members on the project. I usually start my day at a run and keep going until it is time to go home! Secretaries at JPL in general are non-exempt employees, so that means that we are paid hourly. When we have worked our eight hours we go home.
Companies don't like to have you work extra minutes, even though your tasks may not necessarily end on the dot when you shift ends. So that ultimately means that you have unfinished business on your desk when you come in the morning. So I usually start with that work, and then I check for new things that need to be done urgently so that I can prioritize my work for the rest of the day. While am doing this I am also checking my phone messages and my electronic mail. I get in a mode called "multi-tasking". That means that I am dividing my interest and doing several things at once. For a secretary this is a skill that is very important. Not everyone can do this, and some can only do two or three things at any one time. I have multi-tasking down to an art. I can't function at work unless I am doing several things at once! Which is a good thing because our team is very busy.
Right now the science coordinators are working on several of Galileo's future science sequences, and part of my team is the Outreach group that is providing this service to you. We are seven days away from arrival day, and the public and press want to know what is going on! On December 7th there are arrival day activities that need to be coordinated, and things that need to be written, copied, or put on-line. Volunteers from the flight team need to be organized, displays need to be arranged and put up, office areas need to be cleaned up and secured for our visiting guests. All of this is part of my job. I look forward to telling you about it in my following journals, so pay attention!