OFJ Field Journal from Laura Barnard - 11/28/95
FUN AND EXCITING: THE WORK LIFE OF A GALILEO SECRETARYAs a secretary I always get asked, "What are you really going to do when you grow up?" No one seriously looks at the secretarial profession as rewarding or interesting for someone with ambition. People always assume that it is stop gap job that you are doing until you get a "real" one. Or they assume the worst possible - that you are dumb and couldn't get a better job. I'm here to tell you that you can be creative and educated, and still be a secretary with career goals and responsibility. The pay could be better - don't get me wrong - but the career secretary is an individual that can enjoy and grow in his or her job.
I originally went to college to learn nursing. I was an A student and had several scholarships. I started in nursing because I was more interested in science then medical practice. I think that I was a good nurse, but it was very nerve racking, and after a year I found it boring. I had the same chores to do just different faces to look at. I also had no further career goals other than working the day shift instead of the night shift. Talk about a short career! I still hadn't finished my B.S. degree in Nursing when I had to relocate to Los Angeles. At that time I had a choice. My college credits would not be as transferable as they promised, and it would take an additional three years to finish my degree, or I could start another degree and finish in two years. I was bored in nursing, and a shorter time in school looked wonderful! Well I made a radical change, and picked a major that had science and skills that could later be parlayed into a teaching credential if needed. I finished my B.A. in Geography in June of 1993. Now the quest for the job!
I'll tell you truthfully, it was looking grim when I got out of college. It looked like I would have to go to school again for that teaching credential - but then a friend asked for some help (Here's where that stop-gap theory starts!). She was working in a program office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The office was in need of someone to fill in until they had a regular person. It was originally a contractor position that would last two weeks, and I would answer all of the phones. That was all. Well, it didn't work out that way. Even though I was originally hired as a two week receptionist, I stayed for a year and was the program manager's secretary until he left. When I started I could barely keep all of the lights on the phone straight on the first day. By the time that I left, I was skilled at typing, phones, travel, and different hardware and software for both the Mac and the PC. I could run the office of 20+ people by myself. When the office reorganized I was out of a job and had to leave. Or so I thought. Before my last two weeks were up I had another job on lab working with another group. There was not one single day that I was out of a job because of my great skills. And the best part was it was always interesting and exciting! Everyday was different. Different tasks, people, and skills were constantly in flux.
As soon as I learned something new there was something else that was there to catch my attention. Don't get me wrong. I do not bore easily! I am very traditional, and like things kept in their place, but I also thrive on change. I am always learning new things and using them to be a more professional secretary.
So how did I get to the Galileo Science Team? Well it was that need to learn new things. It was also closer to science which is my first love. I am always amazed by what life has to show us. And that need to explore led me to the Galileo Project in July 1994. I was extremely thrilled to be chosen for a project that was exploring the solar system. Everyone on my team is great. You can meet some of them through their journals, or you can send them questions. We would love to hear from you.