I spent last week in training for a “new” LES (Laboratory Execution System – basically like a LIMS/ELN). I use the quotes because it’s new to me, although the software is relatively new to the market having been around less than ten years. “Why?,” you might ask.
To summarize, this Summer, I’ve worked through training on two systems I hadn’t previously worked with and gotten involved with resource capacity planning software. Some people reading this probably think I’m crazy. Some readers know a single system and are hoping that system will provide them enough work to span their career.
If that works out for them, then they’re the lucky ones. The truth is that few of us work on one piece of software for our entire career. Most things become obsolete and the work slows-down, at some point. The other factor to this is that it can become boring working on the same thing, forever. Some people realize that working on one thing means that you can become and remain the expert in that software for the rest of your career and they like that. Also, it’s a lot of work to learn a new system.
For me, working with two systems that are extremely similar, such as the LabWare LIMS and the Thermo Scientific SampleManager LIMS, it is somewhat easier to work with these types of systems than to learn something new. The new systems I’m learning are entirely unrelated – they are nothing at all like the systems I already know. Unlike these two LIMS I’ve mentioned where there is still a lot of programming to do, the systems I’m just learning have no programming, at all. If it sounds easy, it’s not. It’s an entirely different paradigm – a big jump for me, although helped by knowing the basic processes.
Back to Why?
The bottom line is this – I might not continue to get work in the LIMS I already know for the rest of my career. I have many years left until a possible retirement and I don’t think those systems are necessarily going to provide me with enough work to make it to that point. So, when opportunities present themselves to learn new systems and possibly work with them, I think it’s important to jump on some of those opportunities.
Some of you reading this are in the same boat but you’re thinking about how hard it is to learn something new and how overwhelming it can be. I suggest you think about a realistic retirement age and consider whether you can make it to that age if your projects dwindle. It’s just a reality check you need to do for yourself. Don’t pass by opportunities in the hope that projects will come along in systems you already know because, as we all know, hope isn’t a strategy.