• Question: From your profile i can see you don't get very much free time at all during the day, what is it about your work that keeps you working at the pace you do? Thnaks

    Asked by hassan to Derek on 16 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Derek McKay-Bukowski

      Derek McKay-Bukowski answered on 16 Jun 2011:


      Hey, great question! And you’ve obviously been through my profile pretty carefully too.

      You’re absolutely right that I don’t get a lot of free time during my week. There’s some good reasons for this and a couple of reasons why I keep at it.

      My job can be quite demanding. There is simply a lot to be done. Paying for staff is very expensive, so that means that most science projects try to use as few staff as possible on a given project, so that they can get more money to spend on equipment, or so that they can employ other staff to work on other projects. This is good, but it also means that it puts a lot of pressure on everyone. It also usually means that there is not a lot of overlap between what each person does. And that leads on to the reasons why I can keep the pace up.

      Some people work well under pressure, and I guess I’m one of them. When I know that the only person responsible for something, then knowing that I’m the one who has to do it is a good motivator. I mean, if I fail to do some task, then the project is a risk — and I don’t want to let my colleagues down. Sometimes there’s also pressure to get things done. Someone will phone up and ask for a new report, or something will happen (like an accident or unexpected problem) that will suddenly demand a lot of your time.

      Of course, when we have a lot to do, it also often means that we have a lot of *different* things to do. This means that the work is rarely tedious or boring, because there is so much variety. One day, I’ll be designing something with lots of equations, the next day I’ll be training other people, and the day after I’ll be checking cables or shovelling snow of the equipment.

      I also enjoy the work itself. If you had a day off to do all the things that you like, you tend to find that the time goes pretty quickly. The same goes for me, but it’s my job that I like so much. I really enjoy doing this sort of work and when I get one task finished, I’m eager to get on with the next one.

      I’m also a bit of a perfectionist. I really like to do the job well. While others might say “nah… that’ll do”, I tend to work harder to get it “just so!”, so that I can be proud of my work.

      And maybe also because perhaps I’m a bit of a workaholic. I also don’t like saying “no” to things and I also strongly believe in the importance of other things, like outreach, education and writing about my work. That, of course, is part of the reason why I’m taking part in IAS2011! But it also means needing to find time to fit these things in.

      I’m also keen to do other things as well in my spare time. This means when I’m working, I work hard to get as much done as I can, so I can take time later to do other things that I like. (But I also like building more radio telescopes in my spare time!)

      So there’s actually a lot of reasons why I can keep going at such a pace. But ultimately, it is because the work is rewarding and I enjoy it so much.

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