Surreal Juxtaposition

The whole Leuven trip was weird.

By this stage I had been out of academia for seven years. I was making around £15k a year doing “A” level Chemistry and Physics teaching specialising on those with learning difficulties like ADHD, Asperger’s and Dyslexia. It was weird. I had no problems with the ADHD students because I could always mange to keep their interest and use their own mental agility as a teaching aid for them.

We lived in a small farmworkers’ cottage with no double glazing, no central heating, an oil fired Rayburn stove and log burner. The farmer had many sections of tree trunk and each day in winter I would get busy with the axe.   

I had not been up to London for over five years.

The job was for GaN growth, big business for blue LEDs. I had done Ph.D. vivas for people growing this material. I applied and was invited over for an interview. I was quite surprised.

IMEC is a place where new technology is trialed and developed. In many ways it represents state of the art. There is a general rule that it is good to be prepared for an interview. So, I read many of their research papers and about 20% of their patent portfolio, both granted and in process. I was expecting a least a few technical questions.

I had a very weird dream the night of arrival but more of that later.

We set out exploring housing around Leuven and it looked good. Things were cheaper over the language frontier into the French speaking part. Leuven is really nice; we could see ourselves living there. It is well worth a visit.

The interview was secret because it was for a post that was already occupied. They hid me away alone in a portacabin. I was to be interviewed by human resources, several vice-presidents, the CTO and a very big cheese.

The interview slots were 40mins each. The big cheese was 20mins late. If I had not have needed someone to swipe me through doors, I probably would have left the building. I was not a happy bunny. She proceeded to give me an overview of their management structure. {It felt like a bit of a pitch.} Which was bloody complex. I like simple well oiled structures not complex leviathans. I said that it looked complex. Bearing in mind that I have looked into organisational structures. And before I knew it the interview was over with no single question asked.

Next up was the extrovert CTO. He proceeded to drop names even some I knew. He just kept talking. Then he gave me a tour of the clean room complex with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of kit. He said that they were having trouble with the lasers on the ASML EUV kit. I said that I might be able to help them with that having designed an EUV source.

It was a surreal juxtaposition. One day talking about first order reaction kinetics to a teenager with a huge slobbering dog under my feet at a kitchen table, the next at the cutting edge of high technology. I don’t know if I was supposed to bullshit or not. We were not on the same wavelength or even spectrum.

Then the human resources lady came in. She was ace and asked all sorts of things.

I then had lunch with the CTO in the canteen where the incumbent did not have the pay grade to go.

After lunch I spoke with several vice-presidents, who were nice and was then escorted off the premises.

I could not believe that nobody had asked me any technical questions…Bizarre city, Belgium, planet earth?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Were they afraid? Or is it customary to appoint only on CV. Odd…very

I will write up the Leuven dolphin dream tomorrow because that takes the biscuit of weirdness.

The day we were due to catch the Eurostar back. We were walking around the ornate central square in Brussels and the HR lady called on my mobile. They were not going to offer me the job. Maybe telling a big cheese their organisation is complex is not a good idea even if it is way too complex.

I had the feeling that telephone calls had been made about me, behind the scenes.

I explained later to the HR lady that I was not neurotypical and that the 20 mins delay had almost had me walking out. I really was within inches of doing that.

Elvis has left the building…

Imhotep however has not…

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