Day in the Life

Idealog - - CONTENTS -

Dr Del­wyn

Moller

Dr Del­wyn Moller IS A PROM­I­NENT EARTH SCI­EN­TIST, FOR­MER NASA SCI­EN­TIST, AND CUR­RENT DI­REC­TOR OF RE­SEARCH AT THE CEN­TRE FOR SPACE SCIENCE TECH­NOL­OGY IN ALEXAN­DRA , NEW ZEALAND. Her ground-break­ing work de­vel­op­ing state-of-the-art earth and en­vi­ron­men­tal radar imag­ing tech­nol­ogy has played a mas­sive role in ad­vanc­ing global un­der­stand­ing of cli­mate change, in­clud­ing en­abling new and ad­vanced ar­eas of study around ice sheets, glaciers and ris­ing sea lev­els. In June, this work was ac­knowl­edged with a Kea World Class New Zealand Award, which hon­ours Ki­wis do­ing in­cred­i­ble things on the world stage. Here's how she gets through the day, how she or­gan­ises her time and how she han­dles the mad­ness of busi­ness. What time do you wake up? Just in time to get my kids up and ready for school. What’s the ideal way to start your day? Hugs from the kids, braid­ing my daugh­ter’s hair, shuf­fling the twins off to school. Do you have any morn­ing rit­u­als? Cof­fee! How soon do you be­gin do­ing work-re­lated things, i.e. check­ing phone or emails? The mo­ment my kids are gone I am straight into it! Well, ac­tu­ally, some­times be­fore I even get out of bed, I of­ten check

emails on my phone so I have an idea of what’s wait­ing for me. What’s your me­dia con­sump­tion or in­ter­ac­tion like from the morn­ing on­wards – do you lis­ten to pod­casts, ra­dio, watch videos, read books and mag­a­zines, visit new sites? I have al­most no time to spend on me­dia – so when some star­tling news event hap­pens, I usu­ally hear about it first through friends or col­leagues and then I’ll dive in to what­ever I can find to get up to speed. What kind of work do you do? I’m an engi­neer, but my par­tic­u­lar fo­cus is on Earth science and re­search. Ba­si­cally, I work with sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers to find ways to mon­i­tor as­pects of the Earth so that we can bet­ter un­der­stand pro­cesses and changes and an­thro­pogenic im­pacts (the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of hu­mans on na­ture). What re­spon­si­bil­ity does that in­volve in a typ­i­cal day? What takes up most of your time? It varies day-to-day and week-toweek. Some days it’s com­puter work, data anal­y­sis, project de­sign, pro­posal writ­ing, and emails co­or­di­nat­ing peo­ple and projects. Other days it’s meet­ings, work­shops, and sem­i­nars, es­pe­cially when I’m trav­el­ing. My work is var­ied and mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary, which I re­ally en­joy. Who do you see/talk to? I see and talk to many peo­ple across many or­gan­i­sa­tions and across many time-zones: en­gi­neers of all types, sci­en­tists, pi­lots, pro­gramme man­agers, lo­cal and na­tional govern­ment of­fi­cials, NGOs, aca­demics, pi­lots, me­chan­ics etc. Where do your best ideas come from? My best ideas come through brain­storm­ing dis­cus­sions with col­leagues, which is why I’m grate­ful to work with so many tal­ented peo­ple. They also come when I slow down and let my mind wan­der. Work­ing out also helps! What are the most im­por­tant tools or pro­grammes you use for your work? Any­thing that can help me vi­su­alise and make con­nec­tions be­tween con­cepts and the un­der­ly­ing phys­i­cal pro­cesses. Some­times I have to cre­ate them for my­self. How do you jug­gle all your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties? I jug­gle and jug­gle and jug­gle and I pri­ori­tise. When I’m work­ing on a devel­op­ment, I try to make sure that my team has what they need to con­tinue. I iden­tify bro­ken paths and fig­ure out how to get them what they need to keep mov­ing for­ward. I do my best not to have peo­ple wait­ing on me, and if some­one else can do what I’m do­ing, I’ll pass it over to them, so that I can move on to fill the gaps. What kind of breaks do you take through­out the day? If my day al­lows, I love to work out. It set­tles my mind and helps me fo­cus. What’s the most en­joy­able part of your day? Time with my chil­dren. Learn­ing about their day and soak­ing up their en­thu­si­asm for learn­ing. What about the least en­joy­able? Days when I have to sit all day in front of a com­puter un­der dead­line are my least en­joy­able. I like to have a bal­ance so that I can at least get out­side to clear my head. Do you pro­cras­ti­nate? Is it good or bad? Pro­cras­ti­na­tion is part of my creative cy­cle and over the years, I’ve learned to trust that. It usu­ally means I’m for­mu­lat­ing some­thing in the back­ground, in my sub­con­scious, that isn’t quite “there” yet. Do you mea­sure your ac­com­plish­ments or pro­duc­tiv­ity? If so, how? I like to see for­ward progress, but some­times, es­pe­cially with tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ments (which can eas­ily take years) this can seem slow. There are times when day-to-day it feels like noth­ing’s ac­com­plished. But then months pass and you re­alise that all that fo­cused work with your team ac­tu­ally re­sulted in quite a lot! You need those mo­ments, don’t you? They’re en­cour­age­ment and af­fir­ma­tion that you’re go­ing in the right di­rec­tion – and that helps to sus­tain the for­ward mo­men­tum. It re­ally is all about mo­men­tum and keep­ing your fo­cus in the right di­rec­tion. This, of course, is hard at times be­cause I ad­mit that I’m not a par­tic­u­larly pa­tient per­son. Is there any­thing you think is unique about your day? Ev­ery day is unique, and of­fers some­thing dif­fer­ent. While I try and weave some structure into my day when pos­si­ble, I also thrive on the new and un­ex­pected. This is re­search and devel­op­ment: if you are do­ing some­thing in re­search, by def­i­ni­tion you don’t know the an­swer and there will be sur­prises. What’s your in­ter­ac­tion with friends and fam­ily through­out the day? Can you be both a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur and a good mother/fa­ther/ hus­band/wife? It’s all about fo­cus­ing my time and energy. My in­ter­ac­tion with fam­ily is when the kids are out of school: that time in the morn­ing that I men­tioned and from af­ter school un­til they go to bed. I try to make sched­ul­ing my day around those pre­cious mo­ments my pri­or­ity. Work-time flex­i­bil­ity is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal to me, and to my fam­ily and I’m for­tu­nate to be able to be able to do that at CSST.

The ca­reer/life bal­ance is tough and you have to fight for it. Self-ad­vo­cacy is es­sen­tial. Some ca­reers and cul­tures are more ac­cept­ing than others in recog­nis­ing the im­por­tance of work/life bal­ance. My field is typ­i­cally not very pro­gres­sive in this re­spect. Do you get stressed? If so, how do you man­age it? Do you prac­tice any mind­ful­ness or med­i­ta­tion? I get very stressed. Part of that is just my per­son­al­ity. My cop­ing is through lift­ing weights, Brazil­ian jiu jitsu and time with the kids. My chil­dren re­mind me to be present in the mo­ment. What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off? I don’t have a lot of work/life bound­aries so when I am fo­cused on a project or projects or un­der dead­line, I don’t usu­ally switch off. What time do you go to sleep? It can vary, any­where from 11pm to 2am. When I’m at the peak of a project or projects and I hit my creative stride, I need just a few hours of sleep a night. But that’s not sus­tain­able long term. I go back to the usual 6-8 hours a night. Un­til the next burst… Hum­ming­bird keeps the world – and great in­di­vid­u­als like Del­wyn – hum­ming.

THERE ARE TIMES WHEN DAY-TO­DAY IT FEELS LIKE NOTH­ING’S AC­COM­PLISHED. BUT THEN MONTHS PASS AND YOU RE­ALISE THAT ALL THAT FO­CUSED WORK WITH YOUR TEAM AC­TU­ALLY RE­SULTED IN QUITE A LOT!

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