I was hired at a postdoc at a national lab. However, the postdoc was a total failure and mainly for reasons that were out of my control. First, there was a coding / computer science part that was occupying most of the postdoc, but all the challenges foreseen in this part of the project were actually due to a super trivial error in a library. Fixing that ate up 75% of my project. Second, the code shouls have been validated against an experiment but the experiment was late by like one year and a half. So I was there doing nothing and my PI seemed unable or not keen enough to redirect the activity. Unfortunately, in a lab like that and in a group like that, I had no control on funding to do that myself. Some people from many collaborating groups, including the one paying providing the money, were start asking questions / complaining about the situation. Therefore I decided to quit as soon as I found something else (6 months into a 2 year postdoc). That was my dream job, but the project was overtly failing and it was feeling that I would have been fired soon anyway if I didn't quit.
My feeling turned out to be probably correct, as the main PI, the one who wrote the project proposal, left the place soon after. Three are the possible reasons:
- the higher-level management didn't forgive my PI for my departure: I was strongly wanted by my group and my academic track is already much better than my PI's (it was a stupid error on my side to accept an offer from someone with such a poor resume, but I was pretty unexperienced back then).
- the management ackowledged the failure of the project and fired him (he wasn't the main person to blame, but he was still the one who proposed the project and who was putting his name and face on it)
- he decided to resigned and change field: this is the official version he wrote on his linkedin profile, but it is highly unlikely that it the true version. When I resigned we sat down and give them feedback as to which profile my replacement should have had, and other long-term, project-related stuff.
I tend to absolutely exclude a fourth reason: my departure disrupted the project to the point that it failed and either he resigned because of this or he was fired. My duty (checking errors in databases and code-checking) was so trivial that a replacement could have easily be found, or some other grad student or postdoc could have taken over. Also, most of the what I am tellung you about (especially the super late experiments) took place before covid. So the pandemics is not a credible reason.
This is the story. However, that lab is still my dream workplace and I want to get back. Normally, it would be impossible since a postdoc resigning so prematurely would take all the blame. However, my PI also prematurely left, which (1) is a big indicator that something was wrong in the project and (2) that this became blatantly clear to the management.
Given this, I wonder how I could do that. All the closests colleagues are not accepting my friendship on linkedin, which might indicate that they have resentment towards me. However, the higher level management (who know me), are accepting my requests.
The best strategy would probably change group. Other groups in the lab know me and they sure know how I left. The question is: should I find someone in the old group justifying the decision to leave to a potential new team? Should I find out in some way what really happened (i.e., why the main PI left) and bring that forward as a good justification as to why I left? How to approach in general the managers to make them know that I would be more than happy to be back on a more sound project?