I firmly believe that professional skills in communication and leadership are just as important, if not more important, as technical skills and knowledge in career success, impact and satisfaction. I also fully believe that engaging students and early career colleagues in fully open conversations about the professional process, challenges, and successes, builds a stronger community of belonging that attracts and retains outstanding individuals and allows them to fully bring their whole suite of talents to their work. To this end, I am a personal growth and professional development junkie. I am always looking to openly share what I know and have experienced, am continually learning in this realm, and looking to grow a community of empowered scientists that value their communication and leadership just as much as their scientific expertise.
I co-lead a national program (MPOWIR) that is aimed at retaining women in science. As a result of my activities associated with this program, I have developed and been exposed to a wide array of professional development and leadership materials. Through the mentoring that I do as part of this program, I have a pulse on the concerns and pressure points that late stage graduate students and early career scientists encounter. I have developed seminars in topical areas that I found mentees consistently seeking the greatest help, perspective, and feedback. These seminars have covered topics such as learning to lead, maximizing productivity, getting the most out of mentoring relationships, negotiation, networking, self-promotion, maximizing impact through body language, and believing in yourself.
There are vast aspects of our communication in which our formal educational curriculum completely overlooks. Over 2/3rdsof our communication comes through non-verbal cues. While we may have an intuition of what certain facial expressions or gestures indicate, there is potential to greatly improve our communication by growing our ability to decode and encode body language. As an introvert, empath, and middle child, I have a lifetime of honed human behavior observation skills; but it was in pursuit of my own professional and leadership development, and frankly to help myself feel less awkward in my own professional presentations, that I sought training in body language. My motivation for this training was to not only to improve the impact of my professional and interpersonal communication, but to elevate the quality and impact of oral science communication by helping others learn basic skills in not just the words they are choosing to say but also in how they are said. My training in body language covers decoding and encoding micro-positive and micro-negative behaviors, power dynamics, facial micro expressions, trust indicators, deception detection, and vocal tonality.
I developed and teach a graduate scientific writing class that was born from my own lack of training in this realm as a graduate student. As an early Assistant Professor, I spent a lot of time and effort teaching myself how to manage my productivity and writing output. It was so obvious the material I was teaching and practicing myself was greatly needed in the graduate curriculum. The underlying driver of the course is “as a scientist, you are a professional writer.” Students develop either a scientific manuscript or research proposal (depending on the current stage of their graduate career) and critique others' efforts. The philosophy of the class is to simulate the scientific communication process as close to reality as possible. The majority of feedback during the drafting phase comes from classmates through peer writing groups. This requires all students’ dedication to their own work as well as the constructive development of their peers.
Finally, after traversing challenging life events, I’ve learned the immense power of mindset, shifting our thinking frameworks, and the stories we tell ourselves. Our minds are our greatest battlegrounds and greatest weapons. I have a large focus on mindset, positive psychology, gratitude, and the role movement plays in these aspects to help yourself show up consistently as the best version of you.
In this season of my life and career, I am finding that my greatest interests are not with my expert area of scientific knowledge, rather in mentoring, coaching, and inspiring others to discover and achieve inner excellence to thrive in their professional life.