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Becoming Fearless

Posted by Mary Canady February 2nd, 2010 .

being a fearless scientist

I recently gave a talk at BioToasters, the local ‘biotech-focused’ Toastmasters chapter (they’re great by the way). As I started to prepare, I realized that I was going to an organization devoted to public speaking, and that I haven’t had training in ages. I started to think about why I’m so comfortable with public speaking, and realized that a bad situation a long time ago had made me fearless. I started thinking in more general terms, and how learning to be more fearless can benefit us all.

OK, here’s the story. Ten years ago I was a postdoc and gave a talk at an international virology meeting on a college campus. Back then, we used removable slides in carousels (you can now laugh if you’re over 40, and think about the classic Mad Men episode if you’re a fan). The college student that was running the projector dropped, DROPPED, the carousel and put the slides back in random order, without telling anyone. The talk was scheduled for 10 minutes. There was no time to put my slides back in order. I made the best of it, lived to tell about it, and pretty much fearless to this day in front of a ‘live audience’ (I spoke to 400 scientists in Japan once, no sweat!).

In preparing my talk for BioToasters, I began to think of other good things that have come from my bad experiences. Yes, I have sat in the ‘your position has been eliminated’ chair before. More than once… The result? Comprendia. A fantastic network. The SDBN. The OCBN. I was a bit squirmy when watching the movie ‘Up in the Air’ because George Clooney’s job is to terminate employees when a company doesn’t have the stomach to do it themselves. However, his comments in the movie to the recently jobless are spot on: ‘Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now.’

Why does it take an extreme event to make us fearless? I started to think about Randy Pausch, the professor who inspired us all with his ‘Last Lecture‘ which he gave knowing that he had terminal cancer. The lecture is about achieving your wide-eyed childhood goals and dreams (e.g., being an astronaut, working at Disneyland). What’s surprising about Randy’s lecture, however, is that he realized some of his dreams before he knew he had cancer. What may be even more surprising is that he incorporated the attainment of his dreams into his highly technical work in computer science. Do you ever think about your dream job in biotech, and how you could land it and realize some of your dreams?

Yes, this is a lofty, inspirational post. But let me just tell you, that being a small business owner is no picnic, but I have never been as happy as I am now, doing exactly what I feel that I was meant to do. Everything is easier when you’re doing what you love. The things you do mean more to yourself and others.

I don’t suggest quitting your job, but I suggest that you…ask that you…IMPLORE that you to look for an outlet to pursue your dreams. Go for that job in the other department you’ve been eyeing. Start a blog (my answer to everything ;). Connect with other professionals who can help you get something started (and stay tuned for more resources from us to help). Even if you only have time to be the expert on your dream topic, do it. As Louis Pasteur once said, ‘Chance favors only the prepared mind.’ Get out there and prepare yourself, even if you don’t know what it’s for, yet.

If you’d like to see (and hear!) my BioToasters talk, visit http://sdbn.org/shades. You’ll have to sit through the story about the dropped slides again though ;) Oh, and I’m not fearless enough to skydive…sorry if you feel cheated based on the picture…

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Speed Networking for Life Scientists

Posted by Rebecca Beattie January 27th, 2010 .
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scientist speed networking

When’s the last time you met, had a brief conversation and exchanged cards with 20 professionals in 60 minutes? As a scientist, do you find it difficult to talk your way through a crowd? When it comes to networking, do you have the need for speed? Then maybe speed networking is for you! At last week’s SDBN event our members had the opportunity to meet one potential customer, referral, collaborator, qualified candidate, possible employer after another. Here’s how it worked.

Prior to starting, we gave a brief presentation describing what the next hour was gong to look like. Tables were arranged into a large ‘U’ shape with chairs on each side (members facing each other, see photos on Flickr for more details).  A diagram explained that the people sitting on the outside of the ‘U’ were going to stay in their seats while those on the inside would move one seat to their right upon hearing a cue. The four basic guidelines were…

  1. You have 3 minutes total – Why three? Two is too little and five… well that would be too much. We knew that participants would be fried after 60 minutes and we wanted everyone to connect with at least 20 other professionals so… we landed on 3 minutes.
  2. Introduce yourself – Allow each person to introduce themselves before starting the conversation.
  3. Refine your message – We asked the participants to think about what they wanted to walk away with that night. Was it a contact name at a company they are seeking employment with? A collaborative partner for a project they are working on? Maybe to increase their LinkedIn professional network? Whatever their goal, it needed to be the main message in these brief conversations.
  4. Have fun – What’s the point if no one is having a good time!

With participants facing each other, guidelines in place and stopwatch in hand, we were ready to begin. “Your three minutes starts.. NOW!” The room was singing with energy and all 82 participants were engaged. As promised, at the end of the 3-minute cycle we prompted the room to “rotate”… 3 minutes later “rotate” and then again to “roooootate”… you get the picture.

One very short hour later we called the last “rotate” and asked participants to conclude their final conversation. So what ensued after the 60-minute speed networking session… more networking! Could it be that this type of exercise helps you feel more comfortable talking to strangers, communicating a business need and building your social capital? YES!

The post session comments have lead us to believe that this was a very successful event and one that our members would like to participate in again. What are your thoughts? Did you meet anyone that will help you further a professional goal? Did the overall event meet your expectations? How can we improve next time?

Special thanks to Fiona Godsman of Nexxus Scotland for the idea.

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SDBN January 19th Event: Maximizing Your Career Potential in 2010

Posted by Mary Canady January 6th, 2010 .
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biotech career success

We had a great time in 2008/2009 getting to know San Diego Biotech professionals, and we appreciate the feedback you gave us about 2010 events. Let’s kick off the new year by talking about you! Our January event will be focused on honing your networking and interviewing skills and helping you maximize your career potential in 2010.

The event will include speed networking (described below) along with talks from the experts at PROVEN Scientific Staffing and RxResearch Staffing titled ‘Understanding Behavioral Styles of Interviewers’ (more info) & ‘Outsourcing Trends’ (more info), respectively. These two topics offer valuable insights for any professional looking to further his/her career (we know that’s you!). Aerotek will also be on hand, and we’re going to have as many job listings and hiring managers as possible at the event. Also, check out the SDBN jobs page and subscribe to updates. There are still sponsorship options available, contact us if you’re interested.

SPEED NETWORKING: Here’s how it works – You will meet a handful of local professionals during a number of fast paced sessions. At the end of each session, participants will pair up with their next networking opportunity. In just a few minutes, participants will share business cards, history and offer new contacts with valuable information about their business. For example:

  • Who do you know that might need their services?
  • What contacts do you have in the area in which I am seeking a job?
  • How might we do business together?

Come prepared to have fun and meet some new faces, and be sure to bring lots of business cards! (p.s. Vistaprint is a great source for free ones)

Of course, our venue has a great atmosphere which is always fun and conducive to meeting people, click here to register and we hope to see you there. Also, if you have suggestions for the event, feel free to leave them below, we love feedback.

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Event Details

Who: Biotechnology professionals in the greater San Diego area
What: San Diego Biotechnology Network’s January 19th Maximizing Your Career Potential in 2010
When: Tuesday, January 19th, 5:30-9:00 p.m.
Where: Tango Del Rey, 3567 Del Rey Street, San Diego 92109 (Directions below)
Cost: $20, including appetizers, cash bar ($15 for Academics) +$5 at door, cash/check only
Contact: http://sdbn.org/contact
For more information about the event: http://sdbn.org/january

Directions: From the North: South on Interstate 5, Exit Balboa Ave, Straight to 4th Traffic Light then left on Bunker Hill St. Building directly ahead 3 blks. From the South: North on Interstate 5, Exit Grand/ Garnet Ave, Straight to 3rd Traffic Light then right on Bunker Hill St. Building directly ahead 3 blks. Park on the street or in the structure just past Tango del Rey.


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What Will San Diego Biotech Look Like in 2010?

Posted by Mary Canady December 22nd, 2009 .
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The results are in! We polled you to see what you want with the San Diego Biotechnology Network in 2010. The full results from 68 respondents can be seen here, and here’s a short summary:

  1. Drug Discovery, Drug Development, Translational Research, Research Tools, Medical Devices were the top areas of interest. Although Stem Cells and Green/Clean Tech were not highly chosen, companies in these areas were suggested to be featured.
  2. Companies you’d like to hear from: Illumina, Celgene, Ambrx, CareFusion, Sapphire Energy, Fate Therapeutics, Life Technologies
  3. Charities you’re interested in: Disease areas, community outreach
  4. You think the mix of science/networking is good, with a slight bias towards more networking.

To get an overview of the feedback, check out the tag cloud of the essay answers–we think it gives a nice flavor of what you’re looking for and what to expect in 2010. We were encouraged by your feedback and willingness to participate and will start giving you more ways to get involved soon. Leave more feedback below, we can’t get enough of it!

We’re working on the 2010 schedule and finding volunteers, partners and sponsors, now is the time to contact us to get involved!

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San Diego/Scotland Synergies?

Posted by Mary Canady December 18th, 2009 .

Our work cultivating a biotech network in San Diego has attracted a lot of attention. When I travel, or on social media, I tell people how our group has a real ‘energy’ which is fueled by the combination of online and face-to-face interactions. I met the folks from Nexxus Scotland, a group that was launched in 2003 with similar ideals to the SDBN. They asked me to write a summary of our network for their quarterly newsletter which you can access here. Check out the Nexxus site and what they’re doing in Scotland–we both share strong ties to our academic heritage. They’ve also been around longer than us, and I think we can learn from their success.

We’ve also had interest from other regions who have a keen interest in interacting with us. Luke Timmerman mentioned great synergies that can exist between biotech hubs at their recent event. What do you think about forging stronger relationships with other hubs, and how could we facilitate these interactions?