We all know the value of networking. Here’s a very quick rundown of best practises, from Amali H. Thrimawithana
Networking plays a vital role in any scientist’s career development, being one of the main ingredients in building a professional profile. It feels especially essential in my own field of informatics and data science, where techniques and technology are rapidly evolving and cross-discipline collaborations are rampant.
Networking helps us stay up to date with developments, provides a space to learn, enhances communication skills, creates new opportunities, and helps to build a professional profile.
When developing a network, it’s important to surround yourself with diversity: try to meet scientists, technicians, business managers and others to share ideas with and be challenged by. Everyone has the potential to teach you something new.
Here’s what I did to grow my network:
Conference and workshop attendance
This is important. Visiting a variety of events allows you to see what’s ‘up and coming’ in fields outside your own as well as within your own, and might present new ways of tackling an issue. Conferences provide an excellent opportunity to widening your network, especially if you seek opportunities to present, as it provides you — literally — with a stage to make sure people notice you and your research.
It is also important that you attend both local and international meetings; this allows you to build a variety of networks. Try to target one or two annual conferences and attend on a regular basis, as this further helps to establish your profile.
In a technology-driven world, social media portals such as Twitter, ResearchGate, or LinkedIn play a vital role in your own networking, as they allow you to connect with people easily, and help to build name recognition. These sites also allow you to share achievements such as publications or conference attendances, and also follow developments in areas of interest. So make sure you establish a digital foot-print.
By working with range of people, you’ll learn a great deal and receive greater motivation to help you complete the work as the enthusiasm and support of the people involved will act as a driver for you work. It also allows for you to create new links which in turn could open up new opportunities.
Publications, whether at a conference, as blog posts, or in peer-reviewed journals, are an important way of building your profile, sharing your knowledge, and advancing your scientific career.
Informal meetings and coffee breaks
Chatting to your colleagues, and visiting communal areas such as the café can work wonders. Personally, I’ve picked up new projects just from chatting to others in my department.
These are just some of the things that I’ve found to have helped my career in bioinformatics. Networking provides numerous opportunities for self-development, from being up-to-date in the field to enhancing my resource base. So there’s your cheat sheet – go meet some people and make it a regular activity in your life!
Amali is a key bioinformatician at the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited, where she contributes to various research projects on fungal pathogens, insect pests and plants by undertaking bioinformatics and biostatistics analysis of NGS data. She focusses on understanding insect pests of important horticultural crops, as well as genome exploration of native New Zealand plant species.