Inspiration from an Unexpected Source

Many people, including my parents, often openly wonder why I am interested in science. Both of my parents are involved in advertising as art directors, so they’re very creative people. Even my younger brother is planning on continuing that creative legacy through some form of film production. I’ve been the odd one out in my family since middle school, when I started to revel in my science and math classes while my friends began dismissing them. More recently, I’m now majoring in Organismal Biology and happily on my way to becoming a genetic counselor, helping and providing resources to patients daily. None of us really knew where this scientific excitement came from, but after pondering over the years, we think we have an answer.

possible trigger warning: intense medical conditions and descriptions

You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I was born with a neurological defect known as Chiari Malformation, in which the back of the brain (or cerebellum) improperly descends on top on the spinal cord. This causes large pockets of spinal fluid to form around the brain, leading to motor and muscle damage. My condition was discovered when I was about nine and I was immediately treated in order to halt progression of the fluid. In October 2005, I underwent decompression surgery to open up the back of my skull and allow the brain to retreat away from the spinal cord. The operation was a complete success and my pockets of fluid cleared up very quickly. However, soon after my procedure, the secondary effects of nine years of stress on my internal systems became clear. The constant pressure placed on my spinal cord impacted the proper growth of many crucial muscles. As I got older, all of the muscles on the left side of my body, head to toe, became underdeveloped in comparison with my right side. While not only inconvenient and occasionally disorienting, my muscles could not adequately support my spinal cord. So I had two spinal fusion surgeries for rather extreme scoliosis during middle school and high school, both of which have been relatively successful.

Alright, let’s take a deep breath… Okay, you back? Great. It seems to me that the exhilaration I feel when it comes to science and medicine stems from these personal experiences as a patient. It would have been acceptable, even normal, to fear hospitals and doctors offices after everything I’ve been through, to cringe and tear up at the mention injury or surgery. Instead, understand the way in which the human body functions, and how it interacts with the surrounding world, inspire and drive me everyday. I chose to see medicine and the clinical sphere in a positive and miraculous light and have accepted them as an inevitable part of my life, whether I would have wanted it to be or not. Because of that, I couldn’t be happier with the life I’m living. It is vitally important to try to acknowledge the good in the world.  While some people can’t avoid the negatives, if you are privileged enough to be able to see the silver lining, please embrace it . Because it might lead you somewhere awesome.

Fullbridge Day 6: Technology and Business

Hi everyone. Thanks for continuing to follow my posts as I narrate my journey as a student participant in the Fullbridge Program.

Day six, we worked on a number of different assignments, including two expository videos. Each person worked individually, and all was quiet as usual. Since recording a video requires peace without interruption, we all took turns working in the open rooms upstairs meant for shared use. The finished products were to be submitted online to our coaches for review and feedback.

For the first video, I summarized a series of documents as an oratory for my boss. I wrote out the information first and memorized it from there. Other participants approached the task from various angles, some of whom spoke off the cuff. Others wrote short notes for themselves, much as someone might do with index cards for a presentation.

The second video required me to assess a possible workplace dilemma and propose a set of solutions to my supervisor. This assignment was shorter because it required less reading and time investment. As such, the information was less about research as it was about understanding work place etiquette. I found this one took less time and was easier to relay in terms of memorization and speech.

The idea was to simulate a work environment in which I would have to communicate with others via video, similar to the way people now use Skype and other similar programs for business purposes. After all, I’ve already had my first Skype interview because of Fullbridge, and it likely it won’t be my last. Given that technology has become essential to nearly every type of career, we have to consider the impact it will have on our future vocational plans.

As for you, do you find the advent of technology to be encouraging or not?  How does technology play a role in the career in which you’re interested?

Checking My Feminism

I’m pretty confident with my feminism. Yes, sometimes I have to check my privilege or need reminders to think critically, but all in all, I trust myself to always take a third-wave-feminist perspective.

Well, last week I failed at that. Luckily I had my amazing 17-year-old cousin visiting to keep me in check.

Last Friday, at the end of an interview with the CEO of a company I’d be OVERJOYED to have the opportunity to work at, I was told I’d be receiving a job offer the following week. I could barely keep my voice steady as I responded, “I look forward to hearing from you!” (The squeaking with excitement didn’t happen until I had fully quit Skype… Just in case…)

However, after the initial shock and excitement, I started to worry and question things, as I tend to do.

My concerns stemmed from the fact that my boyfriend works at this company. I already cringe when anyone tries to imply that I’m moving to the Bay just to be with him. So, in my head all I could think was, “What is it going to look like if we work for the same company? Will it look like I don’t have my own life? Will it look like I’m afraid to get out on my own? Will it look like I need a partner in everything I do?”

This is when my cousin’s voice of feminist reason brought me out of this downward spiral of concerns,

“AnnE. Isn’t it just as bad to not take a job you want
just because your boyfriend is there?” 

She let that sink in for a minute then said,

“Why don’t you just do what you want? Do what’s best for you?
And don’t take him into account either way?”

sOh. Right. That’s the kind of feminist I am. As soon as she said that, I was back. Being a feminist doesn’t mean avoiding and trying to dissociate with men, it means doing what’s best for me and only taking those factors into account. And it NEVER means worrying about “what other people think” or “what something will look like to others.” It’s easy to forget that sometimes, which is one of many reasons I love my feminist friends who keep me in check. My cousin’s voice of reason was echoed by other friends later that night. No one said, “Oh, but isn’t that where your boyfriend works?” Everyone was excited for me. The judgment I anticipated was only in my head.

So for the third time this semester, I learned what it means to be a Scrippsie and a feminist. We don’t do what others expect. We don’t do something just for a boyfriend. (And for that matter, we don’t NOT do something because of a boyfriend.)

We do what we want.

And I want this job.

Networking for Introverts

So for those of you who do not know me well enough, I am an introvert. For most people this translates as meaning, “she hates people, she’s quiet, and she does not like to go out.” Well luckily for all the other misunderstood introverts out there, I am dedicating this week’s blog post to deconstructing this introvert myth and providing concrete strategies for how to best network as an introvert.

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Contrary to popular belief, introverts do not hate people. I actually really love hanging out and getting to know people. Nevertheless, what is most misunderstood about introverts is that large numbers of people can be overwhelming to our sense of balance. So in order to regain that balance, we need alone time. One of the defining characteristics of an introvert is that they derive a lot of their energy from being alone. They really need quality time by themselves every once in a while to recharge their batteries. Then once recharged, they can be a total social butterfly.

anime introvert

So when it comes to networking, it is not so much the act of going to a networking event that is an introvert’s worst nightmare; it is more what the act of networking can feel like that bothers most introverts. I always find it funny that introverts’ silence is taken as a lack of something to say. For me, at least, it is not that I am quiet or do not like to speak, but rather that most introverts prefer listening to talking. Talking for long periods of time, especially about the same thing over and over again, can drain us very quickly. Unfortunately, talking comprises a lot of what networking is. But if all you introverts can hang on until the end, I promise I will equip you with some start off networking questions that will keep your networking partner talking all night long, and help you regain some energy.

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One of the last points I will make about introverts’ fear of networking is the sense of fakeness that networking can have to it. With a well-charged introvert, there is a lot of energy surging through their veins. However, introverts are also aware at how quickly this energy can dissipate in a large room of people, so they like to choose wisely where they will invest all this energy. If you were to ask an introvert to choose between having a really in-depth conversation with one or two people, or to meet over 50 people in one night, you better believe that any true introvert would choose the former over the latter.  Unfortunately with networking events, you might have to sift through a lot of “fake” conversations in order to make it to that one really useful one, and by then you could be energy depleted.

So how do we as introverts conquer our networking fears? Well here’s what you all have been waiting for! This is some my personal list of strategies to becoming an introverted networking queen (or king).

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  1. Ready, Set… Charge!

You would not go to a networking event with a cell phone battery that was less than 50%. So why would you ever go with less than 100% of the best version of you? Make sure that prior to a networking event you take all the time that you need to really get in the zone to talk to a bunch of random people all night. This will require you being more on top of your schedule and knowing when events are occurring. But even if you end up going to an event on the fly, and you know your slightly drained, remember that it never hurts to take breaks and go outside or, my personal favorite, go on Pinterest to give yourself a quick zap of energy.

  1. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Sure, you’re supposed to meet a lot of people at networking events. But why sift through tons of people who might not help to advance your career when you do not have to? While networking events can be somewhat unpredictable because you never really know if the person/organization who says they are coming will actually show up, it can work in your advantage to find out the guest list ahead of time and do a little background research on the guests. By doing this you will already know the names/organizations that will be the best match to your skill sets, and you will not have to waste time and energy sifting through people who would not be helpful to you. Knowing who your talking to can also help add a layer of genuineness to the conversation, while also helping you feel more comfortable with whom your talking to. Not to mention that most people do not take time to do this, so you will definitely be the most memorable of the bunch.

  1. Ask, Listen, Pause, Repeat

Pauses in a conversation can be the most terrifying thought to some people. For me, however, I love pauses because it gives me a chance to formulate a new question to ask that leads off of the other person’s following statement, keeping the conversation fresh and authentic. While it is important to have a repository of reliable networking questions to ask, you should never just completely just rely on these questions alone because it can come off as mechanical and kind of cold. Instead, I would recommend starting with one of your formulated questions, really listening to the other person’s response, taking a breath to comprehend what was just said to you, and then see if there is a follow up question you can ask about what they just said.

Here are some questions that I like to keep in the back of my mind:

  • Can you describe to me what your career path was from after you graduated college to now?
  • Did you always know that you wanted to be in X industry or what sparked that change in your life and why did you decide to act on it?
  • Are you in your dream position now or where would you like to be in the next 5 years/at the end of your career?

I hope I helped some of you introverts out there get some courage about networking. Did this post make you re-evaluate whether or not you’re an introvert or an extrovert? Well you should stop by CP&R to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment! It is really beneficial to know as much about your personality as you can so that you can strategizes ways to cater certain things like networking to your favor.

MIGHT-NOT-SAY-MUCH

Fullbridge Program Day 5: Delivering Business Pitches

Today, I’ll pick up the itinerary again and move on to day five. Speaking of itineraries, it suddenly occurred to me it might be helpful to share the actual Fullbridge schedule we followed. Each day’s work became accessible to us only on the day of, but not beforehand. Looking at my calendar may provide you with better insight into the topics and goals of the Fullbridge Program.

(Click on the image for a closer look.)

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As for day five, we each worked individually on a simulated business proposal. Given pre-made spreadsheets, we figured out calculations using Excel, occasionally consulting each other when necessary. I personally found the mathematical assignments the most challenging of all our work; many of my colleagues voiced similar opinions.

After finishing our PowerPoint presentations, we practiced delivering our pitches within our teams. Our coaches made their rounds, sometimes stopping in for a friendly check in. Looking back on notes and documents from my work today, I came across the short response I wrote for the task:

reflection on my presentation:

“I think my presentation turned out better than I had anticipated. I did not feel overly nervous and my team was receptive and friendly. I asked my teammates about concerns I had with my presentation. For example, I was relieved to hear that I had not talked too quickly, which is an issue I have struggled with before in the past. Visually, the slide layout and images were appealing, and useful. However, I did not include any numbers, which would have greatly enhanced my presentation. In addition, I was told that the words I had used to shape a real-life environment—that of a Chief Marketing Officer addressing the board of two new founders—were effective and engaging. The audience was able to take on the role of the characters because I addressed them as such. And my polished manner helped my audience take me seriously as a professional.” (1-9-14)

Back in the main room, one representative from each group presented in front of everyone. Some of my colleagues volunteered to speak; others were chosen at random by the coaches.This exercise would be beneficial for those who wish to improve upon their oratory skills. Coaches and colleagues alike offered praise and constructive criticism in response. I have to admit– I was keenly impressed at how professional and well-spoken everyone was.

How do you feel about giving presentations? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in-between? What would you like to improve on most?