The Pursuit of Happiness

As part of my volunteer work I write for the AWIS Washington Wire,  an online newspaper that brings  interesting and useful stories and articles to Professional Women in the Unites States.

For this weeks assignment, I was tasked with writing about Work-Life Satisfaction. Initially, I was a bit underwhelmed by the idea as the “10 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance” headlines have been grossly overused and offer little practical advice.

As I dug deeper into the stories that are shaping careers, however, I came to realize that “Work-Life Balance” was just a fancy way to say “How can you be happy in your life?”

The topic of Genuine Happiness is one that has  interested me more, and more the older I have become. In both work, and life it has started shaping so many of my decisions and has changed the way I perceive the world.

From establishing more fulfilling, supportive relationships to aligning your career with your true passions, happiness (and not necessarily success) should be the goal we are all striving for.

Here’s a round-up of some of the articles I got to explore for this weeks research!


Achieving Balance for High-Powered Women.
Venture capital fuels innovation, but with only 7% of partners at the top 100 venture firms being women, how can you thrive in a demanding industry, whilst achieving balance?  In an interview with Kendra Ragatz, COO and general partner at Aspect Ventures, the life of a high-power working woman is explored, as she discusses the ways that she finds balance in her career and personal life.
A balancing act

Making Balance the Law
We’re all over-connected to our phones, making it harder to leave our work at the office. In New York, however, change might be on the horizon. Following in the footsteps of some European countries, a new law would allow employees to ignore employers outside of work hours. With the average work week now around 47 hours, the bill would allow employees to draw a line as to when their work day begins and when it ends.
Switching off

What to Look for in a Great Workplace
In April 2017, the Spanish company Visual MS ranked as one of the best workplaces in Europe. The company, whose average length of service is 11 years, draws talent from all over the world, including from the highly-paid employees of Silicon Valley. What is it that prompts people to seek out employment at a small company with modest earnings though? This article reflects on what makes a great workplace, and the how changing the way we treat work can lead to happier employees.
Work happy

Science in Images: WIB Seattle Be Your Own Advocate and Build Allies for Career Success

For Women’s History Month, WIB Seattle took on the topic of Advocating for Ourselves, and how we can all build our careers into something we truly love. 

Executive coach Hien DeYoung led participants through an inspirational workshop, utilizing real-life examples to solve the challenges we face in our everyday careers.

Trying to get to where we want to be can often seem a like daunting task. A lack of natural negotiating skills, insecurity, and self-doubt can all contribute to holding us back in our work lives. So how do we get the courage to ask for the things we really want, and how do we get the things we really need?

In a step-by-step process, Hien explored Advocacy, and How we can Advocate for Ourselves.


Advocacy; Any ACTION that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of self or others.
-Alliance For Justice


The ability to advocate for ourselves, and for others, can build self-confidence and will open doors to new career opportunities. Having the courage to express yourself in a constructive though way can be difficult, so where do we start?

The first, and possibly the most important take-home message of the night was this;

 “Believe You Deserve What You Are Asking For

No matter what scenario you find yourself in, or where your ambitions may take you, ultimately your career is your responsibility: there is no other person who can speak for you in this matter. Being able to pragmatically look at the bigger picture (Hien calls this ‘getting up on the balcony.’) and assessing what it is you want, how it can benefit your employer, and how it will effect others is the first step to success.


The Game Plan.
Formulating a game plan for self-advocacy at work is as simple as answering a few basic questions. When put together though, they form a strong basis for getting what you want, and negotiating even when you often find it daunting.

The Questions.

  1. What do you want, and why do you want it?
  2. What does the employer need right now?
  3. How do your needs align?
  4. How does your request help other employees, or your team?
  5. What good reasons are there to say no?
  6. Who could support you in this?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you’re in a much better place for advancing in the way you want. The final piece of the puzzle? Know your audience.


Know Your Audience.
Is your boss data driven? Are they a team player? Do they care about the bottom line? Knowing the answer to these questions will change how you approach self-advocacy. If your boss really cares about profits, really lean-in to how your need could advance the business long term. If they care about the team,  tell them how it will help develop other employees. No matter what drives them, make sure to speak to it as it will give you a better chance of success.

Keep Emotions Out of It.
When we let emotions take the driving seat, we lose our control of the situation. If you are angry or upset you are in a weaker place to negotiate, and no matter how well devised your game plan you will be less effective. Take the time to settle your emotions first, and get your head into the right space to think clearly.

And if your caught by surprise by your emotions? Stay silent! Hien shared a wonderful story about such a time.

At the time she was angry and upset, and the employee who was responsible wanted to meet. When faced by her emotions, she didn’t lose her temper (as she would have been justified to do) and instead she just sat there in silence, looking at the other party. By controlling her emotions, and not letting them control her, she gained the power in that meeting. And as a result? She was respected by that party moving forwards. So the old adage stays true, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.


And to go full circle?

The most important bit of advice for getting what you want?

Believe You Deserve What You Are Asking For! 

Confidence is everything!


if you’re interested in Women in Bio, or want to get more information, check out the website or register for our next event!

A huge Thank You to Hien for delivering such a powerful evening, and supporting all that Women in Bio does. Women in Bio succeeds because of the support of our community, and its members.

 

In Science and Tech this Week

 

Seabirds are so Full of Crap.
Guano, also known as bird poop, is full of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. With more than 1.3 billion pounds of nitrogen being deposited by seabirds each year, understanding how these nutrients are contributing to the environment can help scientists predict changes in the environment.
Bird poop

What Women in Tech Can Do Better.
Women in the tech industry are underrepresented, but how to we help elevate more women in our own professional spheres? Exploring the connection between promoting qualified friends and business, what more can we do to advocate for those qualified women around us?
Promoting friends

Under the Sea
Whilst filming for Blue Planet II, the team found life where they never expected it; the Mariana Trench. With a depth of over 11,000 meters, and with the pressure reaching over 1000x atmospheric pressure, it was unknown that such complex life could thrive in the depths.
New life

How the Women’s March Changed Careers.
What represented a day of protest for some, was the beginning of much more for others. After participating in last year’s Women’s march, 5 professional women talk about why they were inspired to make a change. From leaving Wall Street, to starting a career in politics, these women discuss how a single day impacted their whole lives.
Business women

The Grandmother of the Web
Her son may be credited as the father of the web, but Mary Lee Berners-Lee was a pioneer for women in technology. An early champion for computers and women’s rights, Mary Lee was part of the team that worked on the first commercially sold computer, the Ferranti Mark I. Whilst at Ferranti, Mary Lee showed her passion for equality by leading a successful campaign for equal pay for male and female programmers, two decades before the Equal Pay Act came into force.
Mary lee

Advocacy, Fairness and Equality.

Back in 2017 I took the (at the time) scary step of joining Women In Bio, Seattle as a way to expand my professional network, build on my leadership skills, and really start to give back to a scientific community that has given me so, so much support throughout my career. 

Many times, I don’t appreciate all the incredible mentors and champions who have got me to where I am today. From my PhD PI who welcomed me into his research group as a wide-eyed, somewhat clueless undergraduate, to my Postdoctoral colleagues who were *always* there to motivate me when the academic grind hit hard, and now my fellow WIB members who supported and progressed my career transition. I have had many advocates throughout my lifetime, and I feel that they shaped and grew my career in a way that I couldn’t have alone.

Since moving to Seattle, giving back to the scientific community, and driving equality and diversity is what I’ve become all about. Seeing the inequity in opportunities offered to women, people of color, immigrants and non-binary person’s has made more passionate than ever, and as a community we need to do better.

Part of doing better starts with ourselves, as individuals. We each have the opportunity to support, help and champion those around us. Know someone struggling with their workload? Offer to put some time in to help out, even if that’s just helping them prioritize. Someone wanting a promotion but not sure they’re ready? Take some time to discuss it with them, help them see their strengths. Got an open position in your team? Champion that really hardworking, but often quiet team member that you enjoyed doing that project with. Clear gender or racial biases in your workplace? Use your privilege to raise this issue, and support the careers of those who are underrepresented.

Although we don’t always realize it, we all have people who have fought our corner, be that in our personal or professional lives. Those are the people that have helped influence who we are, and where we are right now. Having had that support, it’s now our turn to advocate for those who are just starting out. 

Now, after what seemed like such a scary leap back in 2017, I’m proud to say I’ll be serving as the co-chair of programs for Women in Bio, Seattle, and I’m honored to get to help organize events that address inequity and support those in my community.


If you want to get more involved in advocacy and championship, then for our next big event, celebrating Women’s History Month, we will be running a workshop focused on recognizing advocates, advocating for others, and also the importance of advocating for ourselves. You can find more details here: https://www.womeninbio.org/page/seattle

 

Lead Without Limits: Our Voices, Our Power.

On November 2nd Juno therapeutics hosted the monthly WIB Seattle chapter program at their new HQ in South Lake.

The theme of the night was amplification, advocacy, sponsorship, and creating a personal board of directors.

There are many challenges of being a women in a STEM field, and the event focused on what positive changes you can make to advocate for yourself and others, and enhance your career.

After networking, the event was kicked-off with a lightening panel featuring Aiko Bethea, Blythe Sather, Lisa taylor and Nicole Grogan. (If you’d like to see some Bio’s of the speakers, check-out these overviews:here, and here.)


Attendees network over snacks and drinks


Each of the panelists shared their thoughts on advocacy and championing each other, the value that mentors can bring, as well as the importance of taking chances.

One of the messages that really stood-out to me was about working outside of your comfort zone. Each of the panelists touched on this in a different way, from attending networking events to taking on new responsibilities at work, and getting involved in new projects. Challenging yourself to work outside of the comfort zone will not only teach you new skills, but it may lead to a new career path that you don’t even know about.


Left. Speaker Aiko Bethea discusses the importance of championship. Right. Attendees break-out into groups to discuss the challenges they face.


After the panel, attendees broke-out into smaller groups. Led by a group-facilitator, and articles for discussion ideas, the group talked about the challenges they had faced, how they wanted to advance their career, and the ways in which they can help each other.

One topic that caught the attention of many attendees was the Amplification strategy. Originally adopted by female staffers in the white house: when a woman makes a key point, other women repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forces others in the room to recognize the contribution — and deny them the chance to claim the idea as their own.

Discussion quickly turned to creating your Personal Board of Directors. Some of us have a mentor who we can go to for advice and council in our career, but there is also merit to having a team of people around us who can fulfill different roles. Seeking advice from a peer may be helpful for daily guidance and learning, but may be limited in their advice on career mobility. Finding a ‘board’ of people who can guide you in your career doesn’t have to be scary either. Research people in your company and your professional network, and ask them for a cup of coffee. Ask them questions about their work and for advice. You’d be surprised how helpful people want to be.

Following on from that, another idea that sparked a lot of discussion was; Stop Mentoring, Start Sponsoring. Having a mentor is a valuable asset but the the idea of sponsorship is that an individual can help specifically with promotions and career development. Having someone who will champion you in your career, who is placed within your organization, can allow you more opportunity for promotion and professional mobility.


Left. Break-out groups reflect on the merits of advocacy and championship. Right. Attendees network.


There were so many take-home messages from the evening that I could write individual articles about each of them.

The one that stood out in my mind though actually came from a fellow WIB program committee member:

It can be hard to advocate and champion ourselves, especially when we may be among the minority. Another challenge many face is that those who are assertive and self-advocate can be labelled as ‘bossy’ and ‘difficult’ by their co-workers. One way to counter this is to take time to stand-up for others around us too; support another person, praise their ideas, back-up their point of view. By supporting for others, we can build a culture of positive, reciprocal advocacy, that is more likely to bring about change.

 


If you want to read more about the ideas discussed in this post, check-out this incredible list of content put together by WIB and Juno.


 

In Science and Tech this Week

The Safest Time to Get Heart Surgery
If you’re about to have cardiac surgery, a new study suggests you should opt for an afternoon appointment.  It has been previously shown that heart health fluctuates over the day, with the risk of stroke or cardiac arrest being higher in the morning. This new research points to the body’s clock, the circadian rhythm, being the possible culprit and explores if surgery is less risky later in the day.
Heart clock

Virtual Reality to Improve Mental Health
As VR devices become an affordable reality, can they be used as treatment options to improve mental health? Initially funded by the DoD to treat PTSD, the technology is opening multiple new avenues; from the treatment of anxiety and fears, to teaching mindfulness and relaxation methods.
VR health

The Opioid Epidemic
After the declaration of a national health emergency, the Department of Health and Human Services can redirect resources to combat the opioid abuse epidemic. In the USA opioid abuse and overdose rates are at a record high, but with available treatment options already showing promise, will this new stance be sustainable long term?
Health emergency

Can Robotics Get Girls into STEM?
STEM fields, particularly engineering and computing, are seeing a shortage of women. So how do we encourage more women and girls into these currently male dominated fields? One idea gaining traction is robots. Utilizing robotics as toys is one way that manufactures are looking to increase the engagement of girls, but will STEM toys lead to more women in scientific careers?
STEM robotics

 

Biology Beyond the Bench: Bugs, Bud and Brew

October in Seattle, and the WIB chapter monthly event focused on other ways in which local businesses are using biology with: Biology beyond the Bench: Bugs, Bud and Brew.

Local women shared their stories and gave advice on how you can transition from a conventional science role, to something wholly different!

Hosted by Co-Motion, Life Science Washington (LSW) and Women in Bio (WIB) put on a panel discussion and networking evening.

After some time to network, panelists shared their scientific journeys, and discussed why a career beyond research and education was so fulfilling.


Left. Sara Luchi, head brewer at Black Raven Brewing. Right. Caitlin Gamble, spirulina synthetic biologist at Lumen Bioscience.


Moderated by Patricia Beckmann of LSW, the event panelists included Caitlin Gamble, Robyn Schumacher, Sara Luchi, Kersten Gaba and Jessica Tonani, whose expertise ranged from brewing to medicinal cannabis products.

One panelist, Caitlin Gamble, touched on an idea that I try to tell myself all the time; pursue your interest, regardless of the destination. There are many times many of us, myself included, have only focused on the bigger picture and don’t give enough thought and time to the question “what will make me happy now?” It isn’t always clear where our lives, never mind our careers, are taking us but by following your interest the path will at least be fun.

Ready and Open to Opportunity was another idea that many of the panel touched on. Jessica Tonani flunked Karate and so was a credit short to graduate. In order to make-up that credit, she got a position in a lab on campus and her genomic career was seeded.

To follow on from that message, another panelist shared this piece of wisdom; Quitting is not the same as failure. Sara Luchi was at culinary school when she decided to give it up, and focus on a career in brewing. Although she wonders what would have happened if she had stayed in school, her job in a brewery brought her more enjoyment. Years later and she’s a head brewer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it.


Attendees network with Life Science Washington, Women in Bio and others at Co-Motion


For me, the stand-out message of the event was the Perseverance. Robyn Schumacher discussed that, at a time when she was no longer enjoying her career, she decided to make a new path. By interacting with enough people and being actively involved in the brewing industry, she made a space for herself and is now the co-owner and brewer of a successful brewery. This attitude was echoed by Kersten Gaba. At a time when law was prohibitive of research into medicinal cannabis products, Kersten and her company worked to change that law and helped pass 3 bills.

Each of these women is succeeding in their unconventional career paths by seizing opportunities as they come along, being persistent, and advocating for themselves.


This event felt like a personal milestone to me. Not only did I get to indulge one of my passions by photographing the event, but I got to get involved more in the running of the evening. My long standing personal mission is the championing of others and driving equality. Being so involved with a chapter that strives to empower others is rewarding beyond explanation, and I’m looking forward to being more involved in the future.


For more on the event, see the official WIB coverage.

In Science and Tech this Week

Twice the Tweet
From the early days, Twitter has capped its Tweets at the iconic 140 characters. On Tuesday, however, Twitter announced testing of a longer 280 character tweet limit. Testing will only effect a small number of users initially, but Twitter plans to roll it our over the entire used base (except Japanese, Chinese and Korean language users).
Tweet more

Egg-Freezing as a Work Perk
Perks amongst the tech giants now come with the territory, but Facebook, Google and Apple are some of the first to offer to pay for egg-freezing for their female employees. The benefit is designed to allow working women more flexibility when planning a family alongside their career, but critics have suggested it sends the message that work is more important than family life. With more women having children in their 30’s than in their 20’s, does this perk allow for better life-planning or is it a way to make younger workers focus on their jobs?
Frozen eggs

You are What You Eat.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common inflammatory disease of the central nervous system and it has been long hypothesized that bacteria in human intestinal flora may be responsible for triggering the disease in individuals who are genetically predisposed. Research fresh out of the Max Planck Institue of Immunobiology and Epigenetics has found evidence to support this, suggesting that intestinal bacterial can indeed trigger multiple sclerosis.
Trust your gut

A Generation Turning to Meditation
Although the word meditation conjures up stereotypical images for some, mindfulness is going mainstream amongst the millennial generation. With as many as 42% having meditated at least once in the past year, is there merit to its popularity and can it help you achieve better balance in your personal and professional life?
State of mind

From sexism to Saturn: Life After Cassini
Having spent 4 decades dedicating her life to Saturn, Linda Spilker worked on Voyager, and the Cassini mission from beginning to end. Despite being discouraged from a career in physics and mathematics, Spilker’s career skyrocketed with NASA. Now it’s over? Spilker has her eyes set on the next big mission.
Sky’s the limit

Science in Images: WIB, Seattle Business Casual Event

The WIB, Seattle “Your guide to Business Casual” event was a hit, with many of Seattle’s best and brightest scientists turning out for the evening. Featuring presentations from Eileen Fisher, Kendra Scott and MAC cosmetics, the event covered all the basics of creating a work-ready wardrobe.

Here are some of the tips that stood out.

Create a Capsule:
At Eileen Fisher, the emphasis was on creating a work wardrobe that really did all the hard work for you. By starting with 3 basic items (pants, dress, camisole) you had the foundation to build any outfit on top of. Simply pair a soft sweatshirt with the boxy shell and black pant, to create a laid-back at-the-bench work look, or swap it out for a soft blazer, to be boardroom ready. The same goes with the tank dress. Flattering on all figures, it can be paired with a smart shirt for a business event, or a loose knit for comfort whilst still looking professional. The emphasis here really is that less is more.

  

Keep it Simple:
At Kendra Scott, we talked about elevating an outfit without going OTT. The answer? Layers. By using multiple simple pieces, think delicate chains and pendants, you can create a layered look that still keeps it professional. An easy way to dress an outfit up or down. And why stop with necklaces? Layering clean bracelets, or stacking rings can give and equally dramatic look and finish an outfit.

 

Tone it Down:
My personal favorite presentation was MAC cosmetics. Getting a work make-up look is difficult, and the balance between flawless and too much foundation is very, very real. MAC pointed to keeping it natural. Choose tones that compliment your skin and soft hues. Their top tips? For starters, if possible always opt for concealer over foundation. Apply a small dab to the back of your hand, and apply to necessary areas with a soft brush. Think under the eyes, any blemishes and the nose. Using the brush will help keep excess oil off your skin, and stop you applying too much!

Next add a subtle blush or highlight. Our make-up artist described good blush as “a road-map to the eyes”. Start out just above the cheek and sweep upwards towards the corner of the eye. Just beware, blush should be light and a flattering color.

So to follow that road-map, put focus on the eyes. Our eyes are the key to much of our expression, and when it comes to make-up they give us a unique opportunity to express ourselves. Pair a simple mascara and liner with a pop of your favorite shade at the corner of the eye, for a fun but safe look.

The final piece of advice? Don’t keep old mascara! Mascara is a beautiful breeding ground for bacterial (more here), and one way your eyes are susceptible to infection. If it’s more than 6 months old, throw it away.

And if that all seems like too much information, you can schedule a personal appointment with one of their artists, who will walk you through the whole process!

In summary?
The take-home message from the entire evening- Think Simplicity.

By owning a few key pieces of clothing and jewelry, you can create multiple looks that transform at the swap of a jacket. And when it comes to make-up, keep it light and simple but don’t be afraid to add a bit of personal expression.

In Science and Tech this Week

Dogs can Love You as much as Food
After spending his days scanning Dogs brains using MRI, Dr Gregory Berns of Emory University, Atlanta discusses his research. His work, now available in the book “What It’s Like To Be a Dog” talks about reward response in dogs, and that they might really love you as much as food!
Woof woof

Better funding for Science
Congress has rejected President Trump’s plans to cut funding for Biomedical Research, instead pushing to increase spending by the NIH.
NIH OK

New iPhones, More Hype
A decade after the first iPhone was introduced, Apple has launched three new ones: the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus. While the latter two are upgrades on the company’s previous models, the X has a design and a heap of new features. “iPhone X feels like the future” but is that enough to make people pay the hefty price-tag ($999) for the device?
Future X

The Bitcoin Shake-Up
Chinese regulators ordered a halt to all virtual currency trading platforms in the country, acting to further rein in risks related to cryptocurrencies. The move came after the central bank and other departments imposed an immediate ban on fundraising using new blockchain-based currencies. According to analysts, China could be just one of many countries lining up to put increasing regulatory pressure on the $150 billion cryptocurrency market.
Bitcoin

Amazon HQ, Take Two
This week saw Amazon announce plans to open a second, equal HQ elsewhere in North America. With multiple cities vying to be Amazons next hub, is having the Amazonians in town really a good thing?
Where next?