My Worst Moment: As a postdoc on the job market, a scientist at a company I wanted to work for expressed interest in my research at a conference. He told me colleagues from his company were gathering for drinks afterwards and invited me to join. When I got to the restaurant, he was 100% drunk and not interested in talking about anything substantive but instead asked personal questions, making me so uncomfortable I couldn’t network with his colleagues. I left after only a few minutes, humiliated and angry that he misled about his intentions and that I missed the chance to network with people actually interested in my work as a scientist.
I Have Given Up On: Confronting the man for his behavior and demanding an apology. At the time I didn’t realize the impact this event had on me and my career. Although I think I remember who it was, I’m not 100% sure, so the opportunity is lost.
I’m Afraid: That early-career scientists still encounter this kind of situation, and avoid networking events as a result.
This Has Cost Me: It’s impossible to estimate what I have missed out on – I avoided cocktail hours and similar settings for literally years, thus missing out on hundreds of networking and career opportunities. The informal information and connections gathered at such events are priceless.
Something You Should Know About Me: I have a lot of sympathy for young people who believe the playing field is fair for women and people of color – I used to be in your shoes! I’ve realized it take a couple of decades to notice the accumulation of implicit bias and instances of egregious behavior. Being a scientist is challenging, but there is a stronger headwind for certain demographics than others.
Is There a Bright Side: Three bright sides: (a) It could have been far worse. (b) Staying away from networking events kept me safe. (c) My main supervisors and scientific colleagues have always been respectful and professional.
My Fight Song: I’m a midwesterner, I’m inclined to get along, not fight 🙂
Secret Weapon: Success. And I try to talk to junior scientists at networking events as much as I can to make things better for the next generation.