Monday, April 30, 2012

The Need for Networking

Art by Roxana Suchorolski © 2010
I am a geek: someone with extreme skills, knowledge, and passion for what I do.  I happen to think that everyone is a geek, anyone that becomes interested in something where work becomes play.  For most of my life, I’ve been fascinated with how living things affect other living things and for the past eight years I developed distinct skills and knowledge to look for differences in cancer cells and normal cells, and helped to develop new devices to measure them; Before that, I worked with computer scientists and bioinformaticians for four years on the human genome project; And before that, I worked with another cancer biology lab on a cancer-fighting virus.  (For those of you keeping track, my career has outlasted Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Farscape, and Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise, before they were all cancelled.)  While becoming a geek in biomedical science, I learned to communicate with analytical types: other researchers, engineers, and computer scientists.  

At the same time, communications in other parts of my life with my non-work community atrophied.  The symptoms of this were few friends outside of work, few community ties, poor family bonds, and a marriage that eventually dissolved, leading to a major breakdown and re-evaluation of my life.  Determined to learn from my mistakes, I assessed my life and for the past three years worked to create a new future.  I’m still working at it daily and am finding a recipe, for at least one Seattle geek, to network effectively across all communities: By becoming a networking geek.

“The life of a samurai was filled with death. To find balance, they practiced art, poetry, and meditation.” @rumi2shams

Networking outside of our field often seems impossible to many geeks, due to fear of judgement when talking to others, or a lack of confidence in our skills.  Sometimes there is also the lack of awareness of the benefits for fostering relationships with skilled people outside of our field of interest and it’s not until we are put in touch with a social connectors and salesmen (Malcolm Gladwell, 2000, The TippingPoint) that our ideas are spread.  Often, traditional tribes associated with geek-dom have resisted communicating with other human beings in the arts, design, communications, sales, sports, spirituality, among others.  These other fields have also fostered attention to detail but through exclusion, we lose the practice to communicate with them.  The resulting myopic view can make us lose sight of how our work can make real-world differences for humanity, a key to inspire others to champion our cause.

“When choosing your dream job, use all of your skills.” –Junichiro Kimura, Japanese and English teacher, kick-boxing instructor, and friend

Although the economy seems in recovery at the moment, there is the harsh reality that even as our economy grows, many jobs are being outsourced while others are becoming obsolete.  In the technology and biomedical world there is continuous competition from larger intellectual hubs that deprive smaller groups from fostering a critical mass.  This large scale competition can cause a decrease in diversity of ideas (eg. the continuous acquisitions of Seattle Biotechs by larger financial hubs).  Also, the emerging work force from Asia is becoming competitive to American jobs as it becomes more specialized.

Generating new ideas through collaborations is an excellent way to innovate and form new jobs; however, most geeks typically don’t practice skills to establish rapport with collaborators and build relationships over time.  This can lead to geeks feeling resigned in their jobs because of the fear of searching out new jobs or collaborating to create new ones.  In the current job market, unemployed geeks sometimes lack the networking skills critical to find positions and unable to recognize how their skills can translate into professions where jobs are more abundant.  Since few geeks maximize their skill-sets in connecting with and promoting their ideas to others, we have a highly trained workforce that has yet to achieve its potential.

Target of the Geek-seeking Missile Blog

The mission of this weekly blog is to enable readers to acquire skills to become more connected and expressive.   This blog will allow fellow readers to change their perspective on networking and, through regular practice, become experienced at connecting with others to share skills and create new lasting relationships.

I know it’s possible, because I have recently been there: I have been job seeking for the past year, have experienced fear of judgement, fears of success, poor listening, and awkward social habits.  I have learned to control my own inner emotions and actions that were imprinted in my way of being and were at the source of my failures.  I had to overcome habits such as over-analyzing situations and seeing the world from social conditioning that each of us is inevitably exposed to.  As a result, some of my writing will question commonly-held limiting beliefs that need to be EXPLODED in order to bring your ideas to the world.

The connections that we make in our life are critical for a healthy and fulfilling existence.  The past three years of my life, since my divorce, have been devoted to identifying and solving problems related to relationships and connecting with others on emotional, intellectual, and financial levels.  In the final years of my PhD, I devoted a significant amount of time to networking in all sorts of venues: at art galleries, at work, networking nights, free beer nights, science cafĂ© nights, product shows, coffee shops, restaurants, lounges, bars, dance clubs, at parties, at singles-events, on the street, on my jogs, and on Seattle’s transit system.  If anyone knows of the Seattle Freeze, I’ve been there, done that, and have consistently broken through the ice.  I derive my teachings from a large number of sources: being coached by masters of relationships, personal reading and videos, and most of all consistent regular everyday practice.  When I can, I will share my sources, and I also look forward to YOUR feedback, and the opportunity to learn from you!

Geeks have truly influenced the world we live in for the better: cures to life-threatening diseases, technological marvels, and people connecting with each other at unprecedented levels, making the world a vibrant and fun place to live.  It’s our continuing responsibility to enrich our communities and our planet by connecting with each other.  As the networking skills of our community grows, I look forward to interacting with each of the geek-seeking missiles that arise from the awesome talent here in Seattle and wherever you live.

Yours truly,