Saturday, September 29, 2012

Marketing and Sales

This year I really feel like some sort of door-to-door salesman. As a TT PI, I feel like a huge part of my job is selling what my lab does. Hi there, my lab is awesome, here are some of the reasons why....(fill in with unabashed egotistical stump speech)

I'm emailing strangers to try to start scientific discussions and collaborations by telling them how awesome our research is and that they just absolutely have to work with us. Making sure people see what we are doing. To try to get on big PI radar screens.

I've been cold calling program managers at various DoD agencies. Please read a paragraph about my work and consider throwing some crumbs my way. Act now, if you don't fund this work, the security of the country will be at stake. My research will help you defeat our enemies.

This requires a fair amount of cojones and agressiveness, qualities generally lacking in engineers. Maybe it's different in other fields. My experience has been that to grow big, you have to be boisterous and animated. You have to be able to entertain site visitors. You almost have to ooze charisma. It takes a certain personality type. It also helps to be tall. Think about the academic big wigs you know. I know many excellent researchers that are quiet and more subdued who do great work and do well in their careers, but they typically don't run super groups (meaning $1 million plus in annual research income, 15 or more group members). The high school quarter backs and team captains run the show here just as much as in the business world.

I don't really have a strong opinion about this system, other than this is the game I have to play. I'm not by nature one of these alpha personalities that lights up a room. I do work hard to be that way though. So far it seems to be working, it is however quite tiring to be this person. Several of my colleagues refuse to partake in this practice. They don't want to bend and mold their research to fit someone else's vision, to travel non-stop and become detached from the day-to-day operations of their labs. Perhaps that is why we aren't a top R1.

Friday, September 7, 2012

interpersonal communication

In the midst of selecting new students for the lab. We have multiple students that described themselves as having good interpersonal communication skills. What would be really great is if they had included their intrapersonal communication skills.

I'm curious if other T/TT folks out there are influenced by how the candidate looks on paper, especially by GPA/GRE scores that might allow them have a better chance of obtaining external graduate fellowships? I haven't been on one of these panels, but from having applied and having seen a small sample of other students apply, it seems that those less important (in my eyes) criteria are heavily weighted in the decisions.

Also, how much do you push/assist your students with these applications? After all they are newbs and (especially in my field) have never even heard much of the terminology of what they are about to embark upon for their Ph.D.s.