Archive for the 'Professionalism' category

Twenty-Fourteen Travel Begins

Just one week into the new year, and I am already on the road. As I write this post, I await the first leg of my trip to San Antonio for the alumnae group of the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine for Women. This every-other-year get-together will give me a chance to learn new stuff, reconnect with friends and mentors, and renew my professional self. 

One topic for this meeting will be fashion and image. Since we would be focused on these issues, I felt compelled to dress the part. This meant some planning via a spreadsheet:


First I identified the key events for each day of my meeting. I then identified the most appropriate form of dress for those events. Since Friday will focus on fashion, it’s the day I want to shine in my nice suit. I do have some meetings on my travel days, but a nice pair of dark-wash jeans with a jacket or cardigan will work for these rather casual gatherings. The other two program days also require business attire, but not necessarily as polished as Friday. By planning items that coordinate with my suit and other accessories, I can maximize my wardrobe flexibility and minimize my luggage requirements. 

Spreadsheets are not just for accountants; they provide a great way to organize all sorts of data. 

By the way, for my friends in the north, San Antonio is supposed to be ~70 degrees while I am there. The deep-freeze should be well out of OKC by the time I get home as well. Not that I would taunt about that…well, actually, I would!

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Murray, not Murphy

Oct 01 2011 Published by under Professionalism

I just read a great post over at HBR Blogs on Murray's Laws for Success:

  1. Are you positioning yourself so that one day, you do not have to work?
  2. When you no longer have a financial need to work in the role you occupy, would you still continue to occupy that role?
  3. Do you define your own standards of career excellence?

The overall point is that measuring your "success" against an external barometer virtually always results in failure. Someone or something else out there always exceeds your achievements, whether they be papers, grants, salary, car, or other stuff. You need to find work that lets you save for life after work (if you cannot do that, then no matter how noble or fulfilling the work is, you should think about a different job). The best work involves something you would do without pay. Now, I would temper that with the phrase, "most of the time." No job is 100% play and fulfillment; they all require some scut tasks. Think of that part as the paid work.

Defining your own standards of excellence gets tricky. If you actually measure something, then you can be compared to those pesky outsiders, setting yourself up for failure. You must define the game (and how to win) for yourself.

Are you working Murray's Laws? Click and read the original post to find out who Murray is.

Click photo for more about Murray's Job.



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So Here Are the Rules...Again

Dec 11 2010 Published by under Professionalism

This morning Dr. Isis pointed me to an interesting post about the need for self-promotion in academia. (Link:

I'm sure we all know an Accolade Magnet or two, and I wish the world were completely fair. The bottom line is that no one will notice your awesomeness if you fail to make it visible. It's true for academia, business, and every other field of endeavor.

It also provides an example oh How-Not-To-Blog. Even a careful pseudonymous blogger will eventually be out-ed. That's why many of us follow the same rules of blogging, even though some of us mask our identities while others, like me, make our identity public.

The bottom line: never post anything you wouldn't want publicly quoted and attributed.

GMP may feel safe behind her screen name. Shen recognizes the importance of politics in the success of AM. But AM, with all of those awards, also wields power. Would she want AM to know what she has said?

My original rules of blogging post was way back in 2009 at my old place:

Those rules still stand. Unless you really want to piss off someone who the powers-that-be in your field repeatedly honor. Someone whose nether regions emit sunlight.

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Ignore or Engage?

Oct 28 2010 Published by under Professionalism

Click to embiggen

My spouse refuses to tweet, blog, or engage in online networks. He will reluctantly view photos of our kids on Facebook, if I pull them up; he does not have a profile and claims he never will. His retro attitude is common among many members of our age group, but is it without risk? The November issue of Harvard Business Review includes an interesting article addressing these issues:

The CEO of a global technology firm was invited to lecture at a local university on the future of the internet. After his presentation, a student in the audience asked him for his views on network neutrality: the idea that internet service providers shouldn’t base their prices on the content their customers access. The CEO answered candidly, arguing in favor of price discrimination based on content; there was an engaging exchange; and he left satisfied with his visit.

Little did he know that, in the coming days, his semiprivate comments would enter a very public realm—the blogosphere—unleashing a storm of controversy around him and his company. (For confidentiality, names have not been revealed.)

The executive had no active social media presence—no profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, no Twitter account, no blog on the company’s website. He had decided that social media weren’t “his thing.” In fact, he became aware of the buzz over his comments only after some people in the company had alerted his communications group. There were lengthy discussions about whether and how to respond. Customers and other stakeholders were participating in the debate online, arguing strongly in favor of net neutrality. Employees were watching. Should the company issue an official response to comments made in a private setting? Could the CEO wade into the public discussion when he had never been active in the blogosphere and had no other social media platform? In the end, he and his team did nothing, leaving everyone feeling frustrated and helpless.

Soumitra Dutta, the Roland Berger Chaired Professor in Business and Technology at Insead and the academic director of Insead’s Elab,  is the coauthor of Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World (Wiley, 2008). His article, What's Your Personal Social Media Strategy?, argues that all leaders must consider and adapt these technologies to avoid the scenario described.

Today’s leaders must embrace social media for three reasons. First, they provide a low-cost platform on which to build your personal brand, communicating who you are both within and outside your company. Second, they allow you to engage rapidly and simultaneously with peers, employees, customers, and the broader public, especially younger generations, in the same transparent and direct way they expect from everyone in their lives. Third, they give you an opportunity to learn from instant information and unvarnished feedback. Active participation in social media can be a powerful tool—the difference between leading effectively and ineffectively, and between advancing and faltering in the pursuit of your goals.

Each person must answer three questions to develop a personal strategy for these new tools:

1. Are your goals personal, professional, or both? Are there conflicts between how you want to present yourself in the two spheres? If so, you must decide which is more important. Think about the three realms of social media leadership—branding, engagement, and learning—and what you are hoping to achieve in each. Make sure that your online profile does not contradict your activity in the “real world” and that your messages are authentic.

2. Is your desired audience private (a limited set of friends, family, and colleagues) or public (your industry or even the world)? Social media activity will necessarily increase your presence and make it easier for others to Google you. How big do you want that presence to be?

3. What resources do you have? Does this project require your own time and money, or can it justifiably be done using office time and tech-team support? Please note that outsourcing is not an option. In social media, authenticity in your message is key, and only you can provide that.

The article presents some examples of how various social media tools can be used to meet various combinations of goals. Finally, the risks of being online receive consideration, including management of social capital (Do I friend coworkers?), management of intellectual capital (Could this post get me fired?) and management of progress (How can I decide if online activity helps me?).

Social media is here to stay, for the present time at least. Ignoring it will not protect you from adversity. Professionals and leaders need to be aware of its potential implications; presentations and "private" statements can go public quickly. Dutta's article provides a great starting point for those who do not know a tweet from a wiki...yet.

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More Thoughts on St. Kern

Oct 05 2010 Published by under [Science in Society], Professionalism

Burning scientific passion

By now most of you know about Scott Kern, the martyr of Baltimore, and the kerfluffle he caused last week. My colleagues here at Scientopia (I do have to single out the wonderful Drugmonkey post) and elsewhere have taken on his message, and I have enjoyed the shenanigans on twitter (#K3RN3D). Of course, I consider it hypocritical that he admits to attending football games during his training in Ann Arbor in this bio; I mean, where was his passion then?

Passion is a key component of the scientific process, but creativity is just as important. Looking at the world or a problem in a new way leads to the really important discoveries.

Last week I wrote a short essay for an unrelated activity; they asked, "What gives you your creative jolt?"

Living well provides the most important stimulation. Walking outdoors, listening to music, and reading novels may all provide that spark of curiosity that leads me in a new direction. Cooking can also clear my brain and allow important synapses to find each other. I also find my online interactions provide a new peer group that stimulates me. We tweet and blog together, providing comments and fodder for the next post.

I never know from where my next important idea will spring; it is important to stay active and experience life to its fullest.

Some of my best biomedical ideas came to me while I was working out or reading a novel or watching a movie. We all need periods to recharge and allow our brains to associate new things. One could make the case that cancer might be cured faster if we made its scientists take a break outside on gorgeous fall days. Or even go to football games. Then I heard this morning's story on the Nobel Prize in Physics and the discovery of graphene. These scientists have a tradition of "crazy experiments" on Friday afternoons, one of which involved cellophane tape across a block of graphite. That goofy activity led to the creation of this wonder-material with a multitude of potential uses.

They may not have cured cancer, but they have discovered something incredible! At least in part because they had goof-around time!


Of course, I also wonder what the editors had in mind when they published this inflammatory piece. Could this be a call for visibility? I mean, Cancer Biology & Therapy is not one of my top 10 journals, but then I have chosen a different path in medicine. It's a young publication with an Impact Factor (flawed as this measurement can be) of 2.71. Cancer Research is 7.54, while the glamour mags score in the 30's. Could this be an attempt on the part of the editors to drive traffic and name recognition for their publication?

Or am I just getting cynical?

My husband worked for a mentor as "passionate" as Kern once, a man who said he really didn't remember much about his children between their births and graduation from college. A man who held his weekly lab meeting at 5pm on Fridays. A man who drove my husband out of science and into the clinic. I wonder how many capable, creative people have left the world of research because of this demand for "passion?" And how many patients they might have cured.

Image of fire courtesy of PhotoXpress.

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