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Crafting Your Career | Episode 3 | Skills, Interests and Values in Action

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In this podcast episode, we invite some of our colleagues at IndiaBioscience (Manjula Harikrishna, Navodita Jain and Manoj Rangan) to share their journeys in science and discuss how their unique blends of skills, interests and values have played a role in each step in their career path.

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TRANSCRIPT WITH TIMESTAMP

0:01 You're listening to IndiaBiospeaks - your one stop resource for science news and careers.

0:10 [Lakshmi] Hello and welcome to another episode of IndiaBiospeaks a new podcast series by IndiaBioscience, where we're going to bring you the latest news opinions and discussions on life science research and careers in India. In our previous episode, we discussed skills, interests, and values. How our ideal career paths often light at the intersection of these three. As we discussed in that episode, the first step in making an informed career choice is introspection and understanding your own abilities and needs. Now in this episode, we're going to look at a few real life examples of how these skills interests and values can play an important role in determining one's career path. For this, we have invited...

0:59 some of our colleagues at IndiaBioscience to join us in the studio today and discuss with us, their personal journeys. So without further ado, let's meet our guests today Navodita, Manoj and Manjula, it's great to have you here. How you doing? (chorus) Great. Great, thank you.

1:23 Let's begin with you Navodita. Can you let us know what exactly you do at IndiaBioscience? Sure. I'm the program manager for science education at IndiaBioscience and editor at iWonder which is a science magazine by Azim Premji University for middle school teachers at IndiaBioscience. I interact with biology professors and lecturers to publish articles that could be useful to educators and students across the country. (Lakshmi) That sounds great. So what skills would you say your job requires?

1:56 (Navodita) My current role require science communication and editing skills.

2:00 I'm also involved in project management, coordination and multitasking. Networking too, is a skill that this job requires.

2:09 (Lakshmi) Now, Navodita can I ask you, how did you come to gain these diverse sets of skills? Because your background is actually in scientific research? Correct? (Navodita) Yes. I did a PhD in cell biology and worked for a few years in the pharma industry before joining IndiaBioscience. Breaking it down, my science communication work involves how to find stories, how to assess the audience, how to communicate complex concepts, clearly and simply, how to publicize stories through social media and other channels. My scientific background gave me the ability to read, understand and critically assess scientific literature and thoroughly investigate subjects and gather sources. Most of the other skills I learned on the job here since I was always interested in writing. I learned quite a bit through self-motivation and some through trial and error. Even now I'm learning from

3:00 the writers whose work I edit, from my peers within the team and from science writers whose work I follow.

3:05 (Lakshmi) Navodita, that sounds really interesting and involved, and lot of learning on the job, I must say. So I would like to ask you, do you miss having a formal training? (Navodita) Ah yes, I do believe some formal training in science communication could help. But at the moment, the skills that I have through my past experience, plus self-motivation helps me do a good job in spite of not being formally trained.

3:32 (Lakshmi) So coming to Manjula. Manjula, can you please tell us a bit about your role here at IndiaBioscience?

3:40 (Manjula) Hello, everyone. I'm very happy to be here today. I work as program associate at IndiaBioscience. I coordinate outreach activities, events, meetings and conferences that IndiaBioscience organizes. I collaborate with my team members and people in life sciences to work on various projects.

4:00 I also take care of jobs, grants, and event sections on our website. All of this I publicize on our social media.

4:10 (Lakshmi) So Manjula, can you tell the listeners what skills are important for you for performing these roles?

4:18 (Manjula) My job mainly requires project management and people management skills. It requires me to network with a lot of people across departments and organisations. Since I manage task and deliverables, keeping track of deadlines is very important and I think that is a skill I am good at. My job also requires some knowledge of website maintenance and social media posting.

4:44 That sounds interesting Manjula. I would like to know how did you gain the skills. (Manjula) You see Lakshmi, part of it is natural. I have always been a people person. I am comfortable interacting with people from different fields.

5:00 That's an inborn talent. Is that it? (Manjula) Yes, indeed. My training definitely helps. For example, I completed my MBA in human resources after my masters in Microbiology. That helped me learn project management, people management, and teamwork. For technical aspects of my job. I attended a workshop on science administration and management. This was conducted by IISER Pune, British Council in association with Coventry University. This taught me efficient science management

5:34 So I gather that you kept training yourself even after you started working here, correct? (Manjula) Yes, Lakshmi. Sometime you never know what skills and experiences will come in handy in future. For example, the fundraising and organisation activities in college days gave me soft skills that come in use in managing events today. I've worked at an Ayurvedic clinic for two years.

5:59 While working there, I took up my MBA course. My work there included managing logistics, software entries and promotional activities. All of this is very helpful in managing my role here. You made a great point there Manjula. Has something like that happened to you Manoj? (Manoj) Yes, I have a few stories to share. First, allow me to introduce you. Manoj is IndiaBioscience's Program Associate for Education. Can you tell us what your role involves? (Manoj) Sure, Lakshmi. My role primarily involves creating and maintaining a database of Indian educators. It also includes interacting with educators to understand their needs and provide resources. I also do designing and photography work for many of IndiaBioscience's, events and projects. (Lakshmi) I guess that would involve a mixed bag of skills and you said you have some stories to share about how you came to acquire them.

6:59 (Manoj) I have held down a number of roles. I have a degree in engineering, a master's in bioinformatics, I was a research associate at Jülich Forschungszentrum in Germany, working on molecular dynamics simulations. I was a business development manager at cCAMP, technical support manager at Emphasis. Apart from this, you wouldn't believe I also have experience of working at an Irish pub for four years during my studies in Germany. I have had multiple responsibilities there. In a week, every two days, my roles would change. I have worked as an assistant chef, a bartender, a service person, photographer or on the weekends, and have also hosted karaoke. This has given me a great learning in life apart from my studies and job.

7:47 (Lakshmi) Boy, I must say that's quite a portfolio Manoj. And may I ask how has it played into the skills that are required for your current role here at IndiaBioscience?

7:57 (Manoj) Actually Lakshmi, I would say every experience

8:00 in life is a learning. The science background helps me with understanding the needs of educators and coordinating with researchers. One of the skills I need, is database management. And this, I've learned as a business development manager, while researching and creating a list of companies and educational institutions at cCAMP. Networking is definitely a very important skill for coordinating with educators, and stakeholders. My experience at the Irish pub is been very helpful here.

8:31 That's really interesting Manoj. So for all of you, you would say that skills that are gained new past roles, no matter how different they were from your present job, are helping you today, isn't it? (Manoj) Yes, definitely. (Navodita) Yes, that, and the skills that we are willing to teach ourselves are learning from external sources. It does require a good amount of motivation. (Manjula) Yes, I agree. Also, I would like to add knowing this, what skills I had, helped me understand I was ready and qualified for my present role when I was applying for this job.

9:08 That's great, Manjula. And all that brings to the point that we made in our last episode, that is - having a clear understanding of your skills puts you at a much better position while researching career paths or navigating the job application process.

9:29 Now let's move on to interests. So tell me, what you guys enjoy doing? (Manoj) On my part. I have always been interested in photography. I was the official photographer in that Irish pub. Apart from that, I also enjoy making videos, designing posters, art illustrations, anything creative that comes my way. (Lakshmi) Fascinating! and did this play into your decision of working here at IndiaBioscience? (Manoj) Yes and no. My job description when I applied had nothing to do about designing or photography or even video making. It was my interest in science administration and management that drove me to apply here. However, once I joined, I found myself gravitating towards projects that had these components. And the good thing is that, I was given the creative freedom within the team to do those things. And it grew from there.

10:24 How about you Navodita? How have your interests influenced your career path?

10:31 Well, as I mentioned before, one of my main interest is writing, for which I couldn't find enough time in my previous roles. That is something I get to do in my current role. Another area I'm interested in, is research directed at understanding indigenous problems. My current role allows me a bird's eye view of scientific research in the country. I can engage with such researchers and give them a voice through articles or discussions. So yes, this is one aspect of my job that plays

10:59 strongly into my core interest.

11:03 ...and Manjula, what about you?

11:05 I really enjoy deadline-driven projects which are diverse in nature that too in a team setting and IndiaBioscience, is providing all of this. I'm able to work on projects, using my pre existing skills, as well as think on my feet, and learn on the go. This keeps my enthusiasm alive. I traveled to represent IndiaBioscience at different meetings across India. I really enjoy meeting new people and organising things - perfect for the current job. Also, the ability to give a personal touch makes me happy.

11:48 Finally, let's come to values. What are the things that are important for you to have in your ideal job? that is, what brings you satisfaction and how have they played into your career decisions?

12:00 For me, a flat organisation structure, that is, the absence of hierarchy within the workplace is very important. I also like the opportunity to have the freedom to choose new projects to expand and grow beyond what is simply assigned to me. Again, this is something I get to do in my present role. I am the mother of a five year old. So flexibility is very important to me. And the present role allows this. Finally, job satisfaction is very important to me at the end of the day.

12:36 Thanks for sharing Manjula, and what about you Navodita?

12:40 One of the things that I realised during my graduate years, was that impactful work motivates me. My PhD work while it was on a very important topic, didn't give me instant satisfaction, because the work was molecular and lab bound. Moving to the biopharma industry, really fulfilled this requirement. Seeing my work potentially

13:00 translating into a medicine was joyful. In my current role I'm able to give voice to issues that may not have been raised before. That also provides instant gratification. This is one of the values that has impacted my career decisions a lot. Interesting! what about you Manoj?

13:19 (Manoj) For me, having a collegial environment and understanding between colleagues is important. So that's definitely one, and while we have been talking about work values or requirements from your job role, I would like to make the point that being self motivated and having patience are two of the values that I look for within myself, and that have helped me give my hundred percent, no matter what job I'm performing at the moment.

13:52 Thanks for making that point, Manoj, and thank you, Navodita and Manjula for sharing your experiences with us. Are there any lessons from your journeys that you would like to leave our listeners with?

14:04 (Manoj) Definitely, I would say that whatever you have done, learned, and gained over the years will never go waste.

14:12 (Manjula) Choose a career that interests you, and just follow your instincts, you will reach where you want to be.

14:19 (Navodita) Never make career decisions based on what your peers might think of you, make a decision that keeps you motivated for a long time.

14:27 (Lakshmi) On that note, let's thank our guests today. It has been great having you in the studio and share your experiences with us. (Chorus) thank you. To all our listeners. Thank you for joining us. We hope you enjoyed this episode. In future episodes will be speaking with science professionals from various fields. In those interviews, keep an ear out for these points - how examining one skills, interests, and values can closely guide one's career path. As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for things that you would like us to cover in this series. Feel free to reach out to us in the comments section through our social media channels or write to us directly. In the next episode, we will talk about the ways to research career options, whether online or through more secret channels so until then thanks for listening and do subscribe for future episodes on crafting your career in science

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