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My Homeward Bound Journey: The Beginning by Cathy Sorbara.

A little over four months ago, was the annual general meeting CamAWiSE, my first event acting as Chair. I listened to a talk by Dr. Deborah Pardo, a population modeller from the British Antarctic Survey, who was part of Homeward Bound’s maiden voyage to Antarctica last year. I heard her talk with such passion and clarity about Homeward Bound’s mission and how it has changed her life that I knew immediately that I needed to be part of this story.

Homeward Bound, she said, is a groundbreaking leadership, strategic and science initiative, and outreach for women, set against the backdrop of Antarctica.

The initiative, turned global movement, aims to heighten the influence and impact of women with a science background in order to influence policy and decision making as it shapes our planet.

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Deborah Pardo

When it launched in 2016, Homeward Bound gathered the first 76 of a targeted 1,000 women from around the world, all with critical science backgrounds, to undertake a year-long state-of-the-art program to develop their leadership and strategic capabilities, using science to build conviction around the importance of their voices. The inaugural program culminated in the largest-ever female expedition to Antarctica, in December 2016, with a focus on the leadership of women and the state of the world.

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Where do I sign up? I asked her following her talk. Serendipitously, the applications for the 2018 voyage were due three days later.

I rushed home and cleared my schedule for the weekend. I started to scroll through the online application and with each question my inner critic was pleading for me to quit. The questions ranged from Why are you suitable for Homeward Bound? To Given your science background, how do you think your leadership could influence policy and decision making? I even had to create a 2-minute elevator pitch and upload it to YouTube for their assessment.

I searched through last years’ participant videos and felt completely out of my league. These women were true leaders, leading inspirational lives. They were professors, heads of research organizations and environmental conservationists.

I, on the other hand, was a biochemist by training, I did my Ph.D. in Medical Life Science in Munich Germany and following my graduate studies, I stepped away from research. I never considered myself a leader and found the label very intimating.

Then there was the biggest catch. One of the project’s objectives is to be 100% self-funded, so not ‘not-for-profit’ and not ‘for-profit’. All women must contribute $16 000 USD. This covers the cost of being on the ship for 21 nights, hotel accommodation, faculty meetings, administration and operational contributions. On top of this, I would still need to pay for flights to our departure point at Ushuaia, Argentina.

I scrolled seemingly hundreds of times through the application and last years’ participant list, slowly talking myself out of applying. Then I saw a paragraph at the very of the application in BOLD. It said, We know women tend to only apply to positions where we feel we qualify 100%. We are here to tell you: JUST APPLY. We want women from a variety of STEM backgrounds at a variety of stages in the leadership journey. Sincerely, The Homeward Bound Team.

 

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Photo by Deborah Pardo

 

Then I started thinking of my own situation.

I am in a unique position. I am a scientist, chair of CamAWiSE and COO of the Cheeky Scientist Association, a global training platform for STEM academics looking to transition into industry. I have the ability to lead, influence and contribute to the lives of thousands of women and hopefully instill upon them confidence and encouragement to achieve their goals. My colleagues are located across Europe, Australia, India, and America, to name but a few countries. Building relationships, managing time zones and learning remote communication tools to enhance my leadership and strategical capability is not only a bonus but an absolute necessity for me to be successful in my current role and make a difference in the lives of others. I bring with me the voice of early career scientist that I counsel daily and know first hand their struggles, fears and dreams that need be heard in order to create policies to shape the future of our planet.

 

In particular, self-doubt within female PhDs is incredibly strong and inhibiting. I joined Homeward Bound to prove to those graduates that we can all be leaders and that leadership comes in many forms and from many fields.

Fryxellsee, Antarctica, Blue Ice, Lake, Mountains

To me, leadership is about finding out who you are as a person and using your gifts, your own unique attributes, to inspire others to be the best versions of themselves. Leaders do not create a vision on their own but bring together the best team of individuals that together can achieve greatness. When a great leader steps down or moves on, the team not only remains strong but can thrive due to the lasting impression of that leader and confidence she instilled upon.

Homeward Bound is definitely outside my comfort zone, which is why I am even more driven to do it.

Two weeks after submitting my application, I received the congratulatory email that I was selected out of the hundreds of women across the globe that had applied. We will be stronger together!

If you would like to support my journey, please see my crowdfunding page here: https://igg.me/at/fb1KLsOodu8

 

 

Let’s Get Quizzical: A women in STEM Quiz night

Join us!
A fun and relaxed evening of networking for women in STEM. A superb opportunity to meet other women in academia, industry, and enterprise at different career stages.

For part of the evening, we will have a fun thematic quiz night. How much do you know about women in STEM? Are you ready to win our big prize or will you be the wooden spoon?

And of course, as every year we have a special summer treat: famous Lucy Cavendish’s mini scones and strawberries & cream.

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Lucy Cavendish College
Reception rooms
Tuesday 18th July
20:00-22:00

Lucy Cavendish College is a walking distance from the City Center
There is plenty of space for your bike and free parking for attendees.

Book here!

 

 

Do you feel like an imposter? by Aldara B. Dios

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”
Henry Ford

In front of a full and expectant room, Kate Atkin started her remarkable talk on 23rd April asking us the questions: “What do YOU want to know? What do YOU want me to answer?” that was the beginning of a great and interactive workshop about the impostor phenomenon; it’s not a syndrome – she quickly clarified – and what lies behind success.

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The audience had a lot of questions. Some of them were about how to recognise the phenomenon: What is it? Does it affect women more than men or older people than younger? Does it depend on culture or family?

Others tried to understand the phenomenon: Does it have advantages? How to avoid it? How to recognise it? we even had a sarcastic: Is it another feminist nonsense?

So, what is the imposter phenomenon? 

As Kate put it “It is an intense feeling of intellectual phoniness despite one´s success”. It happens to successful people, and although it was first detected in women in academia now men and women from all over the world experience it. People like Michelle Obama, Art Garfunkel or Robin Ince have suffered from it and some studies say that up to 70% of all professionals will or have suffered with it.

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The imposter phenomenon it is not about having doubts the first time we do something. It is about still doubting ourselves after having done something successfully several times.

How to control it?

First thing: not everything has to be perfect and we have to learn to fail. Recognise our own patterns, perhaps you think that you are successful because you’ve worked harder than other people, when in fact, you should acknowledge your our own skills and abilities. Understand that success comes from expertise and know-how.

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Do you feel like an imposter? Kate recommended focusing on your successes: Make a confidence wall with all the things you are proud of or start a success log. Take control of your thoughts, take note of the positive feedback and finally avoid the dreaded “Yes,… but”…

As always, Kate delivered an engaging and amusing talk, full of useful facts and very enjoyable.

Thank you all for coming, and thank you, Kate.

Moving from diversity to inclusion by Dawn Bonfield. Last week to book!

Spend an evening with Dawn Bonfield MBE, who will present her case on Inclusive Engineering making inclusivity unavoidable. This approach ensures diversity will follow and is sustained. The steps include embedding Inclusive Engineering into university curriculums, changing our engineering processes and practices and adopting ‘bias interrupters’.

Dawn is a materials engineer by profession having studied Materials Science and worked in the aerospace industry. Her career spans; AERE Harwell, Citroen Research Centre (Paris), British Aerospace (Bristol), MBDA (Stevenage) and the Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining (London). She was previously the President and then the first Chief Executive of the Women’s Engineering Society, which works to promote gender equality. She founded, what has become, the International Women in Engineering Day, and the Top 50 influential Women in Engineering with the Daily Telegraph.

In 2016 she received her MBE for ‘Services to the promotion of diversity in engineering’. She now runs Towards Vision, which allows her to progress her own agenda, campaign, lobby, work her own hours and pick her own projects.

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Tips to boost your confidence.

We got together to work on top tips on being confident. First, we considered what situations we might particularly need a confidence boost in and choose the following ones to brainstorm tips for :

IMG_4653.JPG• Getting your opinion heard (for example in meetings)
• In a new role
• After a knock to your confidence, such as a failure, redundancy etc.
• For networking events
• Negotiating a pay rise or other working conditions such as flexi-time

1. Prepare- In every situation, bring prepared was seen as a real confidence. It helps to have thought about the content of what you are going to say, what arguments to use for your pay rise or other negotiations (including your researching your “market value”, considering the other person’s likely point of view), the interests and backgrounds of people you are meeting and possible answers to likely and hard questions in a job interview. For networking events people thought it was helpful to prepare an opening gambit as well as an exit strategy. Preparation for meetings can include sending out “homework” for others in advance.

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2. Celebrate successes- When you are feeling nervous or under confident, remember the successes you have had in the past. Maybe keep reminders (such as thank you cards or emails) to hand to remind yourself.
3. Be assertive- Assertive as a way of interacting with people is not the same as aggressive, it is the mindset that you are okay and the other person is okay and you both deserve respect and boundaries. You give respect and expect it in return. It involves listening, asking questions and clarifying and looking for areas of agreement and mutual wins.

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4. Feel the fear and do it anyway- it is natural to feel nervous, especially if you’re venturing out of your comfort zone (which is a good thing to be doing, but is when you are most likely to need a dose of confidence)
5. Get a mentor – Talking things through with someone who has been there may be the best thing for your confidence and it would be worth finding a mentor. For a general lift in confidence, become someone’s mentor! It will make you realize how far you have come.
6. Learn from your mistakes- Don’t beat yourself up about mistakes, analyse what you’d do differently next time. Don’t try to blame them on someone else and you will feel more confident in similar situations.

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7. Don’t take things personally/ keep perspective
8. Fake it till you make it- the important part really is the second half of the sentence- you will make it and you will feel confident in doing something that is now quite new, so put on a smile and act confident until you feel it. However, don’t bluster or over compensate.
9. Keep busy- Doing what you are good at will boost you. Maybe you can engineer small wins.
10. Do someone a favour- Or compliment or even just smile at someone, they won’t be the only ones benefiting!

Tips for specific situations included: if someone won’t stop talking, make a change to the situation, even if it is just getting up yourself.
To regain your confidence after a bad situation, remember how you bounced back before, what you did to get over any previous disappointments.

Thank you, Tennie for a most effective workshop!

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