On the benefits of networking
In the French educational system, we are pretty much forced to listen naively and thus we become scared of expressing our own opinions in public. This prevents us from gaining confidence and potentially becoming creative as well. When I did ERASMUS in Uppsala Sweden during my third year of university, I was amazed by the difference. We had a few hours of lectures per week(we actually chose the topics but this is another debate), a big textbook to read, scientific papers to review and a lot of work as groups. We had to discuss, generate ideas and express them in front of everyone to create a debate. This was so empowering! Now that I live in Cambridge I realise that this is the way people are here, confident and networking all the time by being part of Colleges, associations and clubs.
Because I am currently fundraising to be part of an amazing project Homeward Bound that wants to elevate the role of women leadership to show that we can influence the way science and environmental policy is done. To do that Homeward Bound aspires at creating in 10 years a networking group strong of a 1000 women that can help each other. In a context of deadly weather events around the world, the very expected COP21, and recent reports discussing the importance of women’s empowerment for our planet, I am getting out of my comfort zone.
After attending the Women in the World summit in London (See my blog here), I was so inspired that I bought tickets for the “Where are the Women” event organised by Jackie Ashley the new president of Lucy Cavendish College where I am currently a fellow. This event was again incredibly good, that I decided to join more women’s groups mostly on twitter but also locally. So yesterday I attended my first speed mentoring event with CamAWISE (the Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering). I had an amazing time! The aim was to all come up with a problem of yours in your career achievements…believing in yourself, negotiate higher position, change direction, get more creative, identify opportunities… We were sitting in groups of four and had 6 minutes each to get mentored by the 3 other peers. In two minutes the “mentee” had to explain her problem, then during a first round the 3 mentors asked 1 question each, and during second round the 3 mentors said what they would do if they were in the mentees’ shoes. It was greatly stimulating to see what others’ problems are, try to solve them from the outside and discuss the outcomes as a group without feeling ashamed. I really encourage you to try and create those events around you!
So what did I gain from all of this networking? First I gained inspiration and self-esteem, I learned the way to explain my job in simple but passionate words, I realised that I have a lot to learn from others! Concerning my project, I created a crowdfunding page with a lot of effort and care to put myself in the position of the people reading it, you can access it here (even a tiny contribution makes a huge difference for me), Cambridge news became interested and wrote an article about it that you can read here. At the same time, the lady that was sitting in front of me at the Women In The World summit was incredibly interesting, we shared lunch and she actually donated £1000 for my project! I cannot thank her enough =). While I was at the Where are the Women event, I chatted with Sue Black. She is incredible, 4 kids and the 119th most influential woman in the world. She contributed to my cause to have a penguin named after her and shared my crowdfunding page with her 23.9K followers on twitter. I could notice it made a huge peak in the number of visits on my website. I also got to meet a great independent journalist, Caroline Criado-Perez who interviewed me and Raeanne Miller another lady taking part in Homeward Bound for a very interesting and powerful article in The-Pool that you can find here. And to finish, the CamAWISE event yesterday my “problem” was how to get in touch with funders that would be interested in this initiative. The ladies were so enthusiastic and gave me so many ideas that I felt refreshed and more ready for facing the challenges of being out of my comfort zone.