Policy and Communications Manager
Genetics Society of America
ASHG: How can trainees gain experience in your field while doing research? What steps are necessary for trainees to get involved in your field?
Dr. Poston: Trainees can get experience in communication through community outreach and blogging. A key component of outreach is translating scientific concepts to non-scientists. Being able to speak to people about technical experiments at their level of understanding, without being condescending, is a huge part of working with the public.
Starting a blog or writing for an existing blog is a really easy way to get comfortable with writing non-technical scientific articles. It’s nice because you will get to write about topics you choose and it can be done in your free time. This experience helps to build you build a writing style and gives instant feedback from comments, likes, and shares on social media.
To be involved in my field most people complete a science policy or communication fellowship. I completed the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship to develop my skills; however, there are several options that span the country and require varying levels of commitment (from 90 days to one year).
ASHG: If you could go back to when you were a trainee, what is one piece of advice you would give yourself for your current career?
Dr. Poston: If I could give myself advice when I was a trainee, it would be that it’s perfectly fine to figure out my career path by trial and error. I entered graduate school certain that I wanted to be a professor at a teaching intensive college and I left academia for a postdoc in Pharma. I learned so much about the research enterprise at that company, that I became interested in policy. Each of those experiences was important to my development as a professional and as a person. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
ASHG: Can you describe your transition from trainee to working professional? How did you land your first “real” job?
Dr. Poston: I landed my first real job purely through networking. As an AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, we were encouraged to email people who had positions we liked, and ask them for informational interviews to discuss how they got where they are. The general rule of thumb was to “never have coffee alone”. It was through one such meeting that I learned about my current position. The person was in a similar role in a different society and mentioned to me that my interests and skill set would be perfect and I suppose she was right.
I know it feels weird to email someone you don’t know, but I’ve found the best connections through this very thing. Most people are happy to help you because they’ve been in your shoes trying to figure out what’s next.
ASHG: What are some strategies you employ to balance personal/family life with a successful career? What are some lessons you have learned along the way?
Dr. Poston: One of the ways I always made sure to see friends during busy times in the lab was to schedule visits around meals. This worked because I couldn’t eat in the lab anyway, so I’d always call someone up to join me.
Now that I am away from the bench, it is much easier to take work home with me. To avoid having a never ending workday, I set a goal for projects I’d like to complete this week. Then I break up each project into smaller tasks and schedule the tasks for each day of the work week. This way I know when I’ve reached a reasonable stopping point at work and can feel comfortable heading home, knowing that I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do for the day.
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