On networking: Our success largely depends on the people we surround ourselves with.Featured
Hi, I'm Camille Eddy, and I'm a robotics engineer. I recently did a featured post about what we don't get about hardware. Today, I'm going to share my experiences with networking, and how to grow and maintain a strong network. Who knows what you knowIt’s not who you know, it’s not what you know, it’s who knows what you know! When I look back at my journey to becoming a professional, the way I spoke about my previous experience is what continues to land me jobs and opportunities. When I was a high school student and it was time to start thinking about my career, my mom took me down to the local university and we spoke to a lot of women in the engineering college. We had hours long conversations with astronaut Barbara Morgan about her experience, from how she was selected as a candidate for the job.These informational interviews allowed me to take my aspirations and put some real knowledge behind them. I learned early in my career that this is the difference between making my resume fit ‘keywords’ from a job description versus knowing how they want those skills to be applied day one on the job. Every passionate person has valuable informationWhen I was a kid, my mom often took my sister and I to meet experts in different industries. It was like our own version of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. We would go on these field trips and learn about professionals at work outside of the classroom and textbooks. But it was nerve-wracking and I thought I was going to die of embarrassment talking to these adults. I eventually learned how to talk to the experts and realized that these were low stakes situations in which I had nothing to lose. It taught me to speak up! When you are in a low stakes situation, you feel more at ease to talk and ask questions. And that is a good position to be in when talking to someone who has a lot of information. There are experts all around us, not just people with titles. Every passionate person has valuable information - the trick is finding the people you need to talk to.Ask about how people spend their timeToday, I try not to put limits on how I receive or give information. In our own conversations, when we find someone very relatable or interested, we often are enthusiastic about continuing the discussion. Whether that happens to be in a coffee shop, over email, or in the middle of a loud room, let it happen! And equally, not relating to someone is a convenient signal to politely move on because there are others to talk to. Instead of a list of rigid questions like, what do you do, where do you live, where did you grow up, I ask, “What are you passionate about?” If that is not successful, I try figuring out where they spend most of their time. Are they in the office from 9-5 or longer? Do they mentor anyone? Why did they choose to be a business owner? The questions about time investment are endless and tell you a lot about how you might relate to someone new.Become "network entrepreneurs"The next part is to follow up with them outside of the office or networking events. It is simple as meeting after lunch or at a coffee shop. Some of these relationships I have developed into long discussions over months or years. And others yield immediate fruit in the form of a job, a great product idea, or another networking opportunity. Our success in our work depends largely on the people we surround ourselves with. We should become "network entrepreneurs", and focus on professional relationships that feel right. With this genuine connection to our peers, we will feel knowledgeable because of the high value information that exists in other networks, which gives us a competitive advantage. We can provide value across networks, develop better ideas, find more satisfaction in professional relationships, and hopefully get higher earning opportunities as well. My final thought is that it’s not who you know, and it’s not even what you know, it’s who you are and how you use your access to translate and understand diverse ways of thinking and behaving to create a stronger network.- Camille Eddy is a robotics engineer and tech expert. She studies bias in AI and uses her international speaking platform to teach engineers, testers and non-technical founders the use cases of de-biasing algorithms released today. She serves on the board for two nonprofit STEM outreach organizations based in San Francisco, California and San Diego, California and regularly coaches students and early career professionals through her website.