STEM Book Review: Networking for Nerds

By Maria Pontes Ferreira, Ph.D.

Networking for Nerds is the go-to book for STEM professionals about an underappreciated soft skill needed for success — networking. I should know. As an introverted, tenure-track assistant professor, I can attest to the value of networking, and more importantly, the timeliness and relevance of this book. In this digital and global age, there really are fewer places for the ‘lone scientist’ to hide and thrive. Professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) must both stand out independently and as team players, forging cooperative and multidisciplinary networks in which to do the job of advancing science. At the next research group pizza party, this is the book I will hold up instead of another free slice.

Alaina G. Levine, trained in mathematics and steeped in a career of science journalism, is also a comedian. She brings a light-hearted but laser-sharp focus onto a needed message about networking to a nerdy audience. Put down that science magazine or smart phone and put time into learning the craft of networking! Without smart networking, it will actually be harder to have novel opportunities avail themselves to you, and thus diminish your job productivity. We all need good collaborators, strong grant proposals, high impact articles, and internship offers because these things are important aspects of our success in STEM. Networking is the link connecting our value with real world needs.

One of the central tenants of the book is that STEM professionals have a brand (whether you like it or not) and that it is important to have a professional and positive one. A brand is a promise of your value to provide excellence, dependability, and expertise in whatever you do. This is under our control; and, one should take the time to intentionally craft and hone your brand. Then you promote it widely through a network of people to cut across cultures and disciplines. This is how hidden opportunities are coaxed into revealing themselves to your professional benefit, and hence, for the good of science and society.

Skeptics beware, a thoughtfully crafted brand image and brand statement — relevant across a spectrum of audiences — ensures that you can deliver your potential value in a message that is heard and responded to. Like the old zen adage “the ground meets the prepared step”, Levine shows the reader that if you put in the time and effort to craft a professional brand, then your network will actively reward you with opportunity. Levine does not overwhelm, but deftly provides key exercises to assist the reader in clarifying your value and delivery to audiences. Networking is the active and passive act of intentionally developing and expanding audiences exposed to your brand. She provides strategies for developing a network, ways to identify and invite people into a network, and how to use different media, such as social media, to maximize the potential reach of your value. Throughout, Levine gives entertaining stories keeping the reader engaged with the relevance of her message to nerdly professionals at all career levels. In summary, the best slice through obstacles is not from a pie in the sky but from a parallel universe of untapped opportunities — your network.

Photo/images credits: A.G. Levine (top) & Wiley Blackwell (bottom)

The citation for this article is:
M.P. Ferreira (2015) STEM Book Review: Networking for Nerds. DiverseScholar 6:13

Maria Pontes Ferreira, Ph.D., R.D. is an assistant professor at Wayne State University in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science. Prior to obtaining her tenure track appointment at WSU, she completed a 3-year NIH IRACDA postdoctoral fellowship at Haskell Indian Nations University and the University of Kansas. She is an enthusiastic science writer, and loves to engage students in the process of writing and publishing. Ferreira received a DiverseScholar NASW Diversity Travel Fellowship to attend the 2015 ScienceWriters conference. Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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Published 29-Dec-2015