Research: Run it like a small business

Last week I was simply blown away by a group of gifted women who take STEM to levels I’d previously only saw in movies. These women were from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and they didn’t just surprise me, they also inspired me. As a result I attended a session on Wednesday about “Starting and Growing Your Own Research Program” presented by Deb Agarwal (LBNL) and Julie A. Adams (Vanderbilt University) to further feed the hunger that was inspired at LBNL. I was not disappointed. The session was planned with slides but the duo decided to forego the slides and make the session more interactive based on what the audience was looking for. Great way to run the session as people appeared genuinely engaged and the session ran slightly over.

Key takeaways for me were that while research projects need resources such as equiptment, people, and funding, that it is your good judgement, agility, hustle and relationships which are key to delivering those resources. Again I am reminded that GHC is Social, as the serendipitous nature of a successful research program sounds to be more the result of relationships with program managers, people of influence, peer relationships and timing than dumb luck.

Agarwal offers the advice that those in research labs should start by delivering on a project that is already fleshed out and funded. Delivery is hard enough on its own, but it is key to building your reputation which will support your when you are ready to branch out with your own research. Adams adds that in the academic space delivery is synonymous to publishing, you must do it alot to be recognized! Tips to aid in feeding the publishing and delivery schedule are to find good collaborators that help you acomplish more, faster and with better agility.

I relate much of this session to my own experiences in professional services and in delivery based IT organizations where relationships can make or break you (regardless of skill and experience) and agile practices improve delivery quality and release timeliness. In laymens terms, your project management is just as important as your program management and you must master the context switch to be successful in your own research program.

More great tips (in no particular order):
Relationships help you find out the best funds to go after
Don’t miss deadlines
Build your collaboration network
Diversify your funding mix
Don’t try to fund it all as one project
Think of it as running a small business
Expect a ton of rejections
Don’t expect a big fund within 2 years
Serve on review panels with organizations you’d like to fund you
Work on conference committees to add flavor to your reputation

GHC is Social: Two ladies break down steps to “building your professional network”

The Grace Hopper Conference initiated its trade mark marathon celebration of Women in Technology today at 7AM for many hoppers, namely volunteers, including myself. Grace Hopper is known for being a bedrock of female tech talent, but also for dishing out the tough advice to young women that “working hard and being smart isn’t enough to get you ahead”. Its a lesson that new hoppers must learn quickly and for that reason Day 1 of GHC had no shortage of lessons on the importance of Mentors, Sponsors and Professional Networking. If you want to meet new hoppers to support, inspire or be inspired by, these types of sessions are a goldmine.

I selected which sessions to attend based mostly on WHO was delivering the session, which led me to attend “Building Your Professional Network” presented by Elizabeth Bautista of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lamia Youseff of University of California, Santa Barbara. Elizabeth inspired me days before during a visit I made to LBNL with Emerging Leaders and fellow Mentors participating in the TechWomen program. I was excited to see what else I could learn from her and was not disappointed by the duo that she and Lamia presented. The lesson included reasons to network, practical tips for better networking, what NOT to do, and something that Allen Iverson knows a lot about, that little thing called “practice”!

This session is in my opinion was one of the most critical for new hoppers because it sets the stage for being able to take full advantage of what GHC has to offer. GHC isnt just a technical conference, it’s one of the most open conferences one can attend to get personal access to industry and academic leaders, in three words, GHC is Social. If you dont get social very quickly you will miss out on the majority of value from the entire conference. Beware, I’m about to make a broad generalization- men who are the majority of other top tech conferences i.e f8, Dreamforce and SXSW etc. know that they didn’t come half way across the country to learn “what” was being talked about (they can read that in the blogs), but to better understand and be able to leverage or collaborate with the “who” that said the “what”.

If hoopers learn one thing this year it should be that GHC is Social and so should you. The hallmark first day of the Grace Hopper Conference is peppered with hints hitting you in the head like a bag of nickles to remind us that the saying “if you work hard and are really really smart, you will get ahead in your career” is a lie. Day 1 hosts a flurry of sessions on mentors, sponsors, and the importance of that scary little thing called networking to reiterate this fact over and over not only for new hoppers, but also for the returning hoppers who have relaxed into the cruise control that says “just keep swimming, just keep swimming!” It is not enough to just swim, you’ve got to swim with the right fish and thats what GHC is here to help you find; not just fish, but dolphins to be exact.

Socializing at GHC is not only safe, it is the perfect place to practice so you can step up your game when you return to the real world where women are the minority, and frat boys are still loud and obnixious well into their 40s. By the end of Bautista and Youseff’s session hoppers both old and new were flexing their social muscles and exchanging their expertise, career aspirations and business cards along with the promise to “follow-up”, “connect again” or “stay in touch”.

This is great, but it’s only just a start. A wise man who inspires me frequently by the name of Harry Belefante once shared a morsel that struck me to my core, he said “Do I know who you are? Do you know who I am? Do we care about each other? Because if we do, we can turn the world around.” The tips and tools to networking are not going to help us change the world if they are not supported by a foundation of genuine interest, appreciation and caring – lets be honest, women are the better sex at building THAT foundation. So don’t just network to network! Find a space where you can be genuine, engage your passion and make an impact with other amazing people while you are at GHC and if you take nothing else, take that back home with you.

Blogging for Grace Hopper


I’m excited to be attending the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Technology in October, even more excited to be blogging about the experience.

Come look for me at the Black Women in Computing sessions and and information table. This year is very special as

I’ll be bringing my daughter to the conference, it’ll serve as her introduction into this amazing community of technical women! Not only that, she’ll be able to witness the impact of being an ambassador of innovation by seeing the work that I’ve done in partnership with TechWomen, and the US Department of State.


Be the stability you want to see in your relationship

Cuddling Couple

I’ve been getting more requests for relationship advice lately. Even though I am not in a relationship people seem to trust my insights so I figured I’d share with the group. This is especially for women but can also be applied toward men as well. The wise and focused tends not to focus on seeking out romantic relationships, rather they put emphasis on self development and awareness, which in turn attracts higher quality people and relationship prospects in general.

The basic idea is good people attract good people and when you waste your efforts and continually fall short of setting goals and achieving them, it becomes easier to fall into the trap of “convient romance”. Consider the following diagram on relationship trajectories which follows a stable, emotionally secure woman through several stages of her own personal development.

Notice that over time the stable male gravitates toward her, even after having had poor relationships with drama queens. On the other hand the stable man gravitates away from the woman who finds herself in a string of poorly guided relationships, flings and one hitter quitters.

The answer is simple, stay focused, and let the proper mates and partners align with you rather than changing yourself or your priorities to chase a “fling”. Stable, supportive relationships have a tendency to find stable, supportive people.

Be Well…

Inside the pressure cooker

Life deals out more than a fair share of pressures, from peers, and career, to family sometimes pressure can mount itself so high that our reactions to them become nearly automatic. Pressure comes knocking and we jump to answer with a pressured response. Admist all these pressures it be omes difficult to get in touch with our true motivations because we are spending so much timing reacting to pressures instead of responding to our true needs and desires.

To combat this I recommend performing a SWOT analysis on your life considering the catetgories that are critical to your needs and desires such as self, family, love, career, and dreams to identify and group the stregnths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats to living the best life you can live.

The exercise is not to give you a silver bullet but to help you prioritize and move on the things that will offer you the greatest impact in the areas of your life that are most important to you. It also helps drive difficult conversations that you msy need to have with yourself and others.

What are you hiding from yourself when you live inside the “pressure reactor”? Come outside, it’s notso scary after all.

Nice scars

Humans are naturally competitive, we compete for love, food, shelter… Whatever we need to do for survival. While “survival of the fittest” may not be a totally accurate phrase for our time, it is certainly used with frequentcy.

Many of us even measure our greatness by the challenges we have overcome. When an acquaintence mentions offers their battle tested story by reflex we often chime in to share highlights of our own battles. Often we are brought together by the common struggles we face.

We must however be careful not to attribute our greatness and success entirely to the battles we’ve won. Often overlooked are the battles we’ve avoided by making smart decisions, be prepared and seeking out wisdom from others so we don’t make their same mistakes.

In short, it is a far greater achievement to avoid a trap than to have clawed your way out of one.

re-architect your future using new age technology



When you envision your future do you limit your vision based on common social constructs, norms and mores? If so, you may be limiting your environment as well.

Think about it, a critical social construct that makes our economic world turn is capitalism, which is also built on certain concepts such as competition, which also produces hierarchy etc. If you use capitalism as the foundation of your future visions you are now limiting your future by the social implications of that concept. Good or bad. I believe that to truely have unlimited vision for your future you must clearly recognize what building blocks you use as the foundation to architect your vision.

This also plays on the concept that you are the architect not only of your life, but your environment as well. That your actions can spawn an entire civilization in the same way that Thomas Jefferson did with his peers. To those who find this concept inconceivable please stop reading now. Those who are still reading should try the following exercise.
What is your utopian vision? What makes it utopia? What is at the foundation of your utopia? Political structure? Emotional freedom? Spirituality? Freewill?

What are the building blocks of your vision from a personal standpoint (the individual), the community, and the environment?
I’m exploring these ideas myself and will share them at a later date. I’ll also revisit the weight and controversy around you being the architect vs fate, universal control etc. Exciting stuff eh?


Frustration loves a tight place, give it some room to transform it into Motivation

How many times have you been frustrated with something that impacts your life which you had no control over? Maybe you are in a situation like that right now. If you haven’t experienced it, don’t worry, your time will come and when it does, here is a tip which I’m certain will provide you some support. Give your frustration some room to breath. Frustration, anger and sadness are all emotional states that impact you physically. The physiological impacts can range from headaches, to muscle twitching, and general fatigue because to be quite honest, negative emotions are exhausting! To ease some of that exhaustion here are some questions you can ask yourself to ease some of that tension and give your emotions some room to breath.

What role does love play in the situation? – Love almost always has some role to play in the situations that most deeply impact our emotions. Identifying the role of love is a great opportunity to connect with what you really feel, and why you are reacting in frustration. Are you frustrated because of a situation impacting a relationship involving love? Is something that you love being taken away? What power and resolve can you extract from the love involved in the situation? Love offers a powerful opportunity to strategically switch your perspectives from one of defense, to offense, from passive to active, from victim to victor etc.

Who is the good guy/bad guy and why? – A big step to getting over your frustration is identifying the roles involved and what part they play. It’s often easy to put a face to our perpetrators, but knowing why they have assumed that role is a difficult question and can uncover some important facts. Humans have a tendency to see things in black and white, good or bad, enemy or friend. When we feel backed against the wall almost certainly there is a face to the perpetrator who put us there, but understanding why you see them as a friend or foe can bring up new questions and help us reposition ourselves for success. You might even identify that you are contributing to the situation.

What do I really want and why? – Confusion is Frustration’s sperm donor. When we don’t know what we want, or how we feel, we lock ourselves into a closet of negative feelings that can eat us alive. And worst of all, we can’t go anywhere, or do anything, because we don’t know WHAT to do.  Once you realize what you really want, steps toward realizing it usually become clearer, and frustration starts to ease away allowing yourself to move forward.

The best advice I can offer to help you integrate these questions into solving problems in your life is to find a quite place to sit, and think about these questions. And don’t forget to breath.