As part of Digital Science’s celebrations for Ada Lovelace Day, for the month of October we are running a series of blog posts where inspiring women in STEM are sharing their personal role models. Anyone can get involved and we encourage you to share your role model on social media using the hashtag #MySTEMrolemodel.

Today’s post is the last in the series, we hope you have enjoyed!
melMelanie Hamblen has spent her wholelife interested in Biology. By the age of 16 she had over 14 Peterson guides tohelp her identify all the flora and fauna all around her. She lives with her husband, dog, chickens and bees between Boston Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. Currently she is involved in project based support for Mobius Executive Leadership.

“I have never met anyone whom I couldn’t learn from, and when I approach relationships with that mind-set, they are always inspirational”

Joe Grano from “Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck” by Anthony K. Tjan  (Author), Richard J. Harrington  (Author), Tsun-Yan Hsieh

People often think I am lucky, that somehow opportunities just drop into my lap. In fact when I took the Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test (E.A.T.) in “Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck” my specific profile was defined by the Luck trait. But that doesn’t mean that I sat around and waited for good luck or opportunities to come my way. I had to work on my network and be prepared to learn from others. It takes a lot of work to be lucky.

I am often asked: “How do you keep going and not give up?” “How do you stay positive?” and “How do I do it too?” Those of you who are unfortunate to know me in person can hear my voice (in your nightmares) saying “Look it!” when I want to make a point. I do it when I really want to make a point and to make sure you listen. So, “Look It”, here are my 5 main points of advice to work on so you can be “lucky” too:

  1. Keep Learning: Never, never, never let yourself become stagnant! There are so many cool things to learn and do. Whether it’s a new protocol in the lab, or a new software program to try, or a skill such as canning, sewing or carpentry, or reading books with varying points of view, just keep trying and learning new things! Take classes and ask your colleagues for help, it’s ok to admit you don’t know everything, but you can learn! You will amaze yourself with what you can do, and meet new people to build your network. Don’t forget to gather email addresses and LinkedIn information from all the different people that you meet.
  2. Find And Be A Mentor: One of the most important ideas I want to point out here is do not be biased by age, experience or expertise. I find that many people I get advice and inspiration from are all ages and are from all walks of life. Every one of us has that “thing” they are good at doing. How do you find these mentors? People are very busy so you will need to be proactive (remember I said you will have to work for it!) Search people out who you think you would like to meet and contact them. You may have to step out of your comfort zone to do this and it will take practice. One step at a time. Will they be giving a lecture? Get there early and stay late, ask questions, talk to other people who have attended the talk and connect with them. Talk to people all around you. Share ideas or just share a joke. I have heard “You will talk to anyone” kind of as a back-handed complement, but it is true and I am proud of it. You never know when you will meet your next mentor or mentee, so be open to the possibility.
  3. Choose To Be Optimistic: Even when something goes badly you can still learn from the event. I truly believe that and I can always find something positive. The understanding of what the good thing is may take some time to figure out, but it will be there! It may be that you learned never to do that again, but at least you did learn something.
  4. Reassess How Happy You Are Regularly: Set a date and really think about how happy you are during the day. Make a list about what makes you happy at your job and what you don’t like. Are there new skills you can learn to make what you don’t like better? Make a plan to learn them. Are there things you would rather be doing? Ask your supervisor or colleague if they can teach you or if you can try it. Keep redefining your job description. If you can’t find anything that will make your day better don’t wait so long that you can’t leap to a new spot. I have seen people much younger than me not happy with their careers (especially in the research lab) and heard excuses for not changing ranging from, “they have always been on this career pathway and it’s all they know” to “I am too old to change”. I say back “You are too young to be miserable for the rest of your life.” A colleague recently left the lab and went into dentist school because he spent so much time unhappy and worrying about being able to support his family. What a great leap!
  5. Become A Part Of Your Community: Go to meetings, talks and open forums. Join committees. Look around you and think about a change that would benefit the people in the community and then form a committee to make a difference! The more you put yourself out there the more people will ask you to be involved. The more people you connect to, the more ideas you will be exposed to! And the better you will feel!

I could go on and on and add step-by-step instructions, but then this would become a book! You should notice that all these points of advice are mostly about building relationships to help you keep learning, being optimistic and caring about your community. Some of these things take time, so let yourself practice, don’t be tough on yourself; no one is a born expert. We all have our own pace, just make sure you keep moving.