Thursday, June 13, 2013

Interact with people. Advise from Jean Adams, statistician

1  Master's Notebook: Not Everything That Counts Can Be Counted. By Jean Adams
AmStat News, Mar 1, 2013



Humans. They’re a strange bunch. Incredibly varied and unbelievably complicated. Like it or not, these creatures will play a huge role in your life and in your career. Anything you can do to understand them better, do it. In school? Take a psychology course. On the job? Take a management course on personality types or communication skills. Been there done that? Please. Don’t make me laugh. When it comes to human nature, there’s always room to learn more.

Connect with the people around you. Consciously put yourself in situations in which you will interact with the members of your community, be it at school or work. Is someone approaching you in the hallway? Look him in the eye and say hello. Is your room or office located at the far end of the building, near a remote entrance? Make a habit of entering the building at the main entrance. Is there a group that goes bowling every Friday? Go with them. Have a question for a colleague down the hall? Ask her in person. Is there a brown bag group that eats in the break room? Eat with them. Think of it as an optimization problem. You want to maximize your daily face time.

Unless you are gregarious by nature, these suggestions may take you a bit out of your comfort zone. That makes it all the more important. And it’s okay to experience some discomfort. You will get better with practice. And let me tell you a secret. Connecting with the people around you will do wonders for your career. It will open doors; it will bring you joy. It will reward you with an intangible quality that no one verbalizes, but everyone perceives.

Find your passion. Connect with people. That’s my recipe for a long and happy career.

2  Master's Notebook: Seeing Is Believing. By Jean Adams
AmStat News, Jun 1, 2013


Pay It Forward

Have you ever had your work improved by the comments of a good reviewer? Have you ever benefited from the sage advice of a mentor? Have you ever gotten stuck trying a new analysis or software and turned to Internet forums to get unstuck? Of course you have. We all have. We are surrounded by people willing to help, including some we have never met. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. If you choose your target wisely and clearly state your question, you will be rewarded for your efforts. I find that just the process of framing the question for someone else brings some answers to light.

Have you ever been on the other side? Reviewed someone else’s work? Advised a protégé? Answered questions on an Internet forum? If not, give it a try. You may be surprised to discover that you get as much out of the interaction as the person you’re helping. It can be quite gratifying, and there’s always something to learn. As every teacher knows, the best way to really understand a subject is to try to explain it to someone else.

No matter how much experience you have, there’s always someone with more experience from whom you can learn, and there’s always someone with less experience who could benefit from your help.


Jean Adams is a statistician with the U.S. Geological Survey – Great Lakes Science Center and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, both headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan