Careers: Science and Skills

I am looking forward to working with another group of SEPnet physicists as part of the Enterprising Ideas Competition.  We have teams signed up from institutions across the SEPnet consortium who are ready to learn, get innovative and possibly win some cold hard cash!

It is great to be working with SEPnet again as I appreciate the powerful combination created when physics meets enterprise and entrepreneurship.  Our global economy needs high-skills individuals, who have the ability to work across borders and in multidisciplinary teams; who can harness commercial and scientific thinking; who are able to deliver value and impact.

Yet despite reams of real-world examples and day-to-day experiences, I know there are people out there in the world of science, and in the SEPnet physics-o-sphere, who are sceptical about the value of extending their skills beyond their scientific discipline including exploring the benefits of entrepreneurship.

Now I’m not going to get on my soapbox – I was tempted 🙂 – what I will say is this…

A World of Skills

The perspective on our world today is that we are experiencing unprecedented VUCA; that’s Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.  And this is set to continue.  Scientists are already used to working with the unknown, complex and abstract; to experimenting and connecting disparate dots.  However, to thrive, create opportunities and build a successful career in this environment requires more than technical ability alone.

For example, by mixing the problem-solving and analytical skills developed as a physicist with an understanding of business and industry, you are positioning yourself for success.  This may translate into the ability to secure more funding as an academic, being the best physicist you can be, starting your own company or building a rewarding industrial career.

Therefore, my approach to creating professional development programmes for scientists, like SEPnet’s Enterprising Ideas Competition, is to design them to help participants link, mix and learn a variety of skills, e.g, communication, team working, business acumen, entrepreneurship and innovation. Enabling them to invest in their own learning and development.  Successful careers, businesses and economies are built on more than the detail of our research or scientific discipline.

A Mindset for Change

Talking of entrepreneurship, there are a lot of misunderstandings surrounding the word ‘entrepreneur’.  The two most important thing to remember are…

  • entrepreneurship is not solely about the desire to start your own business
  • being entrepreneurial is a mindset not a job role

If you create solutions to challenges that add value to an organisation, community, society or economy you are being entrepreneurial and employing entrepreneurship, regardless of whether you are in academia, in your own business or working for someone else.

Studying science helps to develop the high-quality thinkers we need to build knowledge-based economies and solve complex global challenges.  Adding entrepreneurship; developing skills and experience beyond a subject or research bubble enable us to deliver commercial and social benefits.  As well as bringing definite career advantages.

Programmes like the SEPnet Enterprising Ideas Competition help participants find, feed and fulfil their entrepreneurial flair.  This particular programme allows those taking part to experience a range of developmental opportunities and blended learning; from interactive training days to networking events to working as a team developing their enterprising ideas.  Adaptability plus the drive to keep evolving and learning are key to success in the midst of constant change.

And finally…

If you’re a scientist and still unsure about the value of investing in skills which extend beyond your scientific discipline, consider this:

Our dynamic modern world presents interesting and exciting opportunities and careers for those who want to get involved and add value to the economy and society.  After all… nothing ventured, nothing gained!

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