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How PhDs Can Make Connections That Count

Author Karen Wickre joins us first to explain the nature of introversion and how PhDs can make connections, and how they can use their innate talents to achieve networking success. Then Daniele Paradiso, PhD,  joins us to explain his job as a process engineer and how other PhDs can work toward a similar industry role.


Extroverted PhDs have an easier time networking than their introverted counterparts. 


But as Karen Wickre tells it, introverted PhDs actually have a networking advantage. And Karen’s an expert on corporate culture…


This week on the Cheeky Scientist Radio Show, we are joined by Karen Wickre: veteran connector, editor, and communicator. Karen will share her networking advice (particularly for introverts) and tips on how PhDs can make connections that count. We’ll also be joined by Daniele Paradiso, PhD, Process Engineer. Daniele will share his transition journey, his new role, and how other PhDs can move into similar roles. 


Skip Ahead in How PhDs Can Make Connections That Count:

00:09:16 Show Me The Data
00:25:54 Karen Wickre
00:44:30 Daniele Paradiso


About Our Guests

Karen Wickre is a corporate writer who has developed stories, styles and cadence for Google, Twitter, and many other startups. As an early “Googler” (she was employed by Google when there were only 500 employees), she has seen her share of war rooms and fire drills, crafted scores of posts covering products and pivots, shake-ups, corporate apologies, and company culture. More recently, Karen has worked as an advisor to companies on strategy and content. 

Often introduced as someone who “knows everybody, Karen’s level of connectedness has become her secret power. In 2018 Karen took this superpower and interest in connecting people and wrote the book Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count. Now she joins us to discuss how PhDs can make connections that will serve their career.

Daniele Paradiso, PhD, studied Physics both at the undergraduate and graduate level, pursuing a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Milan. During the time of his graduate studies in Milan, he had the opportunity to visit the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in the Department of Chemistry, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), to work under the guidance of Prof. John Z. Larese. He continued to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry, conducting research primarily on the experimental development of a deposition methodology to decorate metal oxide powders with metal clusters for energy applications, along with the characterization of their properties.

After graduation in August 2019, he already had a job lined up in the technology industry with STMicroelectronics in Sweden. He’s engaging with silicon carbide (SiC) technology and applications in his current position.


Key Takeaways On How PhDs Can Make Connections

  1. Adding value can be really simple, like being friendly with someone in a natural way. 
  2. Introversion and shyness are not the same thing, but they often get confused.
  3. Introverts tend to be great listeners, which is a huge advantage in the networking department.
  4. A process engineer needs to look ahead and support the course of development for a company’s products


How PhDs Make Connections That Count: A Conversation With Karen Wickre

Isaiah: How would you explain the concept of adding value?

Karen: Well, we appreciate being in touch with people we like, right? We might say there’s maybe “no-asshole” rule here about this. Think about the people that you liked  – people that you were in the trenches with and that you worked on a hard problem with. Those are the ones that you want to keep in touch with. Maybe they follow a football team, and you know that their team won or lost a big last night, and you just say, I saw that. Sorry about that.

Or their favorite person won a Grammy – whatever it is. That’s their other interest. You say, I’m just thinking of you – hope you’re doing well. And that’s a little bit of social lubrication, right? In person, in the workplace, you might have that kind of exchange before going back to work. Adding value is not so different from this.

Isaiah: Can you talk about some advantages that quiet, more introverted, technical-type people have? 

Karen: People often confuse introversion with shyness. They’re really not the same. Even as a kid, I thought I was shy, and my friends would say, No, you’re not. I did like to connect with people –  just one-on-one instead of in a group. So we’re all on a spectrum here. And lots of extroverts have said to me, Listen, I also need quiet time. I also need a break. The thing is, that’s how some of us on the introverted side kind of regain our energy: After an experience, you go and process what happened. Let me think about what I want to do. You just have to sort of pull away from the group. 

Extroverts get a little more energy from more frequent interactions with people. They don’t need as much of a break as we do. As an introvert, I always wonder how soon I can go home. But we introverts are listeners. We don’t like to reveal ourselves first, so that’s a perfect opportunity. When you are getting to know someone or going deeper into a conversation, let them talk first. Then you’re ahead of the game because you’re paying attention. You’re remembering things about them – what they like and who they are. That’s a superpower…


Process Engineer Career Track: A Conversation With Daniele Paradiso, PhD

Isaiah: So what did your interview process look like?

Daniele: The person interviewing me was kind enough to do everything on Skype, and I was able to communicate with them, tell them what they wanted to know about me and learn about the job. There were two phone calls and a video call, and I even interviewed with two future colleagues. That was enough for them to be impressed with me, and for me to get a sense of the type of people I’d be working with. And here, I could mention company culture.

If you’re a PhD immigrating for work in a foreign country, that’s important. Here in Sweden, there is a certain way to work. The environment is very employee-friendly, and they respect people’s time. So it’s important to know about the culture of the company and the country.

Isaiah: What does a process engineer do?

Daniele: I work at a small company that’s being integrated into a larger one, so there’s a growing process right now. I have the opportunity to see a lot of different aspects – I see a lot of the goings-on in R&D. Developing a process looks at what’s going to happen in a product’s first year or two. There is already an investment during this time, so money has already gone into the “pipeline” for this product. But what will happen in three years? Or five?

A process engineer needs to figure this out and how it will affect the development process. I also have to learn about specific production processes and all the potential problems that can occur when a product is being developed…

** for the full interviews, check out the video above: How PhDs Can Make Connections That Count.

Want to learn more about how PhDs can make connections? To get advanced access to the full-length versions of these podcasts, as well as access to our live training webinars, exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and a private online network of PhDs, get on the waitlist for the Cheeky Scientist Association now.

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Isaiah Hankel

Chief Executive Officer at Cheeky Scientist
Isaiah Hankel holds a PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology. An expert in the biotechnology industry, he specializes in helping other PhDs transition into cutting-edge industry career tracks.

Isaiah believes--from personal experience--that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life, it’s a clear sign that you need to make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.

Isaiah is an internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant, CEO of Cheeky Scientist, and author of the straight-talk bestsellers Black Hole Focus and The Science of Intelligent Achievement.
Isaiah Hankel


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