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How PhDs Show Employers They Are The Right Fit For The Company Culture (Cheeky Scientist Radio)


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1:20 – TOP TIP: It’s not you, academia is a cult
8:55 – Show Me the Data
22:45 – How PhDs Show Employers They Are The Right Fit For The Company Culture w/ Daniel Coyle
46:58 – Technical Director Career Track w/ Ron Hunter Ph.D.
1:00:46 – Top Mistakes Made By Researchers In The Green Card Application Process w/ Brian Getson

Do you know what company culture is?

Do you know how to find a company culture that is right for you?

In this episode of Cheeky Scientist Radio, bestselling author of The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle, discusses what company culture is, why it is powerful and how you can influence a company’s culture. Then Ron Hunter, PhD from Mérieux NutriSciences, shares insights from his non-linear career path and how he was hired as a Technical Director. Plus, immigration lawyer, Brian Getson will also join us to discuss top mistakes made by researchers in the green card application process.

About Our Guests

Daniel Coyle is the New York Times bestselling author of The Culture Code, The Talent Code, The Little Book of Talent, The Secret Race (co-authored with Tyler Hamilton), and other books.  Winner (with Hamilton) of the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Prize, he is a contributing editor for Outside Magazine, and works as a special advisor to the Cleveland Indians. Coyle lives in Cleveland, Ohio during the school year and in Homer, Alaska, during the summer with his wife Jen, and their four children.

Ron Hunter completed his PhD in analytical chemistry at Emory University. Next, Ron worked on projects related to toxicology and public health at the Environmental Protection Agency, Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, and Centers for Disease Control. He then spent three years in a scientist role at The Coca Cola Company. Ron recently started a new job as the Technical Director of Chemistry for North America at Mérieux NutriSciences.

Brian H. Getson, Esq. has extensive experience preparing EB-1A, EB-1B and NIW petitions for scientific researchers throughout the United States. After graduating cum laude from Duke University, Mr. Getson attended The University of Pennsylvania Law School. Upon receiving his law degree in 1995, he joined the Firm and concentrated his practice on immigration law.

Mr. Getson is a frequent speaker on the green card process for scientific researchers at annual meetings of the world’s most prestigious scientific organizations including The American Society for Cell Biology, Materials Research Society, American Chemical Society, The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, American Physical Society, and The American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Key Takeaways

1. Culture can be defined by how people interact and how people respond to change.

2. To learn about a company’s culture ask the employer to tell you a story about their group that would not happen anywhere else, ask how people are rewarded, and ask to speak with previous group members.

3. You can’t be opportunistic. Realize you’re not going to be a good fit for every company. If you’re just not vibing with a company, let it go and move on.

The Types Of Cultures In Industry And Why Company Culture Is So Important

The Harvard Business Review published an incredible article that breaks down the nuances of what makes a company culture.

The article identified two main concepts that define a culture:

1. How people interact
2. How people respond to change

From those concepts the authors created 8 distinct culture types. The two most common culture types were ‘Results’ and ‘Caring’ oriented cultures.

When you are doing informational interviews, asking questions about ‘how people respond to change’ and ‘how people interact’ is a great way to learn about the company culture. Are there strict lines of communication within the company? Or is it more flexible? Are there clear guide for what to do in uncertain situations or does change create dialogue where a collaborative effort is used to decide how to proceed?

Understanding the vulture of a company is key to demonstrating that you are a good fit and for finding a company where you will be happy.

Growth Everywhere reported that companies who have happy employees outperform their competition by 20% and that when employees are happy they are 12% more productive. Employers want to know that you will fit into their organization well, because it will impact the performance of the company.

How PhDs Show Employers They Are The Right Fit For The Company Culture: A Conversation With Daniel Coyle

Isaiah: I thought we could start very simple in just helping everyone here understand what culture is.

Daniel: Culture is an interaction that causes humans to add up to more than the sum of their parts. If you think about most human groups most of them add up to less. If you take the individual talents and the talents of the entire group, most human groups add up to less. Strong culture is when you can have a high ratio of what you’re producing versus what goes in. So it can be defined in a lot of different dimensions. That’s sort of my favorite because it’s what we sense.

When you walk into a good restaurant, when you walk into a good school, when you walk into a great family, you feel it. You can feel it in the interaction, so we’ve got this feeling that it’s kind of this magical thing that some people have in their DNA, that’s the way we typically thought about culture.

But what the science is showing us, and what I spent the last five years sort of obsessing about is, you can see it. You can measure it. It is a set of interactions and deep human grammar that’s in our brains. It feels like magic. It ain’t magic. It is a sentiment or actions that causes people to add up to more, and so that’s kind of the roughest definition of it.

But as you know, it’s more powerful than strategy. It’s more powerful than execution. It’s sort of the most powerful human force in the world.

Isaiah: How are employers evaluating job candidates on whether or not they’d be a good culture fit?

Daniel: There’s a few different ways to look at this. A lot of places don’t have a good definition of what culture is, and when they think about fit, they just think about hiring someone who’s like us, creating some kind of a monoculture. And that actually can be a sign that you’re maybe not in a great culture.

What’s smart employers are looking for is, they’re looking for people who can grow and learn, not hiring for skills, but hiring for people who could not just fit, but I think a better word is contribute from an employer point of view. If you hire for fit, you’re hiring under a narrow aperture. If you hire for contribution, how do you create more cognitive diversity? How do you get more minds in there? Great cultures have zero tolerance for brilliant jerks, zero. That was one of the things that I realized in researching the book.

They’re trying to test behavior, and you see more and more employers going, “Look, interviews are terrible predictors. Interviews don’t work very well, what works well is a behavioral sample.” So coming in for a sample day, working on a sample project, and during that project showing clear self awareness and ability to reflect and ability to confront mistakes and fix mistakes, because what business people realize today is that it is not a systems contest.

It is a learning contest.

It’s a group learning contest, and businesses that do that the best are going to win, and you cannot do that if you have people who are defensive when it comes to opportunities to learn.

Isaiah: Just shifting gears to the job candidate side for a company. What kind of things can you do to make sure you’re finding the right company with the right culture for you? But also showing the company that you actually understand culture.

Daniel: It’s a fascinating question, and there’s two questions that I think you can approach your prospective employers with, two dimensions to investigate in. Maybe there’s three things.

First, ask the employer to tell you a story about their group that would not happen anywhere else. Tell me a story about your group that doesn’t happen other places. That ends up being a very informal, very organic, but Litmus test. If they have three of four of those stories queued up. When you ask that question, “Tell me a story about something that doesn’t happen anywhere else,” you can quickly get to the things that really matter. Good groups have got 10 of those stories.

Another question you can ask is, “What gets rewarded around here?” It’s a difficult question, kind of a complex question to answer. “What gets rewarded around here? What kinds of performances really get awarded around here?” That matters.

The third thing you can do is go and see if you can talk to people who recently left the group. A good culture, a strong culture, will happily, happily connect you to people. The cultures that I visited, the cultures that I included in the book, they all really had learning and development as the core. They realized that this isn’t some kind of a kumbaya family they’re creating where we can all stay together the rest of our lives, but they do realize, they do make the promise to their people, “When you leave here you will be smarter.”

Technical Director Career Track: A Conversation with Ron Hunter, Ph.D.

IsaiahWhat does transition look like? What are some of the key points, and if you could do it in two phases. All the challenges you faced both mindset-wise, maybe some technical challenges like a resume, or LinkedIn thing? And what did you change to get hired? And what about the actual transition story look like?

Ron: So I think it depends on their job. I went from a Postdoc to a government job. And then I went from government job to industry job. And now industry job to industry job. So, I think the first thing for let’s say government or industry is that the resumes look different. The resumes are very different. The networking is different. I think as you say in the Cheeky Scientist Association Network, “Go to the events where you wanna meet the right people at.” CDC people aren’t hanging out where Coca-Cola people are hanging out.

And then updating your resume to be more industry. So once I realized, hey, I wanna try to get an industry job, I needed to change my resume. Make it less federal and more succinct and then do the networking from that aspect of meeting people who worked in industry versus people who worked in government. That was one. And then the cultural transition from Postdoc to government job versus industry is that, as a Postdoc you’re still living that PhD life. And then when you get a “real job”, you have to learn how to navigate the politics, a different side of politics between the industry and government or any job that’s not academic.

Isaiah: How do you stay who you are and navigate your way through all those different cultures and have people like you in different networks and different cultures? What do you do to stay true to yourself but also to adapt to the culture?

Ron: I think the first thing that I always encourage people to do is always remember who you are principally, and to bring your whole self to whatever you do. You can keep that in the forefront of your mind, then everything else kind of flows accordingly. I’m also military kid, so I grew up traveling a lot. You kind of learn growing up that you need to make friends quick, because you’re only going to be there a short period of time. I think that in itself is a talent. And then you can’t be opportunistic. You’re not gonna be friends with everyone. You’re not going to be a good fit for every company. If, you’re just not vibing with someone, you just have to let that go.

Watch the full podcast episode above to learn from immigration expert Brain Getson, to get even more company culture insights from Daniel and to learn more about what it’s like to work in as a Technical Director from Ron.

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 private online network, get on the waitlist for the Cheeky Scientist Association now.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah is a Ph.D. in Anatomy & Cell Biology and internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant. He is an expert in the biotechnology industry and specializes in helping people transition into cutting-edge career tracks.

Isaiah believes that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life right now, you should 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 Hankel Ph.D.