Hosted By

Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist

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17:15 Show Me The Data
38:05 Jeff Kreisler
1:01 Addis Fuhr, Ph.D.

Is it hard to know how much of your personality to share when you are at a networking event, or in a job interview?

Humor has often been devalued in industry in favor of being stoically professional. But what if using your full personality was an advantage in your career transition? 

This week on the Cheeky Scientist Radio Show we are joined by Jeff Kreisler. He’s editor-in-chief of PeopleScience, bestselling author, behavioral science advocate. We are also joined by Addis Fuhr, PhD and Senior Modeling & Simulation Engineer/Analyst at MITRE. Addis will join us to talk about his career transition as an R&D Scientist into his current role.

About Our Guests

Jeff Kreisler is just a typical Princeton-educated-lawyer-turned-award-winning-comedian, author, speaker, TV pundit, speechwriter, and advocate for behavioral economics. He is co-author of “Dollars and Sense” – about the psychology of money, with Dan Ariely – Editor-In-Chief of and speaker with Leading Authorities. He uses humor & research to understand, explain and change the world. Jeff runs, writes for TV, politicians, and CEOs, shares witty insight on CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC & SiriusXM and tours most of this planet.

Addis Fuhr, PhD is the Senior Modeling & Simulation Engineer/Analyst at MITRE with an expertise in computational materials science, laser spectroscopy, X-Ray diffraction, electrochemistry, and materials characterization. Excellent communication skills as demonstrated by peer-reviewed publications, patents, conference presentations, and collaborative research awards. He is interested broadly in technology related to energy, communications, defense, and electronics/photonics. 

Key Takeaways

  1. How humor can be an asset in your job search but why it’s important to not try to be funny.
  2. How allowing your personality to come out in a natural way in networking and interviews can help you determine company culture and if it’s a fit for you.
  3. In industry, how your skills from academia in research and love of problem solving can manifest into one career that feels custom designed for your strengths.

The Science (and Humor) of a Good PhD Job Search: A Conversation With Jeff Kreisler

Isaiah: Very excited to have on Jeff. Thank you Jeff for joining us. So, you’ve been involved in a lot and you’ve changed careers a lot, it sounds like. Can you tell me a little bit about your journey and why you’ve taken so many kind of left turns?

Jeff: Basically I was on a path for traditional success through Princeton and law school and offer those big firm jobs, to be, you know, at age 22 the next step was 45 alcoholic and divorced. And, it was not something I wanted. I admit I have some privilege in that I had some good degrees and I had a sort of a safety net built in, so I took some risks. And I was always that guy that wrote down little observations that are, that has the little funny sayings, actually as I was studying for the bar in California, I took a comedy workshop, and it just really resonated with me as being this incredible tool for communication potentially for behavior change, for education. The only rule in comedy is you have to be funny now. t’s a big role. It requires an emotional response, and connection and all these other elements. But you can sort of talk about anything. And more than that, what I found was really powerful was that, that anything you could talk about was, open to topics that others might find challenging or difficult or stressful. I spent most of my career talking about politics.  I talked about cheating in our culture. Now I do a lot of stuff about sort of behavioral science and psychology. And I’ve always taught about finance and money and economics and all of the topics. Different people find them to be intimidating or stressful or they might even disagree, particularly in politics. But I’ve found through the use of humor, that I’m able to engage in a conversation with folks and at least get them to listen, and hopefully retain and learn and, and have a conversation with me, educate me back. So, you know,  I would say the last sort of through line I’ve seen through it all is that, you know, comedian like a Jerry Seinfeld or there a David type, they say, Hey, ever notice people do the stupid thing. And then the behavioral scientists or the, the PhD says, yeah, this is why. And so they sort of fit together nicely on either, you know, begin yang sides of the coin.

Isaiah: I love that. I love that comparison. And, I want to ask you a little bit about, you know, the transition you had, especially from a, you know, how advanced degree law, you know, as a, as a lawyer to, to getting into these different fields. Cause we have a lot of people watching who are trying to do their own transition. But first on her humor, you’ve talked a lot about it and you know, let’s imagine we’re talking to people that have no idea what humor is, which we might be for some. How would you describe humor, especially on a practical day to day basis? Not so much standing up in front of people as a comedian, but daily. How does it help? What are some of the behavioral psychology insights you could give us on the importance of humor and how to be humorous?

Jeff: There are a lot of benefits to being to using humor. And I should put forward like a very important like caveat or, or warning that bad humor as I think you addressed in the previous segment. Like things that are aggressive or offensive or just misfire. Like there’s a big danger there. So when thinking about using humor, whether in the workplace or otherwise, like if you think it might not hit, I would say don’t do it because the risk is far too great. So that’s my general warning. But when humor is used effectively, it can, create more engagement. It can lower people’s, sort of defenses, and create a community feeling, right. There’s, there’s something powerful if you have, if your listeners and viewers haven’t been to a comedy show, a theater club, otherwise, like when a collective group of people all laugh together, it’s incredible. 

It’s this shared emotional experience that is so rare to any other setting and that creates a sense of community amongst strangers. And that then it creates a bond that helps listening. You know, obviously you said not just on stage, but, using humor, the self deprecating humor in particular is, is particularly powerful because, none of us are perfect and oftentimes I think in the quest to seem perfect, we can come across,  whether it’s abrasive or too full of ourselves. And,you know, I always think that, the word humor is the same as human and humanity. That’s kind of a silly comparison, but there is, you know, when you’re self deprecating, you sort of acknowledge your human humanity. I think of Jon Stuart as the perfect example when he’s on the daily show, like he was, you know, a very smart person had very in great insight and you know, w whether you agree with them politically or not, you see, it’s hard to argue that that’s not the case. 

But he also was very silly and self-deprecating and often made himself sort of the butt of the jokes. And that allowed the higher level commentary that he had to be accepted a little more easily because he didn’t come across and say, I’m super smart. You’re super dumb. Here’s what I have to say. He said, we’re all dumb and here’s something I noticed. And humor allows you to do that. But then comedians, whether they’re stand up or they’re people that write for political speeches or whatever it may be, I think harness the fact that that using humor can we reflect the absurdity of our life and our existence and sometimes reflecting that reality allows you to relate more easily to people…

Analyst/Medical Writing Career Track: A Conversation With Addis Fuhr, PhD

Isaiah: We will bring Anand on with us and we’ll talk to him about how he got into his medical writing role, what he does on a daily basis. And any other questions that you have. Great suit and headset. I can see you and I can hear you…how are you?

Addis: So I basically develop a modeling and simulation techniques to analyze different, physics space problems. And then I analyze them,  for my work.

Isaiah: Perfect. And how did you get into this? So maybe talk about all the way from, you know, the, I guess the conception of where you learned about this role and then what did the transition process look like for you? And be as specific as you can in terms of, you know, I, you uploaded a resume or I got a referral or, you know, then I did a phone screen, a video interview and a site visit. What did it look like? 

Addis: I’ll start with actually about midway through my PhD. So midway through my PhD I got a fellowship to work at Los Alamos national lab, which is part of what’s called the FF RDC system that stands for federally funded research center. Uh, they’re basically government labs or government funded labs that basically do research for defense related topics. And so when I did that fellowship, I realized that I really loved the working and the FFR DC system because it’s basically a lot like academia in the sense of you can do all this really cool research and development beginning fundamentals to applied, um, but not necessarily like academia. We have to teach or constantly do grant proposals. So it kind of seemed like the perfect kind of combination for me. Uh, however, I did not necessarily want to stay at Los Alamos, not because of any problems with Los Alamos, which just because I needed to sort of be by the coast. 

So I moved to Washington DC and, what I found is if I’m MITRE, uh, when I was looking for a job title,  had a lot of work related to, I did my PhD, which was basically competition material science. They do computational work more broadly than just material science, but, you know, basically physics-based computational work. And, it just seemed like, when I did the interview,  I found that application online put in my resume. I’ve talked to some people during the interview. It seems like the main thing that they were looking for is someone who just wanted to apply physics-based models to really just broad array of problems. Any sort of problem was kind of thrown at you, not necessarily just materials or optics or whatever. Just very, very broad. Perfect. For me. I just kind of like solving problems. And so a came in for my interview, uh, just really got along with everybody. Had some other interviews in the pipeline, cancel them all once I got the offer and just that this is a place for me,  then moved down.

** for the full interviews check out the video above

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