On July 8, Women in Geospatial+ joined with four GIS professionals for a panel discussion on how to gain professional confidence as the second webinar in a series about career development and raising public profiles. WiG+ steering committee members Abigail Page and Alina Vizireanu moderated the panel, opening with an introduction to the WiG network and the need for organizations to build on foundations of diversity and inclusivity.
The discussion began with the panelists, Denise McKenzie (Benchmark Initiative), Esther Moore (Sambus Geospatial Limited), Steven Ramage (Group on Earth Observations), and Rohini Swaminathan (UNICEF), weighing in on a poll which asked the audience which situations they found the most intimidating.
Networking at conferences was one of the top concerns for the 129 audience members. McKenzie began the discussion, noting that networking is a learned art and that to form meaningful connections, you need to continuously engage and put yourself in networking situations. She recommended individuals prepare five questions ahead of time to use in these situations, so the conversations become less daunting.
The panelists suggested a number of possible conversation topics:
- Why has the other person come to the conference?
- What does the other person do in their career?
- What break out sessions does the other person plan on attending, and why?
- Ask about content from the presentation
- Ask for advice
Ramage and Swaminathan both urged the audience to be strategic in their networking efforts by researching individuals ahead of time to figure out to whom and about what to talk. A popular piece of advice amongst the audience members was Moore’s idea to write what you discussed with an individual at a networking event on the back of their business card to refer to when you reach out to them later.
Another intimidating situation from the audience poll was being seen as “the expert” and speaking publicly about their field. Swaminathan said people should work to recognize that they are specialized–an ‘expert’–in their specific content, even if they aren’t an expert in the entire field. Ramage suggested a three tiered approach to gain confidence in presentations where you might be considered an expert:
- Audience Before Content (ABC): Consider your audience before assembling the content of your presentation
- Recognize your Expertise: If you have done something yourself and are involved in the work, you are more than prepared to field audience questions.
McKenzie responded to a question about the imposter syndrome, suggesting that the audience keep a list of things they do well, to refer to in times of doubt. Moore and Swaminathan recommended building strong teams and communities by getting to know colleagues individually and working to find a way to amplify each others’ strengths. Ramage noted the term ‘ventor,’ when suggesting people find a colleague they can vent to in the office, separate from a mentor, who provides more guidance and advice.
The panelists closed by providing their best advice to the audience:
Gaining professional confidence is a struggle everyone deals with and can be overcome with practice, effort, and leaning on supportive communities.
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