The Women in Plant Biology and Minority Affairs Committees co-organized a Speed Networking Breakfast at Plant Biology 2019 in San Jose, CA. It was held on Monday August 5th from 7:00 to 8:30 am. We split attendees into two groups: Aspiring Professionals (which includes undergraduate student, graduate student, post-doc, career transition, and temporary career) and Established Professionals (which includes professor, chair, instructor, director, PI, industry researcher, editor, staff, senior scientist, etc.). Established Professionals were encouraged to attend, however there were only about 3-4 Established Professionals per table (of 10 people total). Thus, rather than a typical 1:1 ratio for Speed Networking, it was more of a 3:1 ratio of Aspiring Professionals to Established Professionals. For the Established Professionals, we had them pick one of 5 career categories (using colored index cards) to let the Aspiring Professionals easily identify a career category they were interested in. The 5 Established Professional career categories were: Academic (tenure-track), Academic (non-tenure track), For-Profit Industry, Non-Profit Organization, and Government. 

We reserved the first 20 minutes for people to eat breakfast and chat with their tables and provided some icebreaker questions. To maximize the number of interactions, we had planned on eight 4-minute sessions. From the feedback we received (see below) and the ratio present, it would have been better to have longer sessions (perhaps 6 to 10 minutes). For the last 20 minutes we brought the group back together and did some live polling with people in the room answering some questions. Here are the results:

So there were 77 people that responded to the first question. I wasn't sure how people would feel about being put into two categories, since we come from such diverse backgrounds and careers. It looks like there was only 1 person who felt they didn't fit into either category. 


This word cloud was very interesting to see all the different careers that people talked about. From the questions at the end (see below), many people were interested in hearing from the "army research" person. 

This question was a way for us to assess how effective this Speed Networking session was. We hoped this session provided a way to met new people and expand professional networks. With networking, it is beneficial to follow up with the people you met, so they remember you and you can continue to build your professional relationship. 

The next question in the Live Polling was: Submit a question for someone in the room to answer! We had 20 questions in all submitted. The participants could see each other's questions and could "up vote" questions to be answered first. We only got through the first 6 questions, allowing 2-3 people to give their answer. Here are all of the questions:

I apologize for not writing down all of the answers people gave, so if you were there or would like to answer some of these questions, please do so below!

I will attest that industry scientists typically make more money than professions. Some of the other responses I recall were: you need to prioritize what is important to you and your life. If you have to, schedule going to the gym on your calendar so no one schedules a meeting on top of it. It is never a good time to have kids, so again prioritize when and what's important to you. Hiring for PhD level scientists at most institutions include an in-person interview where the candidate gives a presentation of their research. This is then followed with rounds of small group interviewers asking questions. 

We then asked for: Any other comments or feedback or Suggestions for the organizers? 

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions! If you have more, please comment below.

We will try to do this again, however we will incorporate your suggestions, like having a bit longer than 4 minutes per session if the groups are larger than 2 people. We can also try to organize it a bit more so it isn't confusing where to go or where to sit. The table set up was challenging as the room was set with round tables. I'm not sure if this would be possible to change, but we can inquire for next time.

Thanks Everyone!