If You Want to Become a Science Writer, Then You Have to Write
As a Senior Science Writer for a Harvard chemistry research group, a big part of my day job consists of reading primary articles, discussing research projects with group members, and writing and editing manuscript drafts. In other words: I get to nerd out on science and then help students write about that science clearly.
This job is perfect for me. From the outside it may appear that I serendipitously stumbled upon just the right job at just the right time. Looking back, though, I can see that this was no accident. I brought myself here through a series of small, but purposeful, choices.
I gave myself permission to nerd out on all the things in college.
As an undergraduate college student, I knew that I was interested in both science and in the humanities. So I majored in neuroscience and minored in the humanities (granted, I chose the Medical and Scientific Humanities track). I absolutely loved it. In a typical week, I spent the morning learning about how brains form and prune synaptic connections and in the afternoons, I analyzed the many themes and lessons of Charles Dickens' Bleak House or debated the ethical issues surrounding medical and scientific research with my peers. "I didn't force myself down a single path. Rather, I gave myself permission to nerd out as hard as I wanted to in both disciplines.
As my college graduation date rolled nearer though, I started to feel the pressure to plan my next steps. What profession would possibly allow me to combine my love for science and for writing into one? Having explored both disciplines as an undergraduate, I realized that I valued both of them equally. Retrospectively, the answer seems obvious: become a science writer. But it wasn't quite that simple for me because I wanted to actually train as a researcher before attempting to write about it. This desire to train as a scientist is ultimately why I personally decided against Masters in Science Writing programs (these are absolutely the right choice for some people, but it wasn't for me). I figured that the best case scenario for me would be to train as a scientist and then learn to communicate and write about that science effectively after I felt sufficiently comfortable with the science itself.
There's no way I could have known that over a decade later I would be working full time as the Senior Science Writer for a research group at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
I didn't immediately jump into a graduate training program.
After I graduated with my bachelor's degree in neuroscience, I decided to take some time to work at the bench to gain some more research experience (and also to give myself some more time to thoughtfully reflect on my career path before committing to a multi-year graduate or medical training program). I packed my bags and flew to Bethesda, Maryland for a job as a post-baccalaureate behavioral biologist at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
I was surrounded by other young professionals at a similarly transient stage of their professional lives. I gave myself the time and space I needed to explore my interests more fully without committing to anything I wasn't whole-heartedly ready for. Instead, I embraced temporary career uncertainty in favor of getting to know myself, my mind and my interests a bit better.
And boy, did I get to know myself. The longer I worked in the lab, the clearer it became that I was more interested in the why and how of science (research) and less interested in the direct (clinical) application of our research findings. As a plus, I learned about "altac" careers; I learned that a PhD could be used for more than academic research. I met individuals who had PhDs and were working as consultants, writers and analysts. This built-in flexibility put me at ease. Ultimately, I chose to pursue my scientific interests and committed to graduate school, knowing that I wasn't shoehorning myself into any particular career by choosing this path.
I started building a writing portfolio, early on.
While at the NIH, I made time to volunteer as a writer for science organizations and publications, wherever and whenever possible. I didn't do this because I knew for sure that I wanted to do science writing (I didn't) but because I knew I was still potentially interested in exploring this path. And I knew one thing: those who are interested in making writing a full time career must. write. as much. as possible.
At first, I did a whole lot of volunteer (unpaid) writing. I worked as a volunteer writer for the Washington Wire - the digital publication for the Association of Women in Science and I worked as a volunteer correspondent at the NIH Radio. By the time I started my graduate studies in neuroscience at the University of California Davis, I already had a small but notable science communications portfolio to speak of. Volunteer writing isn't the only way to build a portfolio. If you're looking to start or add to your portfolio, I strongly encourage pitching to publications and connecting with companies who hire freelance talent.
I wrote even when it wasn't required of me.
While graduate school provided me with a somewhat fixed path to follow (develop a project, collect data, write, graduate), my forays into science writing were more unstructured. I didn't have a program to follow. I just did my best to write whenever I could, even when it wasn't mandatory. For instance, I wrote this post about a lecture I attended at the Behavioral Health Centers of Excellence (BHCOE) at UC Davis. My main goal in writing this post was to simply practice my science writing skills and revive my blog. I was pleasantly surprised when the BHCOE team took notice of my post and requested that I cover future events for them. I ended up hosting a Twitter chat for their daylong Science Informing Policy Symposia. Key stakeholders will be tuning in, they impressed upon me - including the director of NIMH himself. Had I not committed to simply writing more, this opportunity would have never presented itself to me. It was an early and valuable lesson in the importance of putting yourself out there as a writer. Then Society for Neuroscience (SfN) 2015 happened. I met with the founder of Maze Engineers at the vendor booths and introduced myself in person after we'd connected online. "So you write?" he asked, "it's about time someone paid you for writing." He was right. This was a turning point in my freelance science writing career. For a good year or so, I wrote for the Maze Engineers blog about rodent mazes, behavioral apparatuses and animal research. I did this while wrapping up my graduate studies. At the same time, I continued to blog on my own personal account.
I blogged about the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Presidential Lecture by Nobel-prize winning scientist, May-Britt Moser. The blog post wasn't quite the New Yorker level caliber I wanted it to be - but it didn't matter. At that point, I was focused on simply writing more and more and more. A couple weeks later, May-Britt Moser emailed me (!!) to say that she had read and enjoyed my blog post. She then offered me the opportunity to write about their institute's research for the annual report (for pay!). Writing annual reports for the Kavli Institute of Systems Neuroscience was one of the most rewarding science writing experiences I've had to date. And it would have never happened if I had not taken the time to write and publish on my blog. If I hadn't forced myself to write and hit publish, I would have missed out on one of the most formative science writing experiences of my career.
I never stopped learning from other experts.
Last, but certainly not least, I have always made sure to take every single opportunity to learn from the experts. I've sat in on writing classes, workshops and training events every possible chance I got. Joining the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) has been a great way for me to connect with veterans in the industry across all sectors (ppst, they also have a jobs board for members). If you're curious about science writing as a career and/or simply want to improve your skills as a science communicator, I highly recommend the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop and the Alan Alda Communication trainings (and I would be happy to chat with you about either of these if you have any questions).
I was ready to jump.
A little over a year into my post-doc and nine months after my twins were born, I took a good long hard look at my professional goals. Rather than deciding to continue doing research at the bench and engaging with science writing on the side, I decided I was finally ready to jump into science writing as a full-time career. And I was equipped to do so. I had the experience, the writing samples, and the demonstrated drive and capabilities. When it comes to setting yourself up for a writing career, there's no way around it: you have to write. Often. I didn't end up in my current job as a science writer by accident. I ended up here because I practiced my skills consistently, over time, and had something to show for it. If you are thinking about writing in the future whether part-time or full-time, freelance or in-house there is only one thing you HAVE to do: write. as much. as possible.
💎 Partnerships in remote environments is one of the most important aspects to construct in a company. Watch the video to the end to get good tips on how to do it successfully.
📼Wondering how to create partnerships in remote environments? Play this video to get three top tips that will help you to achieve it. You'll hear from Olga Shvets, HR Business Partner, and Viktoriia Litvinchuk, People Team Operations at Unstoppable Domains, who will explain the essentials of this process.
📼How to build partnerships in remote environments? Tip #1: Communicate Effectively. Communication is the key to enabling your remote team to be successful. Choose the channel that works best. For this, chat with your employees and see what they use to communicate, that's how you find the best solution. Also, make sure your team is on board with your internal tools and they know what, how, and where they need to use them.
📼A requisite for building partnerships in remote environments is Tip #2: Show appreciation. Appreciation is shown through your actions. Let your employees know that you value everything they do for the company. Create a special gratitude channel where everyone can share their appreciation for their colleagues for some contribution. Celebrate some wins, promotions, and everything that is important for the company. If you appreciate the employees, employees do the same for the company.
Create Partnerships In Remote Environments Using Trust - Tip #3: Give Honest Feedback
Use engagement surveys! They are a quick and effective way to receive honest feedback from your team and you can see what's working well and what needs to be improved. Your main priority is to create spaces where managers and employees can share honest, relevant feedback.
📨 Are you interested in joining Unstoppable Domains? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Olga Shvets
If you are interested in a career at Unstoppable Domains, you can connect with Olga on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Unstoppable Domains
Unstoppable Domains is bringing user-controlled identity to 3 billion+ internet users by issuing domain names on the blockchain. These domains allow users to replace cryptocurrency addresses with human-readable names, host decentralized websites, and much more.
By selling these domains direct to consumers for a one-time fee, the company is making a product that will change cryptocurrency and shape the future of the decentralized web by providing users control over their identity and data.
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
💎Want to know what engineering teams are like at Workiva? Watch the video to the end to find out!
📼 Engineering teams at Workiva are constantly hiring. Marie Yue, Senior Engineering Manager at the company, tells you what they look for in a candidate and what the dynamics of teamwork are like.
📼 The typical path in the engineering teams at Workiva is that you grow into a senior, and then you move into a lead role. From there, there are a few different tracks that you can take depending on your interest. You can become a staff engineer, an architect, or even an engineering manager. What are you waiting for to apply?
📼In the engineering teams at Workiva every member should feel empowered to do their job effectively. For this, each has to understand how the work they do day to day solves customers’ problems. Managers will always seek to be aware of members’ career path aspirations so that they can look for opportunities and projects to help each person reach the next step in their career.
Engineering Teams At Workiva: A Safe Space
Marie Yue’s team is a safe space for people to make mistakes and ask for help, and each member feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. She wants to make sure that everyone is individually empowered to lead and make decisions. For this, the team has regular meetings where they do fun things like play virtual games or eat lunch together, and they also like to re-review and add to their team working agreement once a quarter.
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Workiva? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Marie Yue
If you are interested in a career at Workiva, you can connect with Marie Yue on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Workiva
Workiva was founded to transform the way people manage and report business data with various collaborators, data sources, documents, and spreadsheets. Today, people all over the world use their platform to seamlessly orchestrate data among their systems and applications for transparent and trusted connected reporting and compliance. At Workiva, they are innovative in everything they do—from how they build their software, to how they serve their customers, to how they treat their employees.
After two years of remote programming, we’re excited to welcome the 2022 NIKE, Inc. Internship Program back to our U.S. offices this week!
This year’s class of 318 represent the top 1% of 34,000+ applicants from 113 universities – including 10 Hispanic Serving Institutions and five historically Black colleges and universities. And that’s not all! Many of this year’s interns are Division 1 student-athletes, representing Track and Field, Rowing, Soccer, and Volleyball, to name a few.
During the nine-week internship – built around the theme of Never Done Shining – interns will work across Nike, Jordan and Converse taking on meaningful projects for the business areas they’re supporting. We can’t wait to watch this talented, diverse group kick off their Nike journey and shine!
Want to learn more about the program? https://jobs.nike.com/internships