Category Archives: Personal Development

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Postdoctoral Training – Efimov Lab

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to do my postdoctoral training under the guidance of Dr. Igor Efimov at the George Washington University (GWU), Washington DC. Dr. Efimov is a world renowned scientist in the field of cardiovascular science with nearly 200 publications. He is also the chair of the biomedical engineering department.

My research will primarily focus on cardiac arrhythmias with specific emphasis on high-definition conformal devices for treatment of atrial arrhythmias.

My postdoctoral training plan will focus on six main areas:

  • Independent Research: I will be continuing my scientific investigations in cardiac electrophysiology with specific emphasis ultra-low energy defibrillation research using transillumination optical mapping and high-definition conformal electronics technology.
  • Grant Writing: I will get training in grant writing and submission. Extramural funding is the life blood of all research and a key requirement to building a successful career in the academia. The training will entail writing and submitting grant applications to NIH, AHA etc.,
  • Education & Teaching: Part of my post-doctoral training will also focus on expanding my knowledge base in areas beyond cardiac electrophysiology and exploring opportunities to learn new technologies (e.g. 3D modeling & printing, Optogenetics etc.,)
  • Professional Networking: This is a key element in the training plan to become an independent investigator. As such, I will have opportunities to explore research collaborations and cultivating professional relationships.
  • Management Training: Another key aspect of becoming an independent investigator is to learn to how to run a research lab efficiently. This includes managing and allocating resources (e.g., finances, research staff, graduate and undergraduate students etc.,).
  • Translational Focus: Although basic science research is an essential component of all scientific investigations, it is equally important to focus on how the knowledge gain can be translated into clinical setting. Part of my post-doctoral training will entail exploring ideas and collaborations that have direct translational impact.

I am excited and grateful for this opportunity to learn from Dr.Efimov and looking forward to working with him.

Angela Duckworth: The key to success?

A thought provoking TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth (psychologist) about what it takes to be successful in life. So what is a good predictor for future success? Good looks, social intelligence, physical health, IQ?  None of the above. As it turns out, the key attribute is grit.

What is grit? To quote Angela – “Grit is passion and perseverance for long term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in and day out, for years and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like its a marathon, not a sprint.

So how does someone build grit? There is no definitive answer yet, but gritty people intrinsically believe that failure is not permanent, rather, a stepping stone to eventual success.

Julian Treasure – How to speak so that people want to listen

An educational  TED Talk by Julian Treasure about being an effective communicator.  He takes the first principles approach, beginning with our attitude.  Some of his insights include

  1. Avoid the 7 “sins” of communication – gossip, judging, negativity, complaining, excuses, lying, dogmatism.
  2. Embrace the 4 “cornerstones” of effective communication – Honesty (be clear & straight), Authenticity (be yourself), Integrity (be your word), Love (wish them well)
  3. Work with a voice coach on the different aspects of speech including – register, timber, prosody, pace, pitch & volume
  4.  He also shares a few vocal exercises to do warm up your voice before a speech

If you are interested in improving your communication skills, there is a great platform  – Toastmasters International with clubs all over the world, that can help you hone in your communication & leadership skills. I highly recommend it.

Reid Hoffman – The Startup of You

To succeed professionally in today’s world, the author (co-founder of LinkedIn) asserts that we need to manage our careers using the entrepreneurial mindset and the following strategies:

1) Develop competitive advantage, which includes the interplay of three factors – assets, aspirations & market realities

a) Assets are what you have now and include soft assets (e.g. knowledge base, skills, network, personal brand etc..) and hard assets (e.g. cash, computer, physical possessions etc..).

b) Aspirations capture your deepest goals, passion and vision for the future.

c) Market realities reflect the supply and demand of what you offer the market place relative to competition

2) Formulate plan ABZ

a) Plan A is what you are currently doing (day job) and the implementation of your competitive advantage. This plan gets tweaked iteratively as needed.

b) Plan B is what you pivot to when you need to change either your goal or route to get there. This plan often gets activated when Plan A is no longer viable due to an inflection point, that requires a change in skills or environment. The pivot will ideally move to an adjacent niche, something different but related to what you are already doing. Cultivate plan B on the side, while still focused on plan A.

c) Plan Z is the fall back position: the lifeboat in case plan A and B fail. Invoking plan Z should allow you to retreat, regroup and develop a new plan A.

3) Build a powerful professional network by cultivating real and lasting relationships

World class professionals build networks to help them navigate the world. The first rule of building a genuine relationship is to provide value to the other person, without needing a return favor. Just like personal relationships, professional ones should be cultivated by regular focus and attention or they fade away and die.

Invest in yourself, invest in your network and invest in the society. These three investments will give you the best shot at reaching your highest professional potential.

4) Pursue breakout opportunities by being resourceful, tapping in to the professional network and taking massive action

5) Take intelligent (and acceptable) risks as you pursue professional opportunities. Trying to avoid risks is not possible. If you don’t find risk, it will find you. Be proactive and take calculated risks.

6) As you navigate professional challenges, tap network intelligence from people you know for valuable information, advice and insights to make better career decisions. How you gather, manage and use information will ultimately determine whether you win or lose

It is a fantastic book and a must read. You can find more information about the book here.

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James Citrin – The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers

According to the authors, every individual’s professional career is marked by three stages: the promise phase (individual is trying to find her roots and understand her value and strengths), the momentum phase (the individual is now building perceived and experiential values), the harvest phase (the individual has proven herself many times over and now takes on the role of an expert/consultant).

Regardless, some careers languish in mediocrity, while others become extraordinarily successful? What differentiates one from the other? The authors identify key patterns seen in people who have achieved mega successful careers. Briefly,

1) Know your value: Determine your strengths and weaknesses and use that information to identify a role, that plays to your strengths. Break down the desired role into set of core components required to excel at it and seek experiences in those areas. Become a sponge and learn from your experiences. Take every opportunity to master your strengths. Seek a mentor early on and learn from his or her experiences.

2) Being a benevolent leader: There is a common misperception that the only way to get to the top is the claw yourself up. The faster, simpler and more sustainable way to get to the top is to be carried there. This is accomplished by first surrounding yourself with a great team and then helping them succeed. Have excellent integrity and character, vision/strategy and communication plan. Delegate non-critical and critical tasks and coach your team to be accountable, responsible and results-oriented. Revel in their successes. They will carry you to the next level.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryan

3) Solve the permission paradox: Asking for direct permission to take on additional responsibilities and showcase your talents is always the best way to go. But it can be hard to get. If so, the implied permission strategies are available and each can be effective, when used in appropriate situations. They include – demonstrate competence in building blocks (e.g. specific skill), get the credentials (e.g degree or certification), clean the slate (e.g. switch to new job or division), barter (trade something of value for permission to expand your role) and masquerade as the leader (provide leadership where there is no obvious authority)

4) The 20/80 performance factor: Focus on the 20% of the tasks that generates the highest 80% of successes. 80% of the your job description usually offers little opportunity for differentiation as you are seeking to meet the predefined objectives. It’s the last 20% that truly allows you to differentiate yourself from the rest of your peers. Go the extra mile and provide more value than asked of you and it will propel you to dizzying heights.

5) Play to your strengths: Align yourself into a job that plays to your strengths, a great boss, a great team, a great industry and one that has potential for future growth. When you align your strengths and passion, compensation will follow.

This book is one of my favorite reads and a must for anyone interested in managing their professional career effectively. There are no quick fixes. The key is to chart a macro career plan spanning years and then work towards it methodically. You can get more information about the book here.