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Coming Back to the Down Under

Chad Husko, Argonne National Laboratory

Hey there!
This is the third in a series of blog posts I’m writing throughout 2016 in my role as OSA Ambassador. You can find earlier posts on visits to Barcelona (link) and Quebec (link).
In this post I will discuss a recent trip Down Under to attend the OSA Photonics and Fiber Technology conference in Sydney. I worked at the University of Sydney for four years, so this was a bit of a homecoming for me.

Networking event @ OSA Photonics and Fiber Technology Conference
We all know that meeting new people is key to developing our careers and opening up new opportunities. A casual conversation can turn into a serendipitous research idea, or an invitation to apply for a job we didn’t know existed, in a field we didn’t know existed. Plus, getting to know people, ‘networking,’ can just be plain fun.
In Sydney, I had the privilege to help pilot a new dedicated OSA conference networking event series.
As you know, conferences are natural settings to connect with our colleagues, to discuss science face-to-face, and thereby grow our networks. Typical events include poster sessions, receptions, or conference dinners. Inevitably, we gravitate to people we know. This makes sense as we often only meet our colleagues once a year or less, and we make the most of these opportunities. The challenge then, is to meet people to continue to grow our networks.
While opportunities to spontaneously meet new people are implicit to these meetings, the OSA has recognized an opportunity to explicitly foster the growth of new connections through a dedicated networking event.
There are a few unique aspects of this new OSA event series I’d like to highlight:
  1. Building connections between junior and senior OSA members
  2. Tips for introductions – international audiences
  3. Dedicated Networking vs. networking ad hoc
(1) Bridging the multiple generations of the OSA
I opened the event by stating explicitly that the goal of the event is to facilitate interaction between the junior and senior members of the OSA. It was really powerful to simply indicate this was the purpose as everyone really took it to heart and talked to others outside their normal social circles. People already seemed disposed to do this and only needed the opportunity more than anything.
In a broader perspective, this is one of the key roles of the OSA Ambassadorsto facilitate the interaction of the junior and senior members of our society. Since the Ambassadors have recently experienced both the worlds of the junior members, while often having leadership roles and relationships with senior members, we are in a perfect position to connect these two groups.
We already build connections across country borders. This new scheme will help foster bridging the generations of optical scientists and engineers in the OSA.
(2) Introductions for international groups
Since our group was only about 40 people we each introduced ourselves briefly to the group, our topic, and where we were working. A special thank you goes out to Alejandro Aceves for suggesting this great idea.
This was a fantastic start as people instantly had things to ask the others, knew someone at their institute, or even had followed each other’s work.
Say your name!
One general point I made (and recommend) for international crowds is for everyone to practice saying their name slowly. Since we all know our own names, we all tend to them too fast for others to remember, especially given our linguistic differences. Practice saying your name slowly and clearly to help others remember.
(3) Networking without distraction
The intimate size of the crowd marks a significant difference compared to other networking opportunities at conferences, such as dinners or posters. Everyone in the room wanted to be there, and was prepared to talk to others. Intention and the focus on networking versus networking while at another event really makes a big difference.
My challenge to you:       Attend an OSA networking event in 2017.
There will be five of these RSVP-only networking events at OSA conferences next year. Remember to sign up as I imagine spaces to these events will rapidly be filled after the word gets out about these amazing events.
Image for keeping the session alive