By Karina Wilhelms
December 19th, 2016
Menlo Park, CA – The Wiseman Group is delighted to announce the winner of the 2016 Rookie of the Year Contest, Kristin Hecht, who is a Multiphase Reaction Engineering Specialist in Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.
Last year, Kristin found herself in a rookie situation. She was given the daunting task of establishing a research group dedicated to environmental engineering as well as starting a new masters program for international students at the Otto-von-Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany. Because she felt “out of her league”, Kristin sought advice from a number of people with more experience. To her surprise, even very experienced people were willing to share their advice with her. Although she didn’t realize it at the time, the contacts she made during this research became instrumental later in building support for the new programs.
In her first month on the job, Kristin realized that her department was incredibly under resourced in the laboratory. So she made a list of things she thought she needed and discussed with her boss. They agreed that Kristin should look for open calls related to the research that she was interested in doing.
In looking through current research calls, Kristin saw an open call that fit her topic. Within two weeks, she had prepared a proposal. It was a very tight timeline, and a real scramble. Her boss was pleased to see the effort. It was only later that colleagues commented to her that they would never have thought to apply for such a thing. They thought the goal was way too high. The rookie just did it.
In rookie mode, Kristin learned quickly to reach out to others to utilize their expertise. Colleagues reacted favorably to being valued for their expertise and were willing to provide information and contacts. Despite not formally delegating any work, Kristin was amazed at how effectively she was able to quickly obtain information through a large organization just by directly approaching others with a curious, learning mindset. Kristin said, “I realized that as a rookie, I didn’t come in with a plan, but I came in with a purpose. If you have a purpose it is inspiring to people. On one hand I was totally unprepared, but on the other hand I had a really clear purpose and was able to draw people in.”
But as the rookie, Kristin had to take small steps to prove herself. At first, she was very cautious and unsure about what could actually be achieved, especially with respect to preparing laboratory experiments. So she prepared meticulously for every meeting. She wanted to present a clear description of my goals so that people would know what I was trying to achieve. She was open to and received a lot of input. She made detailed, conservative plans, and always followed up to make sure that those involved were clear about the objectives. After the technicians and safety personnel worked on the first experiment with her, she felt like things suddenly got more relaxed. Because of Kristin’s regular, prepared communication and her openness to feedback, everyone developed the confidence that they could achieve their objectives working together.
In taking on this rookie challenge, Kristin also had to improvise. Since the programs she was developing didn’t yet exist in any form, she had no idea where to start. So she brainstormed what she could imagine to be the most aspirational outcome with no veteran models to work from – no barriers of “this is how it’s always been done.” She also solicited feedback about what others expected for the programs. She then made plans that were reasonably achievable that had meaningful objectives. As Kristin said, “It seemed to sort of luckily work.” She received tremendous positive feedback regarding the organization and creativity. She learned that setting a lofty goal helped to inspire others.
After reflecting on her rookie experience, Kristin said, “I feel like I’ve grown in ways I didn’t know were possible. I’d also like to acknowledge that I’m working for a Multiplier for the first time in over ten years and for the second time in my entire life. I’m really grateful that he trusts me, and I couldn’t have achieved anything if he wouldn’t have given me this task and also supported my efforts. Before I had this position I was stagnating. I didn’t realize how much more there was for me to learn. I had finished my PHD and Post Doc. Now in this new position I am so invigorated.”
In thinking about what types of things keep her in Rookie Mode, Kristin shared that always trying to learn something new really helps. It forces you when you are doing something new or out of your comfort zone. It can be something really small. As a student, Kristin was always learning things, but she was more passive. She shared that now that she is expected to be coordinating and building up her own group, she tries to be more social, reaching out first to others. Though this doesn’t feel natural, she continues to remind herself that it shouldn’t be a big deal to say hello or talk to people she doesn’t know. Moving out of your comfort zone can be a small act that will help you to get into rookie mode.
See Kristin in action!