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January 2013

Stepped up networking skills

Brett Favaro was always anxious attending networking events at scientific conferences. While he knew the benefits of meeting with fellow researchers and sharing ideas, walking into a room full of strangers and starting a conversation seemed daunting. That was until he enrolled in the Mitacs Step networking workshop in February 2012. As a PhD student in Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University, Brett’s research focuses on designing ecologically-friendly traps to catch wild Spot Prawns on the BC coast without affecting others species of fish. The project is looking to develop new traps which catch prawns but not rockfish, which have suffered from overfishing.

The networking workshop has helped boost his confidence in sharing his research outcomes.  “I am a social person naturally, but I lacked the formal training in how to act in a proper networking event.  Learning the little things, like carrying business cards, building a LinkedIn profile and simply how to approach a stranger and make small talk were all very beneficial, and the instructors were excellent.   Since I took the workshop, I have found that when I go to large events, I am better prepared to make meaningful connections with people in a natural way.”

Brett is a Mitacs Step veteran, having completed five workshops which have taught him a plethora of practical business skills, from how to register a prawn trap design patent to project management skills.  “It’s very rare that someone in ecology has to worry about patents or intellectual property - we don’t usually design things -  so there was no capacity within our group for understanding the patent or commercialization processes. This was very important when designing a device to be used in a commercial fishery.”

He’s looking forward to transitioning from the research world into the business world after completing his studies, a move that Mitacs Step has made much easier. “While I have received great training in statistics, how to be a scientist, and how to get jobs in academia, I found that I lacked a lot of the skills needed to transition out of academia and into a more industrial field. Mitacs Step offered a great opportunity to fill in these educational gaps.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia for their support of the STEP training internship in this story. Across Canada, the STEP training program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

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