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The value of sharing your know-how openly

In June 2010 I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Electronic Engineering and quickly embarked up on the typical academic career trajectory: I participated in conferences in the US and Asia, and took part in the race to publish papers in the best regarded academic journals in my field. Over time I achieved a respectable standing amongst my peers but I could not shake the feeling that there was more to be done to propel my career and give it a stronger aim.

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How I discovered academic papers are not the only solution to progress my career

Somewhere in the fall of 2012 I attended a workshop aimed at helping scientists to promote themselves called: “making the most of your Postdoc”. Amongst the various advices offered to us, one particularly stuck with me: “raise your profile by creating a profile”. The person leading the workshop gave the example of a fellow researcher who had created an “about me” profile page that stated his area of interest and listed some useful information such as past publications, presentations and grants he obtained.

A few days later I was wondering how I could best advertise some of my non-peer review and equally important practical knowhow such as “troubleshooting problems in order to keep my research equipment operational” or “knowing what every single wire does inside that hardware rack”. Actually I had acquired a vast amount of non-peer reviewed knowledge in order to successfully create my peer-reviewed output. The act of designing, building, re-designing, fixing and improving things had become so blasé I hardly noticed how impressive it was to the outsider until I started trying to explain what I was doing to my first PhD students. By the time my third PhD student had arrived, and I was explaining the same concepts and ideas, I realised my knowledge could well be extremely useful to others as well. And there it struck me: why not create a blog to share all those bits of knowledge with those who might find them useful? This ”Eureka!” moment led to the inception of my blog, which was inaugurated in November 2012 with my first series of knowhow posts.

Blogging allowed me to reach a whole new level of recognition among my peers

When I started http://faebianbastiman.wordpress.com/I had of course expected some interest from my fellow colleagues and PhD students. However, the positive reaction was truly a surprise to me: my visitors climbed steadily over the first few months and by mid-2013 I was getting 400 unique visitors per month. I also started to get comments on my posts as well as questions from other researchers from academia and industry.  I answered those questions dutifully and wrote a new series of articles to cover the missing content. It was not long before the first consulting requests reached my mailbox. It occurred to me that my knowledge was not only useful to others, that usefulness gave it an inherent value.

Now, not only am I able to direct a regular income from my consultation services but I am on the way of doubling my previous income as an academic researcher with consulting alone. Additionally, working with industry provides me with a pleasant break from my closeted research existence and the opportunity to meet many interesting new people who recognize me for my expertise.

Faebian Bastiman

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Open Steps

Open Steps

Open Steps is an independent blog aggregating worldwide information around Open Cultures in form of articles, videos and other resources. Its aim is to document Open Knowledge (OK) related projects and organisations either using Open Data, promoting Open Source technologies, launching Open Government initiatives, following the principles behind Open Science, supporting the release of information or practising Data Journalism. In this way, this site seeks to continue, this time virtually, the globetrotter project realised between July 2013 to July 2014 and discover further OK projects all around the world. Subscribe to our newsletter to be part of this amazing journey!

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