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Building a Science Community in Kansas City

Posted By Dr. Shriram Venkatesan, Dr. Kevin Elliott, and Dr. Kaela Varberg , Friday, October 12, 2018

How does the postdoctoral experience differ between institutions nationally?  Could knowledge of national best practices be leveraged to improve the overall experience for postdocs locally in Kansas City?  Four Kansas City scientists – Drs. William Munoz, Mary Huff, Kaela Varberg and Kevin Elliott – attended the 16th Annual National Postdoctoral Association Conference in Cleveland, OH, in hopes of learning about institutional practices and policies to improve the postdoc experience.  At the conference they met with other postdocs and administrators from across the country and attended workshops that highlighted current challenges impacting postdoctoral success. They found that the primary challenges at institutions across the nation are as varied as the institutions themselves: from difficulties promoting participation in local events to implementation of institutional policies that facilitate career development and progression.

To overcome these impediments, this group of KC postdocs formed a new organization, with the help of colleagues – Drs. Joe Varberg, Amol Ranjan, and Shriram Venkatesan – which they call “KC RiBS” (Kansas City Researchers in Biomedical Science). Their goal in forming this organization is to improve communication and collaboration between research institutions across the KC metro. They also hope to support early career scientists through networking, outreach, and career development programming.  

In addition to fostering the development of a new grassroots organization for scientists in KC, discussions at the national meeting also shed light on some ideas that these KC postdocs believe could benefit the Kansas City research community at large. Outlined below are two key take-home messages:

1. The job market can feel saturated for postdoc-level applicants, especially for those seeking highly competitive academic positions. However, networking on a local and national level can ameliorate job search anxiety and increase one’s chances of landing those sparse and competitive positions. Participating in events hosted by local organizations, like BioKansas and BioNexus KC, is one step you can take to hone your networking skills and improve job prospects.

2. While Graduate Programs are highly structured with academic benchmarks and regular examiner committee meetings, postdoctoral training is largely devoid of such structures. Thus, postdocs must be more proactive in seeking out opportunities for personal growth and career development. Several free resources are available for postdocs who are interested in expanding their professional skillset, including the Individual Development Plan (IDP): http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/.

Kansas City has always been known for its BBQ ribs, and hopefully, as the research community here continues to flourish, it will also be known for its scientific RiBS! More information about KC RiBS can be found at the website, www.kcresearchers.org, where individuals can subscribe to receive monthly emailed newsletters about upcoming events.  You can also follow KC RiBS at their Twitter account @KC_RiBS where information is shared about events and other science-related activities in the KC area.

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Our Favorite Coffee Shops

Posted By Matt Falk, Friday, September 28, 2018
Coffee shops seem to be the perfect place for many things such as meeting with colleagues, warming up on a rainy day, or finally catching up on that book your boss won’t stop raving about. For the BioKansas team, it’s all about getting a break from the office and enjoying the different surroundings for a few hours. And since coffee shops are almost always on the forefront of every trend, almost all of them offer free Wi-Fi  which makes it perfect for even more situations.

Now, more than ever, the Kansas City area is teeming with coffee shops; each offering a similar but unique setting. Below we’ve compiled our list of notable coffee shops that everyone should try at least once:

Matt's

Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters
A KC classic located in the Crossroads off 18th and Locust. Thou Mayest is often one of the most popular names you’ll hear amongst coffee enthusiasts when naming their top places and it’s easy to see why. It offers a comfortable setting of classic tables with chairs as well as couches and more “homey” furniture. To add even more options they have a full patio and upstairs area with plenty of nooks and crannies for those looking to get away. They serve all of the coffee and espresso options you know and love along with fresh baked goods and even a cereal bar. And if you stick around long enough for lunch or dinner, you can go right next to Grinders next door.

Spokes Café | Cyclery
After being open for one year, Spokes is making quite the name for itself for going beyond just coffee. They offer a roomy setting at 12th & Washington in downtown KC. They’re a triple threat as they are a café, full bar (with a great happy hour I might add) and cycle shop. They serve the standard coffee and espresso beverages, but really specialize in serving hot breakfast and lunch. From biscuits and gravy to their Cubano melt, they have an excellent selection. But my personal favorite from there is their southwest breakfast burrito with chorizo and jack cheese. Make sure to ask for a cup of ranch with it to put it over the top.

Black Dog Coffeehouse
Famous in Lenexa and rated as the best coffeehouse in the state of Kansas, Black Dog has built quite the reputation and it is well-deserved. They offer a wide variety of coffee and espresso drinks all made right in front of you. Bigger than most other coffee shops, Black Dog is a popular gathering place for meetings both professional and personal. But what really sets them apart is that they are directly connected to Ibis Bakery. You can imagine the heavenly aroma right now can’t you? In addition to fresh pastries they sell a variety of freshly baked breads and other goods. And yes, there are free samples. 

Alex's

S&S Artisan Pub and Coffee House
If you have a meeting in Lawrence, check out S&S Artisan Pub and Coffeehouse. Sometimes after working in the coffee shop all day you begin craving a beer in the afternoon. And then after your beer you're feeling sleepy and could really go for a coffee. You can have this perfect infinite loop of coffee and craft beer at Shaun and Son’s coffee. They also serve food such as sandwiches, cheese plates, and avocado toast so why even bother leaving? But wait, there’s more! Why not add occasional live music to the mix? I know, you’re thinking that live music while you work sounds like a terrible idea but it’s usually soothing and conducive to work. No Metallica covers so far. They also have a nice meeting room in the back that can seat a group.

J&S Coffee
Do you have a meeting with someone who works/lives in Topeka but you work/live in Kansas City? Neither one of you is wrong, but you should meet in the middle – Lawrence! J&S is located on the west side of Lawrence right off of highway 10 and with fairly easy access to 70 so it checks multiple boxes for convenience. It also has that great mom and pop feel (because it is). Along with tables, J&S also has booths, which are super comfy, and help make meetings a little more secluded and easier to hear. They will also accept donations to the nonprofit Coffee Kids instead of tips so start your day off empowering young coffee farmers.

Dennis's

Colony KC
Colony KC is a hidden little gem just off of Route 9, north of the river. Easy to get to and with ample parking, the coffee is delicious, the atmosphere is quiet and there’s plenty of spots for meetings. They are also a small batch craft brewery and boast a large selection of pretty solid craft beers from all over, so if you’re meeting is in the afternoon, you can also opt for a cold one.

Mother Earth Coffee – Hyde Park
This is my go-to coffee shop, and you’ll find me working here more than at any other spot. There is always plenty of meeting space (with outlets) and both the coffee and the food are fantastic. Definitely try the waffle sandwich!

Starbucks at the Marriott Overland Park
There’s no better spot for meeting down south than at the Starbucks inside the Marriott, just off of College Blvd and Metcalf. You’ll never have trouble finding parking or a table for a meeting, and the location (just off of I-435) is amazingly convenient no matter where you’re coming from. In addition to the Starbucks, the Marriott bar is also located inside near the meeting space and the crowd is overwhelmingly business-centric.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite coffee shops from Manhattan, Topeka and Wichita. I’ll write up a lengthier description of these in another blog at some point, but here’s my list outside of KC:

Topeka – PT’s at College Hill
Manhattan – Radina's Bakehouse
Wichita – Reverie Coffee
Wichita – Common Grounds Coffee House

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U.S. Importers: 6 Strategies to Navigate the U.S.-China Trade Dispute Impacting the Life Science Industries

Posted By Keegan Coats, Logistics Engineer, eShipping LLC, Friday, September 14, 2018

Over the past six months, it is unlikely you’ve been able to avoid hearing terms like “trade war” or “tariff increases.” While the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations and 301 tariffs with China have dominated 2018 news cycles, what is significantly more challenging is figuring exactly how these changes are impacting (or will soon impact) your own supply chain spend.

The renegotiation of NAFTA is a developing story, and one that all U.S. companies that trade with our border neighbors should be paying close attention to. It is the trade disputes with China, however, that have caused more immediate pain for U.S. importers. The steel and aluminum proclamation earlier this year, and more recently the 301 tariffs, have caught some importers flat-footed and scrambling to understand the financial impact and what options are at their disposal to mitigate further damage as the dispute continues to escalate.


90-Day Recap of U.S.-China Tariffs:

-          Proclamation # 9705: On March 8, 2018 the U.S. announced that an additional 25% duty be added to the existing duty rate of all raw steel and aluminum imports – applicable to all countries and went into effect May 1, 2018.

-          301 Tariffs, Round 1: In response to counter tariffs by China on products like soy and pork, the U.S. implemented a 25% tariff increase on 818 HTS codes for products imported from mainland China. This represented roughly $34B in trade of mostly finished, manufactured goods and went into effect July 6, 2018.

-          301 Tariffs, Round 2: The U.S. added another 243 HTS codes to the list of Chinese products that are subjected to a 25% duty increase. This represented roughly $16B in Chinese trade and went into effect Aug 23, 2018.

-          301 Tariffs, Round 3: The largest tariff increases to date by the U.S., targeting nearly $200B in trade from China. This round was originally proposed as an additional 10% duty but has since been bumped to 25% and will be applied to roughly 6,000 HTS codes right across the board from consumer goods to electronics, textiles etc. No confirmed roll-out date yet, but the public comment period ended September 6th, clearing the path for an effective date to be announced. Likely implementation is mid-September to early October, 2018.


Knowing the financial impact of these changes is an important first step for all U.S. importers of product from mainland China. But more importantly, here are six strategies you can take now to effectively manage your product, minimize your personal risk, and make sound business decisions during uncertain times:

1.       Initiate:  Complete a high-level overview of your existing Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) database, confirming which product lines are/will be impacted, and when.  

2.       Budget:  Apply your unit costs for each product code and the annualized import volume of those products in order to forecast the full financial impact of the tariff changes. This is particularly important as you budget for Q4 2018 and 2019.

3.       Refine:  Conduct an in-depth audit of your HTS database to determine 1) the accuracy of your classifications and 2) whether or not there is legitimate cause to shift any product code(s) to a classification that reduces your duty outlay. Many companies haven’t audited their HTS database in years, despite the Customs database being adjusted regularly.  

4.       Evaluate:  Seek out alternative options to source similar products from non-impacted regions. This may mean selecting a new supplier entirely OR using your global supply chain to allow for a shift in your country of origin (within the legal parameters established by Customs).

5.       Appeal:  Consider filing a Product Exclusion request with the U.S. Trade Department to have the additional duty waived on the grounds that your product is irreparably harmed by these tariff changes. The application period for Round 2 of the 301 tariffs ends on Oct 9, 2018. 

6.       Prepare:  If the lead time allows, work with your freight forwarder to expedite an import of high value products that are listed for Round 3 tariff increases. Begin preparing your inventory levels for any subsequent waves of tariff increases that may still be announced before the end of 2018.

As a licensed freight forwarder, NVOCC, Indirect Air Carrier, and U.S. Customs Broker, our eShipping team proactively educates and advises clients on trade-related matters currently affecting their business as well as unforeseen variables that could impact future business. Should you have questions regarding how the tariff changes may impact you, contact solutions@eshipping.biz or 816.505.5040 for a commitment-free Impact Assessment Report.  

Keegan Coats, Logistics Engineer, eShipping LLC.

 

eShipping is an all-modes transportation management company and US Customs Broker based in Parkville, MO. Visit us online at www.eShipping.biz.

Tags:  Education  Supply Chain 

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Sustainability & Savings

Posted By Eric Nielsen, COO of Viridian Total Solutions, Wednesday, August 8, 2018
The common saying "you don't know what you don't know" is more true now in the age of information than ever before. The truth of the statement doesn't always result in people broadening their horizons and taking in new information. Common pitfalls in energy management and facilities maintenance is missing out on easy ways to save money. For instance, several states offer deregulated electric power or gas purchases allowing customers to purchase power on a competitive market rather than from the local utility. Other common oversights include failure to take advantage of massive utility incentives on energy efficient upgrades like lighting, HVAC, or heavy equipment.

The energy industry has even developed to the point that they offer subscription services so you can achieve all of these savings with zero outlay of capital. If there is something costing you money in energy, someone else has likely already encountered that problem and found a solution. What's wasting money in your operation?

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Leading is an Action Verb

Posted By Jeff DeWolf, Friday, August 3, 2018

A few years ago, I received a wake-up call. After a couple of decades leading people in my home and professional life, I discovered, the hard way, something that better leaders already know:

“Leading” is an action verb.

If found out that being designated a leader and actually leading are two very different things.

For decades I boasted about my "leadership skills." Those words had a permanent home on my resume since college graduation. What I meant was that I had charisma, persuasive communication abilities, and a fair amount of natural smarts... not to mention a desire to be in charge.

The truth is that real-life leadership comes down to daily behaviors. Leaders lead when they do the things that people need them to do, even if they don’t feel like it. Often, these are not glamorous, inspirational, visionary things. They are the things that ensure people have what they need to do their jobs well. Whether a senior executive or a front-line supervisor, leadership is only real when real things happen. Here are some of them:

·       Giving clear directions and expectations

·       Fixing problems when they pop up

·       Resolving conflicts when they occur

·       Getting resources when they are lacking

·       Constructively coaching people when they need it

·       Asking for help when you don't know something

·       Providing opportunities for people to grow

·       Giving credit to others liberally

·       Leading by example

·       Delegating stuff and empowering when possible

·       Helping manage change when it comes

·       Treating people with respect and dignity

·       Being consistent and frequent with praise and positivity

·       Hiring great people whenever you get the chance

In short, leadership without action is not leadership at all. It's just taking up space on an organizational chart. It’s like taking a job as a dog-walker, and never taking the dog for a walk.

The organization I lead, Wolf Prairie, helps organizations equip leaders to really lead. We partner with clients to help them set expectations and create accountability for tangible, daily, real-life leadership practices. Our program is a recipe for real change because it combines the ingredients of adult-learning, neuroscience, and common sense.

Our approach is to present small, digestible, concepts and skills of leadership over time, allowing them to soak in and be applied. First, we focus on capturing the “heart” by sharing why each element is so vital. Then we seek to inform the “head” by distilling down a few key tips and take-aways. Finally, we work to equip the “hands” by providing opportunities to practice, discuss, role-play and receive coaching.

Ultimately, our mission is to help clients create healthy organizational culture and effectiveness by equipping leaders at all levels to really lead.

Does this resonate with you? Have you seen the impacts of ineffective leadership on your culture and employee satisfaction? If so, are you investing in your leaders? Are you holding them accountable to do the things of leadership? Are you doing them yourself? If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we all have room to grow in these areas. Leading others is hard, and it takes hard work. But when it happens, results will follow. Leading is an action verb.

 

Jeffrey J. DeWolf, MOD is president and founder of Wolf Prairie. He’s a frequent speaker, coach, and the creator/facilitator of the Real-Life Leadership™ program. He can be reached at jdewolf@wolfprairie.com or 913-219-5353.

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Kansas BioGENEius Winner Luann Jung on her project inspiration, scientific trends and future career plans

Posted By Alex Erwin, Thursday, May 24, 2018

Luann Jung is the winner of the 2018 Kansas BioGENEius Challenge, the premier competition for regional high school students conducting research in biotechnology. Luann will advance to Boston, MA, to compete against other peers in the International BioGENEius Challenge at the BIO International Convention on June 4 – 7, 2018. Her research project, Genomic Indicators for Type II Diabetes, describes novel computational methods that result in faster and more accurate analysis of genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes. Luann just graduated from Manhattan High School and is attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall where she plans to study computer and data science.

 

What was the inspiration for your current project?
When I was eight years old, my grandmother passed away after a stroke left the right side of her body paralyzed. The underlying contributor? Type 2 diabetes. Since then, I’d always wondered if there was more that could’ve been done to mitigate the situation. Worldwide, 3.4 million people die due to diabetes annually. Given that type 2 diabetes results from both environmental and genetic factors, early indicators of diabetes development can help individuals implement preventative measures. With this research, I aimed to try to tackle type 2 diabetes by understanding its environmental and genetic sources to improve early diabetes diagnosis and prediction.

 The BIO Convention is one of the largest scientifically focused gatherings in the world with tons of industry professionals. Are there any specific types/companies you’re hoping to speak with?
The amazing diversity of industry professionals at the BIO Convention is so exciting. I look forward to speaking with a variety of bioinformatics companies. In addition, I also want to gain exposure to other types of companies so that I can better understand the different areas of focus in the industry today. I hope to gain insight into how these all of companies are combining technology with bio fields to make breakthroughs.

 What current scientific trends do you find fascinating?
I find scientific trends regarding artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data immensely interesting. Technology giants such as Google, Amazon, and Twitter encompass vast amounts of user-generated data (posts, reviews, websites, etc), while organizations like the NIH possess innumerable datasets of medical data. There are so many opportunities to take advantage of these data for the improvement of society. From the improvement of convolutional deep neural networks to the development of hardware and software that augment the human brain itself, scientific research is accelerating in ways that are immeasurably exciting. I’m eager to explore and contribute to such trends.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
In the future, I envision myself being an expert in the multidisciplinary fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning. These topics, when tied with other areas, have the potential to revolutionize everyday usage of data, the internet, and software. Currently, our society generates so much data every day, but the methods to analyze this data for the common good are not easily accessible to the public. My goal is to create machine learning and data mining tools that both customers and businesses can use. By combining software systems knowledge and training in big data analysis, I aim to develop a platform for these tools that will make them readily available to the public. In doing so, I hope to make an impact in the technological world while pursuing topics that I am passionate about.

The Kansas BioGENEius Challenge is administered by BioKansas and sponsored this year by KCALSI, MilliporeSigma, Merck Animal Health, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, KCAS, Missouri Valley PDA, Arvest Bank, and Aratana Therapeutics.

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The 2018 BIO Fly In - Amplifying the Voice of Bioscience in DC

Posted By BioKansas, Thursday, May 17, 2018

Last month, a small delegation of BioKansas members made their way to Washington DC for the 2018 BIO Fly In.  The group was diverse, with representatives from higher education, animal health, agribusiness, industrial biotechnology and human pharmaceuticals, and was fortunate enough to get face time with four of the six Kansas legislators, including Representatives Estes, Marshall and Yoder and Senator Roberts.  We hit on diverse topics driven by the interests of our members, including:

  • Support of Senate bill S. 2615, “Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act of 2018”, and development of Federal funding mechanisms for One Health Research & Initiatives. 
  • Biobanking of Avian Flu vaccines, to allow for rapid response in the event of another major outbreak
  • Reduction of redundant, overlapping and burdensome regulations at organizations such as the FDA, EPA and USDA
  • The need to continue to develop a properly skilled workforce in Kansas including in rural areas
  • The need to continue to highlight the impact of regional assets such as the Animal Health Corridor, the University of Kansas Cancer Center and the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) while also embracing areas of opportunity such as digital health & pet food
  • Support for the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act

We asked one of the attendees, Jody Donohue, Communications Manager at Ceva Animal Health, to write up a short summary of her first Fly In experience.  Read below to get her perspective, and consider joining us in DC for next year’s Fly in.  Help us amplify the voice of our industry!

Dennis Ridenour
President & CEO, BioKansas



Whether you’re a political junkie who never misses a chance to spend a day in D.C. or a professional or entrepreneur with the desire to be more politically active, the BIO FlyIn is a great opportunity to learn about and talk policy.

The annual BIO Fly In was held on April 17th and 18th this year. BIO, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, organizes the event which drew nearly 300 individuals from across the U.S. Even if you are a full-time government affairs professional, there is no way to stay informed about all of the legislation which could positively or negatively affect human, animal or plant health.  The team at BIO did a great job of highlighting about twenty initiatives important for attendees to be aware of and take time to discuss during our appointments. 

From new proposals around the protection of intellectual property to discussions around biofuels and from the need to modernize agencies to funding for public health initiatives, the discussions were diverse but relevant and positive.  Many of the topics warrant ongoing conversation between elected officials and their constituents. 

One highlight of the day was to present Senator Pat Roberts with an award for his support of Bioscience. Another was the opportunity to discuss a proposal to elevate discussions around One Health initiatives at the federal level. 

We are very fortunate to have such an engaged congressional delegation.  Many of them were able to take time out of their busy day to discuss bills working their way through Congress and what they could do to support a positive regulatory and business climate.

Besides the opportunity to discuss issues and opportunities, the chance to network with other companies and professionals in this space is outstanding. Our group had the opportunity to spend time with MOBIO the Missouri Biotechnology Association.

This was my first BIO Fly In, but it won’t be my last.

Jody Donohue
Communications Manager, Ceva Animal Health

Tags:  Advocacy  Animal Health  BIO  Digital Health  Education  Entrepreneurship  One Health  Workforce Development 

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Kansas a Global Leader in Pet Food?

Posted By Matt Falk, Thursday, May 3, 2018

Sometimes you don’t appreciate what’s in your own backyard.

It’s not that pet food is new to Kansas but the recognition of the industry and the potential for growth is.   Kansas is home to many pet food manufactures but that is only part of the narrative.  Globally recognized ingredient suppliers are from Kansas.   And the equipment that makes much of the pet food?  Made in Kansas.  How about equipment that moves raw ingredients throughout the production facility?  Made in Kansas.   Equipment that moves pet food for coating and drying?  Yep, made in Kansas.   And that dryer for the pet food?  Made in Kansas.  Production sensors and electronic controls?  Made in Kansas.  What about new pet food products?  Research and development happens every day in Kansas.  When one attends the world’s largest pet food conference, PetFood Forum, in Kansas City each spring it does not take long to realize: Yep, Kansas.

Organizations such as BioKansas, KCADC/Animal Health Corridor, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Wheat, Kansas Corn, and Kansas State University all are now part of the effort to grow the pet food industry in Kansas.  Dr. Greg Aldrich, a globally recognized leader in pet food, is building a pet food program as Kansas State University that includes undergraduate, graduate and short-course training.  Ingredients, production systems, final product and world class talent all flow from Kansas.

Kansas recognizes its contribution to animal health goes beyond pharmaceuticals and includes a global leadership position in pet food.  As the global middle class grows, so does the demand for safe, innovative pet food products.  Strengthening our leadership position to capitalize on the opportunity that lies before us requires vision, partnerships and collaboration.  Is Kansas a global leader in pet food?  Yep.  Are we done yet?  Nope.

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Ghost Story

Posted By Matt Falk, Friday, March 23, 2018
Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2018

Earlier this week, we were treated to a lunch & learn presentation form Tom Mulligan from the Coffman Group. Tom is a Sandler Certified Instructor and brings years of experience to his programs. Tom was kind enough to introduce the DISC Assessment tool to our membership. Here is a blog post he wrote in 2015 about how Extended DISC Profiling helps us better understand ourselves and those around us titled "Ghost Story". 

When two people meet for the first time, we ask, “How are you?” Do we really want to know?

It’s not that we are un-empathetic to the plight of others. But when we meet someone we are simply trying to build a working communication structure.  We are hard wired to do so and practice this with varying degrees of success regularly.   Although some people find meeting new people intimidating, we know that if we are just polite and go by this script, all will be well.

There is reason to believe this.  We are all gifted with an area of the brain called the Mirror Neuron System. This structure can be found in four separate regions of the brain (UCLA Research 2005).  It functions by allowing us to recognize, empathize and adjust our behavior. We subconsciously open ourselves to relationships with the behavior of other people.  We determine how we will communicate with methods as simple as determining a common language and as complex as reading emotions and motivations.

So in not going beyond “how are you”, it’s possible, even probable, that during this brief exchange, we may be seeing someone who isn’t there at all.

Are you real?

As in any unconscious behavior, we are not in full conscious control.  We make judgments about how people dress, what their accent implies, their rate of speech, facial expressions and what opinions or observations they are quick to reveal.  We are constantly processing our comfort with them.  When we fail to establish an easy communication structure with someone, it makes us uncomfortable.  So we blame them.  After all, we are exactly the kind of person we like to meet.  Why can’t they see that?

Those of us familiar with Extended DISC Profiling do far better in establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships since we are using a reliable system based on behavior.  Some call this personality profiling, but what is a personality?  Arguably, it is a predictable set of responses to stimuli.  In other words, it is not who we are but how we behave.  As we grow in familiarity with people, how we behave becomes predictable.  When we are having a bad day and not behaving in familiar ways, people tell us we are not acting like ourselves.  We are not being real.

Or is it me?

We see people through the lenses of our own style.  When we meet someone who is like us, we are comfortable.  Sometimes to the point where we think we have known them all of our lives.  When we meet people who are different than ourselves, we have to use our energy to be comfortable with them.  We have to consciously do the job of the Mirror Neuron System. We don’t just try to walk in their shoes, we try their shoes on.  We also observe and judge how they try us on.  If it goes well, we assign them trust whether they deserve it or not.  We see only what we want to see and disregard the rest.

True self-awareness is not just in knowing how we behave but recognizing that there are things we don’t see.  When we have an uncomfortable communication with some one who behaves differently than us we leap to judgment.  We may see them as flippant, demanding, wishy-washy, boring or any of an infinite number of things that are simply constructs of our own style.  We see a ghost who is not there.

And so does the ghost.  We are not just reading others, but being read, we are not the only ones making judgments, but being judged.  And try as we might, the Mirror Neuron System of both parties makes it impossible to get away with it.

Beyond Profiling

Many people think Extended DISC Profiling is all about how people appear to each other based on behavior.  It goes beyond that.  Extended DISC Profiling is a powerful interpersonal and business tool.  It gives us a framework to predict how others will behave and how to adjust our styles to make them comfortable.  It helps us to see what is real and what is imagined.

We end where we begin.  How are you?  Are you real or a ghost?

Let me know.

For more information on Tom and the Coffman Group, check out their webpage or contact Tom at tom@coffmangroup.com

Tags:  business development  sales 

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When it comes to finding young STEMM talent, KC companies yearn for experiential learning

Posted By Alex Erwin, Friday, March 2, 2018

Kansas City has the potential to be in the top 10 cities of peer metros by 2025 as measured by GDP, household income and number of quality jobs (KC Rising). A threat to this goal is a lack of available talent, cited by companies aspiring to grow here. To address this problem, The University of Kansas and AstrumU hosted a College and Career Pathways Summit on the Edwards Campus on February 26th, where experienced panelists discussed the challenges of finding and curating talent in our region.


The panel was moderated by KU Edwards Vice Chancellor David Cook and included Sandy Price, a former Sprint Executive and current Co-Chair of KC Rising who brought a comprehensive understanding of workforce data for our region, Leo Morton, COO of DeBruce Companies and former UMKC Chancellor who delivered unique insights from the transect of industry and academia, Laura Evans, Senior Director of Human Capital and Talent Development at Cerner who brought a comprehensive understanding of scalability, and Chris Gould, the Director of Global Talent Acquisition at Black & Veatch who has extensive experience working with universities to find talent for a company with work all around the globe.


The word of the day seemed to be adaptability, with each panelist citing this trait as the most sought-after in employees. This is for multiple reasons:

  1. Career landscapes and roles are changing quickly

  2. Each challenge at work is often unique and requires measuring the correct response for the situation

  3. Teamwork is essential and depends on the ability to incorporate others’ perspectives


The problem lies in quantifying adaptability. While it’s easy to measure whether someone has basic programming knowledge, it’s much harder to provide evidence that they are capable of working in ambiguous and unstructured environments. This challenge is exacerbated when companies are looking to hire young talent coming out of the university, where the clearest indicator, past work experience, often doesn’t exist. Instead, they’re left with looking for other credentials for competency which include volunteer work, internships, independent projects, and part-time jobs.


There was also strong messaging on how not only is adaptability sought after, but how the lack of it can be detrimental. Laura Evans cautioned against students who haven’t experienced failure or those who have been in an environment so structured that they’ve never faced ambiguity. The concern is that if they haven’t faced ambiguity, then they don’t know their own self-efficacy. They also likely lack self-awareness on how to continue to improve and develop, another highly sought-after quality in employees. Sandy Price echoed these concerns, saying that she’s seen students fail not from a lack of academic training, but from a lack of situational experience.


With the exception of a few exemplar programs, experiential learning isn’t broadly built into our education system (at any level), yet. This gap between rote learning and hands-on experience is not only a barrier to our economic growth but it’s also a disservice to young people who are promised that a degree will make them employable, yet still often find that they come out either unprepared for the workforce or unable to convince employers that they are prepared.


Fortunately, there are efforts underway to change this. In the STEMM space, the KU Biotech Career Accelerator, Edwards Biotech Program, KCKCC Biomanufacturing course, Experiential Engineering Building at Wichita State, an Applied Genomics and Biotechnology minor offered through Kansas State and a Summer Scholars Program at the Beef Cattle Institute, while not a comprehensive list, are some initiatives that either offer or connect students with experiential learning opportunities. BioKansas is also trying to increase visibility and awareness of internship and other experiential opportunities in the life science and biotech space through the BioKansas Internship Portal.


Using AI to address the problem

AstrumU is hoping to solve some of these problems by finding new indicators for these desirable traits that are currently difficult to measure at the university level, as discussed by Adam Wray, CEO. Ultimately, they hope to use machine learning to take student credentials and predict long-term employee success in a specific company or role. Achieving this goal will require massive amounts of data from both industry employees and higher education, and ultimately, more transparency in talent selection processes. AstrumU also aspires to use their technology to make hiring more inclusive. Instead of using luck-based and sometimes somewhat arbitrary selection processes, the software will hopefully eliminate some implicit biases in the applicant selection process by using data and supported outcomes.


On talent Acquisition/Retention

One of the points mentioned by Sandy Price was that the Kansas City area is net migration negative, meaning more people leave than move into the area, putting further stress on our already tight applicant pool.


The panelists had a unified message on the need for collaboration to solve this problem. By showing a potential job candidate diverse employment opportunities within your company and in the region as a whole (and yes, that might require sharing opportunities that exist at competitors) their associated risk with moving to the area will lessen, or for the local folks, may dissuade them from migrating out. Leo Morton also made a really good point - the people that you’re likely seeking are those who have lives outside of work, so the broader Kansas City environment needs to be one where they can thrive.


As Laura Evans noted, a company will never outperform its community. Along those lines, Chris Gould added that even if a talented applicant goes to a competitor, that’s better than them leaving the area for good. Not only might they come back to work for you at some point later in their career, but they could also become a client. The presence of talent in the region will also make the area more appealing for others considering moving here.


How to have an individual Impact

One of the best final comments of the panel came from Sandy Price, who encouraged individual action concurrently within the broader efforts the community hoped to achieve. She reminded everyone that each attendee could impact the talent pipeline in our region through mentoring, sponsoring and advocating for others.


In addition to plugging members into these kinds of mentorship opportunities in the life science community, BioKansas has started ramping up efforts that connect industry and educators in ways that advance current and future talent for our region. If you’re interested in helping with these initiatives, consider getting involved in the BioKansas Talent Development & STEMM Education Committee. Contact Alex Erwin (alex@biokansas.org) for details.  


Tags:  Connect  Education  Training  Workforce Development 

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