Professional Development

Networking for the shy and awkward: Dr. Lino Coria, electrical engineering grad, on his alt-ac career path

June 18, 2014
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This article is part of a series exploring professional paths for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that make use of or leverage academic training but are not limited to traditional faculty positions (#alt-ac).

Last week I watched a group of graduate students nervously hovering near one of the keynotes during the post-event networking session, no one quite sure how to make the move in to introduce themselves. I had to admire them: I was too afraid of looking afraid to even join the circle.

When LinkedIn first arrived, I took one look at its slick interface and figured it was secretly planning to advertise timeshares in Kelowna and ignored it for the next 7 years.

Networking too often feels awkward or fake or just plain scary.  But then, I haven’t been doing it Lino’s way.  

Dr. Lino Coria completed a PhD in Electrical Engineering at UBC in 2008. Originally from Mexico, Lino was always passionate about education and throughout his program planned to go back to his home country to teach in a post-secondary environment.

“When I finished my PhD at UBC I got a position at ITESO University in Guadalajara. My wife got a job working as a city planner. We both had the jobs of our dreams. Then we had our first child and suddenly our priorities changed. We were concerned about security and the country was becoming very violent at that time. We wanted to come back to Canada.”

Landing a faculty position in a country with a significantly larger number of PhD graduates in the job market proved to be more difficult. After a few close but unsuccessful selection processes, Lino decided to switch tracks and find work in industry instead.

“I had never prepared for that. Employers would see my background and ask why I want to work in industry. I couldn’t say to them that it was actually my plan B.”

During his doctorial training program, Lino had attended international conferences however had been very shy about following up with people he had met. As well, he had done very little networking in Canada. His list of potential advocates was slim and he was suddenly paying the price. Luckily for him, he had a few magic tricks up his sleeve.

“I was always interested in YouTube. I made a video during my PhD of an optical illusion just for fun, and it went viral. I then started making more videos in Spanish about many topics including my life in Canada. People liked them and started asking me questions.”

Lino’s viral video, criticizing pseudoscience via an optical illusion, has 9,350,785 hits to date.

When he did finally get a call back (thanks to a contact he’d made during his doctoral program) his video making past made all the difference.

“In my current work with Broadband TV I work as a research engineer and use YouTube to develop solutions for content creators.  I know the online video platform inside and out as a user and I am constantly thinking of the creators’ needs.” Lino established his credibility in a skill that would become essential in his future role by building up a massive viewer network.  And all by doing something he loved.

Since then, Lino has also used those resources to launch an educational services company, Scribble Consulting.

Approaching strangers may never get any easier, however if there is one thing Lino’s experience has shown me, it's that networking doesn't have to be painful. Heck, it can even be fun.

- Jackie Amsden, APEX Certificate coordinator, Office of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Fellows

Interested in hearing Lino and others like him share their experiences on landing a position outside of academia? Email jamsden@sfu.ca to be put on a notification list for our fall 2014 Alternate-Academic Career Panel.

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