Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Summers are for Networking – Boston Biotech Edition

Summer in Boston, for many of its native residents and workers, means vacation… or at the very least bearing the city heat for an abridged work week before expatriating to the coastal oases of the Cape, Islands, and South or North Shores. For a city with such a dominant academic presence, summer also beckons a changing of the guards, as the universities empty out of their student occupants only to be replaced on the city streets by fleets of vacationing tourists seeking to capture a slice of this historic colonial town.

What summers in Boston might be less known for are the professional networking opportunities. Though, given Boston’s standing as the world’s preeminent biotech hub, there is plenty of good reason to stick around town. The warm weather and relaxing atmosphere of a summer cocktail hour make for a mix particularly well-suited to forming meaningful connections outside of your everyday work (that just might serendipitously yield benefits for your work).

To get you up to speed, a primer on the summer networking scene – focused on Boston's expansive biotech community – is provided below. The list includes annual blockbusters, as well as a few up-and-comers, plus many more monthly, or even weekly, opportunities to get “out of the building” and leverage the much touted perks of your location in the top biotech cluster:

  • Tech, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll: Jazz Edition hosted by Boston University’s Office of Technology Development – July 12th, 4-8PM @ BU Metcalf Hall. Its 7th rendition, this Boston event is a summer mainstay.
  • Boston BioBreak Happy Hour hosted by LabCentral – July 14th, 5:30-7:30PM @ LabCentral in Kendall Square.
  • Biotech Fun Run hosted by Atlas Venture – July 21st, 7AM @ Kendall Square. Every Thursday at 7am. Follow @atlasventure #RunningAtlas on Twitter to keep pace with the next group jaunt.
  • Annual Summer Mixer hosted by MassBio – July 21st, 5-7PM @ Restaurant Dante in Cambridge. Part of MassBio’s Regional Mixer series, which surveys the Commonwealth's many innovation hubs.
  • Startup Showcase 2016 hosted by MassChallenge – July 27th, 6-9PM @ Innovation & Design Building Promenade. An annual expo featuring the newest crop of startups participating in MassChallenge’s Boston Accelerator.
  • Biotech Tuesday hosted by BiotechTuesday! – August 16th, 7-10PM (Location: TBD). A monthly networking opportunity to mix with others from the local biotech scene. Stay posted by joining their mailing list. 
  • Entrepreneurs Salon hosted by Harvard Medical School Department of Biomedical Informatics – A monthly series, last held on June 16th. Sign up for their mailing list to receive announcements regarding their next event!

Recommendations for making the most of your networking:

If there’s a speaker portion of the networking event, pose a question. Easier said than done for some, of course, but there is work in networking. Open ended-questions invite larger discussions, while loaded questions can be conversation killers.

Introduce yourself with confidence: “Hi, I’m {so-and-so} and I do [XYZ] for [ABC] organization.” Bring your business cards and actually hand them out! Once you've made the connection, remember to follow through by sending a thoughtful e-mail the following day. 

It can be helpful to go with a friend, but try not to get lost in the groove of a familiar conversation when you have the opportunity to talk to people you don’t already know.

Ask questions of people. Talk less, and listen more. It’s better to allow people to ask follow-up questions of you instead of exhaustively cover all of what you do and know in one breath. Don’t hesitate to point out a possible overlap in personal or professional interests.

To some this all might seem obvious. To others this might provoke anxiety. To others still this all might seem like fluff and a waste of time. In truth, it is more or less what you make of it.

More and more biomedicine requires successful collaboration and crosslinks – so getting out there can help not only start conversations and connections, but future projects as well. And really, at the end of the day, what’s most important is you show up. That’s 90% of it – actually being there.

So while there is work in networking, it doesn’t have to feel tedious. And remember, you never know what could happen! Especially in a city as rich in innovative resources as Boston, it’s worth taking the chance.

Do you know of any networking events worth highlighting that I may have missed? Comment here! Your feedback is greatly appreciated.