Interview with the mentee Asya Merdalimova

Interview with the season 1 mentee Asya Merdalimova

Interviewer: Olya Vvedenskaya

Olya: What were your goals that you came into the program with?

Asya: I remember writing in my initial application about my original request to change my career path. I was kind of scared and confused about where to start and how to organize this change. Before participating in the first season of the Sci.STEPS program, I was involved in other career programs, but they were not specifically for scientists, they were "for all majors" - and, in fact, they were more oriented to IT or marketing specialists. So overall these programs were useful, but they couldn't provide specific labor market knowledge for scientists. I have a purely scientific and technical background, and it wasn't clear to me what the options were in general, what job could I have. Before the program, I had absolutely no one to turn to with these questions. In addition, it turned out that there were a lot of small questions and details along the way, and I was intimidated by them.

O: Did you have any expectations from the program and, if yes, to what extent did they coincide with reality in the end? Or did they not? 

A: My expectations from the program were that I would be helped to finally get serious about my job search: both from the technical side, "what to do, how to approach it", and from the emotional and psychological side, to overcome all the internal "scary and unclear" feelings. I hoped that I would be in an atmosphere where people would be in similar situations and it would help me. But I didn't expect that there would be educational workshops, presentations, and that I would inspire and organize something myself. It was also unexpected that I would be able to reach out to the community with small questions that came up along the way, that I would find expertise that would be useful to other participants. I happened to look at other people's resumes and give feedback, and I let them look at mine, and it was helpful to all parties. Now we have a network where we help each other, and it's great.

O: What did the program give you, if anything?

A: First, my mentor and I worked out exactly what kind of work I could do. We listed specific job position names. Secondly, we developed concrete steps on how to get there and made a strategy for job search. Before that, I thought, "Well, first I need to determine what this whole big market looks like, where I can go, and what I can apply for. In order to define it, you have to draw a big big scheme, you have to draw something else..." and I was just drowning in it all. With the mentor everything became much clearer: by the next meeting I have to make a list of 10 specific jobs I can apply for. You can draw not-too-helpful schemes for a very long time, but in the end you just have to start applying. And it turns out that these specific steps in general are not so terrible, and they can be done, and it is not difficult. And then you create hypotheses, test them, and correct something in the process. And all sorts of small issues were also solved quite easily with the help of a mentor or Sci.STEPS community. For example, one day I got sick, and I thought, "Okay, now I am sick, but what if I get sick at my new job? And the new job involves a lot of traveling, and how will I work there if I get sick?". I was panicking when I thought that, but the mentor explained it all to me and told me that these are all regular issues and they can be solved quite easily.

Or, for example, the mentor advised me to make phone calls to the recruiter. As it turned out later, not everyone does that. Such a call impressed people, and I was remembered as a proactive applicant, which played to my advantage.

O: Look, from the outside it looks like you're on your way to what you want.

A: Definitely! It was also a great bonus to find some positions thanks to the network in the program. A colleague who we participate in an English conversation club together (we still have an English club on Tuesday nights, by the way) sends me a job posting one day and says "Oh, that sounds a lot like you!". That position turned out to be from another colleague who was a mentor in the program. So, of course, the program's networking works.

For months while I was sending out these resumes, I was getting solid rejections, but after a while, invitations to interview finally started coming in. That kind of positive feedback I really missed those first few months.

At some point we transformed our English conversation club, and in it we practiced interviewing, discussed resumes and positions, took turns interviewing each other, playing recruiters. After these trainings, of course, you feel better at interviews, plus it's regular support. It is this support that is very important.

O: Are there any unexpected results from the program?

A: At some point in the program we suddenly started doing presentations. Of course now, when I make a presentation, I suffer a little bit every time, because I realize that not everything turns out as clear and beautiful as it could compared to other presentations I saw in the program. It's perfectionism, of course, but I still think that after participating in the program my presentations have become much better.

Overall, I wanted to say that I've found a very cool community of my vibe. I coined the term "my vibe community" some time ago: it's when you feel that you and people share some similar goals, values, similar pains, similar aspirations. I really appreciate this community and the fact that I have the opportunity to be in it.

About Sci.STEPS

Are you a scientist seeking to work on your education and career? Sci.STEPS scientific mentorship program offers valuable insights and guidance from experts all over the world in the form of long-term structured guidance or targeted short consultations. From refining your research skills to navigating the complex world of academia and industry, the program is designed to empower you with the knowledge and confidence needed to excel in your scientific journey.