Embracing imperfections and rising in your career and life

with Dr Graziela Miot da Silva, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

Dr Graziela Miot da Silva is a coastal geomorphologist and oceanographer whose research focuses in the surf zone, beach dynamics, sedimentology, and climate change impacts on the coast. She is one of the founding committee members of WICGE.

Hello blog world, here it is, my first time giving you a try. For some time I have thought about sharing the experiences I had when moving countries and starting new jobs. Within ten years I moved countries twice and started 3 new jobs, all while learning new cultures and a new language, learning how to be an academic, growing a family and managing the fact I had left friends and family overseas – no wonder it took me some time to finally get to write about it. This is a brief description of my own experience, so take home whatever works for you and feel free to ignore what doesn’t.

The first move overseas was probably the most dramatic, I was a young PhD student in Brazil and moved to the USA at the end of my degree. I thought I knew how to speak English, but nothing prepared me for the Louisiana accent. After 3 months of daily headaches (that was my brain trying to keep up) I finally started to venture into starting new conversations and/or being able to not make an entire fool of myself. Not much later after that, I started working as a casual lecturer at LSU. To me, there was nothing “casual” about it. It was my first time teaching in a class of my own, for 150 students and in English so I was taking it extremely seriously and was so nervous before each lecture; best crash diet ever… In the beginning I would practice each lecture in detail, even during my sleep, and still the next day say “sand shit” instead of “sand sheet” or “reflective bitch” instead of “reflective beach”. When I mistook glacier “snout” for glacier “snot” I decided that enough was enough. It would not matter how much I practiced and tried to be perfect, I was not (am not). I was becoming a carrot stick and losing more weight out of stress and something had to change, so I decided to go with the flow. From then on I decided not to practice so much anymore and relax, and then I realized that the engagement in my class increased as the students were also more relaxed (although always very polite and respectful) because there was no way they could sound sillier than their lecturer. I still made mistakes with my spelling and we all laughed together. Today I make the same mistakes on purpose (although I try not to swear in class as much as I can) to wake them up and get them relaxed and engaged.

One year later I was teaching 10 topics (classes) and to more than 800 students per year.  Today in Australia I am heavily involved in the teaching at the School of Environment at Flinders (so I guess I’m doing something right, or maybe the Gods just want to keep on having a joke with me…)

Losing the quest to reach perfection, on whatever form it takes, opened opportunities for me to be my personal best and to not be afraid to leave my comfort zone. This is especially pertinent to females beginning their careers as I believe we are constantly trying to prove ourselves in a male dominated workplace. It is important to be professional and prepared, but keep things in perspective and let you and your personality shine. In my opinion, reaching this balance is the first step for overall success.

Find out more about Graziela here.