Welcome to My Life as a Postdoc: Overeducated and Underemployed

A version of this post was originally published on the Wayne State University BEST blog.

I know a lot of really dumb PhDs.

I’m not being mean.  I include myself in this group of book-smart, determined idiots.  Many of us are creative, versatile, lifelong learners who embrace challenge and handle failure with aplomb. And a select few, with the right combination of grit, luck, and guidance, do make careers for themselves as tenure-track faculty. But the vast majority do not.  For all our knowledge, we can be dumb as doorknobs when it comes to navigating careers outside of academia.  Perhaps because we are trained to be so specialized, we lose sight of the big picture. Once we take a postdoc position, many of us languish at the bench relegated to the dreaded “perma-doc” realm without a clue about what to do next.  Yet, when we think about leaving academia, many of us become paralyzed at the thought of abandoning our native land.

Suffering is an inherent part of academic culture.  In graduate school, my friends and I would brag about working in the lab through weekends and holidays, getting by on a handful of hours of sleep a night, and using a toxic cocktail of Red Bull and coffee to push us through full course loads and lofty scientific aspirations (I didn’t sprout wings, but I did almost conjure up an ulcer). We wore our wrinkled clothes and dark under-eye circles as badges of honor. We thrived on the pressure, and if we didn’t, surely something was wrong with us.

I look back on those days with a mixture of fondness and incredulity. I felt at home surrounded by overachievers who, unlike my family and nonacademic friends, understood the addictiveness of unraveling the mysteries of the universe (or trying to, anyhow), until one day, I felt nothing but uneasiness.  The ecstasy of the hunt for truths was displaced by worry about grants, about publishing in journals with high enough impact factors, about continually generating data. Moreover, somehow despite the crazy hours I managed to find the time to get married and even have a child.  Then, for the first time I admitted to myself that I wanted something that academia couldn’t provide: more.  I wanted more time with my family, more flexibility, more fulfillment.

Now, I was left with new mysteries to unravel:  How could I possibly function on the outside? What transferable skills could I possibly have? The research enterprise requires us to spend much of our time focusing on what we don’t know and how to get inside the black box.  Is that why, as PhDs, we can’t fathom switching careers?  Do we become too fixated on discerning what we don’t know and how what we do know could possibly be applicable to “real jobs”?  I’m not sure where this academic Stockholm Syndrome came from, but it’s time for some of us to snap out of it.

Leaving academia does not equate failure.  I know that the decision to leave does not mean that I fell short as an academic.  Prior to this, I had to navigate a sea of well-intentioned colleagues who urged me to apply for tenure-track positions. I believe that my decision to leave reflects my own evolution and maturation as a PhD who believes her time and efforts are better suited for a more well-rounded life, and perhaps more importantly, who now has the courage to voice that opinion.

The next step is still murky. As I write this, I am currently contacting people for informational interviews about writing, editing, and publishing careers in the sciences and gathering together application materials for a master’s program in genetic counseling.  On my best days, I look at this approach as covering my bases, but on my worst, I am so confused about the trajectory of my life that I want to curl into a fetal position and binge-watch Netflix until I forget that I might have wasted the last 13 years of my life doing bench science.  Well, maybe “wasted” is too strong a word …Mishandled? Perhaps. But the situation is not beyond correction.

What I do know is that realizing that academia isn’t for me is sufficient reason to take action.  It should be reason enough for you to take action, too. Over the next few months, I plan to use this forum of the BEST Program blog to explore careers outside of academia and the skills necessary to get them.  Because we DO have the skills: As PhDs, we have learned how to logically attack problems to get answers; how to use failure to change tack and persevere; how to communicate effectively; and most importantly, how to find the tools to improve our lives and move on to fulfilling careers.  Let’s stop being the smartest idiots we know.

Why You Should Be More Audacious in Your Job Search

A version of this post was originally published on the Wayne State University BEST blog

As I spoke on the phone with Holly Falk-Krzesinski, Vice President of Global Academic and Research Relations at Elsevier, I lamented the paucity of jobs that fit in with my current status, an academic looking to transition into science communications part-time or remotely so that I can also focus on freelance work.  As primary caregiver of a two-year-old, taking full-time work or a long commute is difficult for me to consider right now. Holly’s response took me by surprise: “Call them and ask!” she ordered. She went on to say that just because companies don’t advertise specific jobs, or specific aspects of positions (or over what they are willing to compromise) doesn’t mean they’re not open to such ideas. “That takes some audacity,” I thought to myself, and in truth, that’s exactly what most of us need in our job search — especially women.

Why should we be bolder? And why should we put ourselves out there more often?  Well, the short answer is simply out of necessity. Because in truth, as women we may find greater difficulty snagging that dream job in the first place, given the barriers we face.

In 2012, Yale University researchers created fictitious students named Jennifer and John, whose training and achievements were identical.  Either John’s or Jennifer’s resume was sent to 127 professors of biology, chemistry, and physics at six top US universities. The professors were asked to evaluate the applicant and make a salary offer. Although Jennifer was rated as more likeable, John was viewed as more competent, and respondents said that they preferred to mentor him. Additionally, John was offered a salary of nearly $4,000 more than Jennifer. The lead author of the study, Corinne Moss-Racusin, has stressed that the participants were likely unaware of this bias. But according to the PNAS paper, they may well be “affected by enduring cultural stereotypes about women’s lack of science competence that translate into biases in evaluation and mentoring.” The study’s findings are even more striking given that the woman was perceived to be more likeable.

Failure (by both sexes) to perceive women scientists as both likeable and competent, as opposed to either/or, for example, seems to underscore a trend particular to the US.  Eileen Pollack, author of The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boys’ Club, addresses this and related topics in the book, which is a hybrid memoir of her experiences as an undergraduate physics major at Yale and a critique of science culture in academia and its treatment of women. She relays her conversation with Meg Urry, professor of physics and astronomy at her alma mater: “Urry told me that at the space telescope institute where she used to work, the women from Italy and France ‘dress very well, what Americans would call revealing. You’ll see a Frenchwoman in a short skirt and fishnets; that’s normal for them. The men in those countries seem able to keep someone’s sexual identity separate from her scientific identity. American men can’t seem to appreciate a woman as a woman and as a scientist; it’s one or the other.’ ”

As Pollack and others argue, it is the repeated exposure of women to such stereotypical views that undermines our perception of ourselves (and other women), and which likely accounts for the lack of women in STEM fields, especially at its highest levels. In her book, Pollack points out that the disparity between the sexes in the sciences is largely a cultural, and not biological, phenomenon. She refers to significant research in support of her claims, which were ignited, in part, by former Harvard president Lawrence Summers’ suggestion, in 2005, that there may be inherent differences in scientific and mathematical aptitude between boys and girls, which might account for the paucity of tenured women in these fields.

The Mathematical Society attempted to answer whether gender might play a role in perceived differences in mathematical aptitude by analyzing the performance of women in other cultures. Their 2008 study concluded that such aptitude “is due, in significant part, to changeable factors that vary with time, country and ethnic group. First and foremost, some countries identify and nurture females with very high ability in mathematics at a much higher frequency than do others.” While it isn’t unexpected that societal encouragement (or discouragement) can affect a student’s ability to perform, this has also been confirmed in a frequently cited study from researchers at the University of Michigan. Students with similar backgrounds and abilities in math were divided into two groups: one group was told that men perform better on math tests than women, and the second group was told that despite what they may have heard, there was no difference. Then both were given a test. The findings?  In the first group, men outscored women by 20 points; in the second, they outscored women by only two.

Pollack highlights the views of Londa Schiebinger, professor at Stanford and author of Has Feminism Changed Science?, who believes that women are conspicuously absent in STEM fields because girls are raised to be modest, while boys learn to exaggerate their intelligence and success. Further, girls take the boys’ limited appraisal of their skills at face value, and feel even worse about themselves. Schiebinger cites a study that found that 75% of the women who gave up science, compared with fewer than half the men, mentioned low self-esteem as their reason.

For many female scientists I talk to, encouragement is not commonly a key component of the adviser-graduate student/postdoc relationship. I wonder how many qualified women have fallen by the wayside because of this missing critical piece. Jo Handelsman, the senior author of the Jennifer/John study, believes that women need more reinforcement than men, but only because women spend their lives resisting the stereotype of the male scientist, but also because “men don’t realize they’ve been getting this subliminal encouragement all along, as well as the explicit encouragement.”

It’s not just a matter of feeling more confident in our abilities and decisions, but it is this mistrust in ourselves, this perpetual questioning of our own authenticity and our value, that in many ways, makes us complicit in all the “micro” (and not so “micro”) challenges that we endure. We are often enablers of our own unfortunate fates by failing to see that something is amiss in the first place. Fighting subliminal bias while shouldering our own versions of “imposter syndrome” may seem insurmountable, but I do not believe it is beyond correction. To a large degree, this bias is a generational symptom that should improve as the Old Guard moves on. Are things as bad as they once were? No. Could they be better? Always. We do not need to wait for (r)evolution to render this belief system obsolete.  But before we can begin to propel more women into the upper echelons of STEM fields, there must be collective acknowledgement of the ways in which girls and women are marginalized and the extent to which our own lack of self-assurance contributes.

A dangerous consequence of our consistent exposure to bias is that because it is so prevalent, it comes to seem perfectly normal, even “natural,” as we become desensitized to negative portrayals of women and questionable claims.

Probably the best example of this is the Hewlett Packard (HP) internal report cited by Sheryl Sandberg in her bestselling and oft-cited primer for professional women, Lean In.  She relays the statistic that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100% of the criteria listed. Men apply if they think they meet 60% of the requirements. That’s a striking claim that appears to underscore the pervasiveness of women’s lack of confidence. Except that there’s nothing to substantiate this claim. As I searched for the original article about this in order to link it to my post, I ran into many second-generation citations: articles quoting other articles that mentioned the finding, but none of them citing the actual study. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) cited a Forbes article; the Forbes article cited nothing. Sandberg cited the article, A business case for women, published in The McKinsey Quarterly, which simply referred to the internal research at HP. But that was it. Nowhere could I find methodology, sample size, questions asked, demographics related to the population analyzed, or motivation behind the study. Nowhere could I find anything more than a generalization that somehow made its way into mainstream.

So, how did anecdotal data become “fact”?  Perhaps writers were too busy putting their own spin on the findings: The relatively benign language used in the McKinsey Quarterly story relays a generalization about action —Women only apply for jobs if they think they meet 100% of the criteria listed. The mainstream media reports, on the other hand, circulate suppositions about the underlying motivation — Men are confident about their ability at meeting 60% of the qualifications, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list (Forbes). Such an interpretation is quite a leap; the conclusion that women’s confidence is to blame is both convenient and problematic.

Not only must we defend ourselves against the very real obstacles we encounter, now we must be wary of so-called claims that attempt to strip away any progress we have made – Trojan horse claims that on the outside appear to be worthwhile and useful tools for improvement, but upon closer inspection, are unsubstantiated and disparaging.

Entrepreneur and expert on women’s leadership Tara Mohr conducted her own study on the HP statistic, published in Harvard Business Review. She was skeptical of the conclusion that women needed to have more faith in themselves “because the times I had decided not to apply for a job because I didn’t meet all the qualifications, faith [in] myself wasn’t exactly the issue. I suspected I wasn’t alone.”  She surveyed 1,000 professional men and women in the US and asked them to identify the reasons why they didn’t apply for job postings in which they were interested. The least common reason was, “I was following the guidelines about who should apply,” which 9% of men and 15% of women cited. Similarly, relatively few — 10% of men and 12% of women — were worried that they would be unable to do the job well.  In fact, what most determined whether or not one applied was the belief that if they did not meet all of the qualifications, they would not get hired (46% men vs. 41% women).  Mohr concluded that gender may not be linked to any inherent mistrust about abilities; in fact, in most categories on her questionnaire men and women score similarly. For example, for the majority of respondents simply believing that they would not be hired was sufficient reason to not apply because either “I didn’t want to waste my time and energy” or “I didn’t want to put myself out there if I was likely to fail” (68% of men vs. 61% of women). Not surprisingly, neither sex was willing to put in the effort if the return seemed nonexistent. Now, somewhat pronounced differences between the sexes do emerge with respect to worry about failure (13% men vs. 22% women) and following guidelines (9% men vs. 15% women), with nearly double the percentage of women citing these reasons compared to men, but still the overall percentages are relatively low.  The original HP report lacked any information about what percentage of women were part of the cohort who needed to check off every qualification off on their list – one can only assume all women were universally implicated in this phenomenon. For Mohr, the important takeaway from her HBR study is not that women mistrust their own abilities, but rather that there is a misunderstanding shared by both women and men about how recruitment works: “[Applicants] didn’t see the hiring process as one where advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to framing one’s expertise could overcome not having the skills and experiences outlined in the job qualifications.”

I’ve never met Holly Falk-Krzesinski in person, yet I know from her LinkedIn profile (one of the most viewed on the entire site!) that once upon a time, she was a successful microbiologist with her own lab at Northwestern who went on to also acquire significant expertise in science research career development, scholarly communication/open access, and mentoring women in STEM disciplines. She is also founding president of the National Organization of Research Development Professionals, in addition to her current position at Elsevier. So, when a mutual contact suggested that I reach out to her, my first thought was, “She is an extraordinarily busy and successful woman – why would she want to talk to me?” But within hours of sending out my first apprehensive email, I had a phone conference scheduled, during which Holly and I spoke for over an hour as she kindly offered suggestion after suggestion about how to effectively brand myself, as well as potential careers that could fit in with my background.  A few days after our initial phone call, I sent her an email after encountering an obstacle and asked for advice. She told me to call her immediately. Holly seems to live and breathe the qualities of a caring mentor who isn’t afraid to point out your own self-sabotage. “This is the first email you ever sent me that sounded apologetic,” she said.

Education and publications will only get us so far. In our pursuit of careers outside the academy, we all must start relying on skills we may not even be aware we possess: coaching, teaching, communication, leadership, collaboration, critical thinking, and other “soft” skills that are equally crucial.  Most of us have learned how to work independently, how to take negative results and shift our focus to new research trajectories, and how to effectively market our findings and turn them into publications and funded research grants. As Mohr noted, we should prioritize “taking a creative approach to framing our expertise.”  So apply for that job that might seem like a long shot; in fact, apply to all of them. Take steps to expand your network – send emails, make phone calls, and reach out over social networking platforms such at LinkedIn and Twitter. The worst thing that may happen is you don’t get a response. The best thing that may happen is that you completely change your life for the better, and that’s nothing anyone needs to feel apologetic about.

Broadening experiences and striving to change academic culture: The BEST grant places nonacademic careers in the limelight

A version of this post was originally published on the Wayne State University BEST blog


In 2014, Science reported that only about 15% of biomedical PhD researchers secured a tenure-track position, leaving 85% to figure out how to best apply their skills and training to “alternative” career paths. The NIH’s Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training [BEST] grants are designed to help universities expose graduate students and postdocs to non-academic research-related positions in domains such as policy, biotech, teaching, or science communications.

This past October, 17 awardees of the BEST grant came together in Bethesda, Maryland for their fourth annual conference to discuss how to successfully inform a growing population of biomedical and life science graduate students and postdocs about careers beyond the traditional scope of tenure-track research.

The NIH created the BEST grant in 2012 to help recipient institutions train scientists for “nontraditional” career paths. In the subsequent year, Wayne State secured the $1.8 million, 5-year grant. “The funding is set up to provide faculty time to build a program, so after the 5 years of NIH support, hopefully the university will be committed to running this,” said Dr. Patricia Labosky, Program Leader at NIH’s Office of Strategic Coordination. These sentiments were echoed by the grant’s PI and Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Ambika Mathur, in a 2014 press release: “The long-range goal is to institutionalize these practices so that our students become the next generation of innovators and leaders in science. The extended outcome of our program is to place students in diverse careers in addition to academia, and to educate the biomedical community that such diverse careers are viewed as desirable and successful outcomes of doctoral research training.”

Each awardee tailors their BEST program to suit their doctoral population. In the Midwest, in addition to Wayne State University, the University of Chicago and Michigan State University (MSU), also received the grant. At MSU, the program is a multi-year co-curricular experience, which takes into account its location in an area that is not heavily industrialized. Similar to Wayne State’s BEST program, which has a three-phase training plan that culminates in a career exploration or internship, the University of Chicago’s myChoice program is a multi-step curriculum designed to expose participants to a variety of career paths, such as entrepreneurship, teaching, policy, industry, communication, among other areas. Another feature of MyChoice is that programming is open to participants from other institutions in the Chicago area. (A full description of each BEST awardee’s program can be found on the NIH-BEST site.)

While the mission of the BEST grant seems straightforward enough, it poses a serious challenge to scientific training culture in academic institutions which has tended to view nonacademic careers as a lesser choice and failed to provide students and postdocs with information about other viable options. As a result, many doctoral students are often confused about their possible career trajectories once they make decisions to depart from the tenure-track route.

Where did this scientific training culture come from, and how can we help transform it to benefit the academic labor force while serving the scientific research enterprise?

An Academic Pyramid Scheme?

Over 50 years ago, Clark Kerr, president of the University of California, in a speech entitled The Uses of the University (1963), explained how historical forces have shaped the role of the university in society. The university was no longer cloistered, but now “a prime instrument of national purpose,” with its job to produce “new knowledge,” which was “the most important factor in economic and social growth.” He noted the deficiencies of sprawling universities, which included large classes that made researchers too busy to teach. He also warned of the possible negative impact of federal influence.

Paula Stephan, professor of economics at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and Science Magazine’s 2012 Person of the Year, referred to the current graduate and postdoctoral training system as a “pyramid scheme” that uses young aspiring scientists as sources of cheap labor for grant-funded research, yet fails to reciprocate in the form of career opportunities. In How Economics Shapes Science, Stephan argues that federally funded academic research squashes innovation by probing “safe” questions. According to Science, “She shows why the demand for low-cost graduate students and even lower-cost postdocs is perpetual, insatiable, and out of proportion with subsequent career opportunities.”

Stephan’s work is an assessment of the culmination of those circumstances – historical, economical, and otherwise – that have brought us to this point. Despite her rather grim observations, however, there is an optimism inherent in the growing acknowledgement of the situation. As was clear at the NIH-BEST meeting this October, not only policy change but cultural change will be required to prevent the current system’s implosion, as well as to produce innovative research and to recultivate an atmosphere of reciprocity, as opposed to the lopsided relationship that most labs rely on to produce data cheaply and quickly. As Stephan notes in the Science article, now is the perfect time to discuss “the need to provide students with good information and help them explore alternatives early in their graduate career.”

The discussion is occurring and it can be quite vehement. Strategizing is underway whether or not academia is ready for it. At the NIH-BEST meeting, PhD students and postdoc delegates from BEST awardee institutions discussed their impressions of this culture and the “countercultural” influence of the BEST program in an open and frank conversation. Many praised the program for being a lifeline in an atmosphere where expressing interest in anything beyond the academic career track is still disparaged.

The NIH already acknowledges that federally funded students and postdocs should be actively engaging in career development. A clarification published in 2014 by the NIH’s Office of Management and Budget states that “this dual role is critical in order to provide Post-Docs [and graduate students] with sufficient experience and mentoring for them to successfully pursue independent careers in research and related fields.” This is a stipulation of all those supported by NIH grants. The problem is that in most training settings, little mentorship or direction outside of the traditional career trajectory that assumes a future academic position is provided.

Waiting for the “switch to flip”

At the NIH-BEST conference, a panel comprising graduate students and postdocs from the BEST awardee institutions discussed their impressions of academia, their experience with the BEST program, and what they perceived to be the biggest obstacles in eradicating the taboo associated with considering careers outside of academia. The discussion was enlightening, frank, and oscillated between palpable frustration and burgeoning hope.

One graduate student from a Midwest institution, who had previously worked in industry and who wanted a PhD to advance her career, discussed how swiftly and forcefully her perception changed when she got into graduate school: “I was blindsided … I really couldn’t understand why people weren’t giving me the information I was seeking. In some cases, the [principal investigators (PIs)] couldn’t help me. They’re trained to help people who want to go into academia.” She continued, “Our mentors, throughout our training, are PIs. Even if they want to help, they don’t think they can teach us anything more than academic careers. This is what makes us think that it’s either an academic career or not. Our mentors are paving the path for us down that one way.”

Natalie Cain, a postdoc from UC Davis, spoke of her experience as a graduate student and the hope that she would one day acquire the desire to pursue an academic career. Cain noted that, “The people above you are telling you that this is what you’re supposed to do and you’re just hoping that at some point the switch will flip and you’ll say, ‘Yes, I do want to work in a university.’ You might wait a long time for that switch to go and then when it doesn’t, you’re playing catch up.”

Waiting for the switch to flip often times leads to procrastination. Students, believing that eventually they’ll want to follow in the footsteps of their mentor, delay considering other options and pursuing career development opportunities. Ada Weinstock, a postdoc from NYU, suggested that high achievers who may be unsure of their options in the sciences go on to graduate school and postdoc positions in order to put off making a life decision for fear that it will be the wrong one. She noted that “We are so afraid of failing that we don’t want to make a decision … Give people tools to help them make a decision.” Heather Clancy, a graduate student from University of Colorado, summed up the problem perfectly: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Yet resistance to programs such as BEST is perplexing. Scientists are taught to evaluate all reasonable possibilities when designing and interpreting experiments, but they seem to possess blind spots for applying the same rationale to their own lives. Maybe herein lies the psychological crux of the problem:  PhD programs attract dynamic overachievers who are both open-minded and perfectionists, searching for validation from mentors that may never come. Couple this with the natural propensity for scientists to evaluate all information before making a decision.  The paucity of said information, as well as the robust disparagement of searching for it, creates a perpetual procrastination loop and a plume of postdocs unsure of where to funnel their energies.

Although a topic for another article, it is worth mentioning that the panel of BEST delegates at the conference was entirely female. Perhaps this was coincidental, but it may reflect the general frustration, unrest, and urgency that many women in STEM fields experience, who not only carry the burden of the under-funded and under-mentored academic system, but also the additional obstacles of unconscious bias and multitasking in the face of other life choices, such as motherhood. In fact, mothers are likely the most in need of choices outside of the traditional trajectory. Much like the persistent discouragement of pursuing careers outside of academia, women who are considering families must also guard this potentially stigmatized desire.

The Postdoc Holding Pattern

Oddly enough, the so-called “alternative path” is actually the dominant route taken by most. This is not due to a failure to “cut it,” but in most cases, a realization that one’s desired life path may be incompatible with what an academic career entails, as well as wanting to avoid the overwhelming uncertainty of securing sufficient funding and tenure in the future.

The numbers overwhelmingly corroborate the emergence of students deliberately veering away from academia. Melanie Sinche, director of education at The Jackson Laboratory and author of Next Gen PhD: A Guide to Career Paths in Sciencesurveyed just over 8,000 PhDs who graduated between 2004 and 2014: 22% were in tenure-track faculty positions and 13% in non-tenure track positions, leaving a whopping 65% in so-called “alternative” careers. Nearly 68% completed one postdoc and 27% two distinct postdocs (4% engaged in three or more). Maybe even more disconcerting, only 28% of the sample employed outside of the tenure-track felt the postdoc was required or preferred for employment in their current position (80% believed the PhD was necessary). These figures, presented at the NIH-BEST conference in October, led Ms. Sinche to conclude that a primary goal of the BEST program must be to discourage PhDs from using a postdoc position as a “holding pattern,” and to encourage them instead to engage in career decision-making earlier in their training.

Programs like BEST offer students and postdocs additional insight into other viable career options and help them to identify and cultivate transferable skills, the significance of which is often overlooked.  It also turns the abstract “someday” into something real. It forces busy scientists to take the amorphous “future plans” off of the back burner (in a lab environment where it is often difficult to plan beyond the next experiment, committee meeting, or grant deadline) and thrusts it into the forefront.

Not everyone who enters the BEST program decides against academia. One postdoc from UCSF on the conference panel had her desire to become a tenure-track faculty member confirmed while participating. She may be a member of the most important contingent of BEST, because those who decide to stay in academia will be at the forefront of the cultural change. These future professors and lab directors will not foist their own career template on future generations of young scientists, but hopefully, guide them to resources to help them make their own fulfilling life decisions.

In the meantime, current and future PhDs may find solace in Ms. Sinche’s survey, which found that the majority of PhDs are quite happy in their present positions (academic or otherwise). As I listened to the panel of inspiring and determined women at the conference, I knew that each would eventually find her own route even if she has to blaze through stagnant convention to get there.

As the program wound down, one student said, “This has been a long time coming. It is going to take a huge overhaul. The mindset will still be there in years to come, but we need programs like BEST to change the culture.”  Indeed, it will have no choice but to change, fueled by programs like BEST, and inspiring people like the ones I met at this enlightening conference.