How to Cultivate a Diverse Skill Set, with Dr. Yaihara Fortis Santiago – Ep #28

Scientific work is inherently specific, but the skill set of an effective researcher should be diverse and varied. Do you have a broad skill set or could it use some development work? Here to explain the value of a diverse skill set and how to cultivate one is Dr. Yaihara Fortis Santiago.

Yaihara is the Manager of Postdoctoral Affairs at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Previously, she served as the director of the Science Alliance, the professional development branch of the New York Academy of Sciences. In her work at the Science Alliance, she worked closely with the career development offices at many Science Alliance partner Institutions, as well as with the student and postdoc led organizations to consolidate resources and implement new ideas for professional development programming.

Dr. Fortis obtained her bachelors’ from the University of Puerto Rico and her doctorate from Brandeis University. Her doctoral work explored the role of multisensory integration in taste processing. In 2014, she completed the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science and Technology Policy Fellowship at the National Science Foundation. In 2004, Yaihara participated in the Leadership Alliance SREIP program at Columbia University.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [1:20] Mark introduces his guest, Dr. Yaihara Fortis Santiago.
  • [3:45] Yaihara talks about her work with postdocs.
  • [6:40] What was Yaihara’s experience like as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow?
  • [10:45] Yaihara shares what it was like working with Ciencia Puerto Rico.
  • [15:40] How did Yaihara develop the Science Alliance Leadership Training (SALT) program?
  • [21:00] Why it’s helpful to stretch past your scientific identity.
  • [22:50] How did Yaihara develop as a strong communicator?
  • [26:20] Tips from Yaihara on how to develop your communication skills.
  • [28:15] Why you should broaden your skill sets.

Connect with Dr. Yaihara Fortis Santiago

Resources & People Mentioned

Start broadening your skill set as early as possible

As you look back on your education, do you think it would have been helpful to start expanding your skill set early on? Think about how much more confident you would have been if you learned how to communicate with a broad audience in your undergraduate years. Or what if you had been exposed to leadership development courses early in your graduate level work? Time and time again, when we examine efforts to teach students a wide array of skill sets it has been found to improve the educational experience.

Yaihara Fortis Santiago is spearheading valuable work in getting students and postdocs into environments where they can expand their skill sets. For Yaihara, the desire to educate and equip students comes from her experience as a graduate student and postdoc researcher. Having leaders invest in her personal development has motivated Yaihara to do the same by creating pathways of opportunity for students and postdocs.

Standing out can be a good thing

There is no denying that our culture broadcasts the message that standing out from the crowd is not a good thing. From an early age, we are trained to fit in and blend in; uniformity is the ultimate goal. While there are some exceptions to this rule, broadly speaking this message plays out on the schoolyard and in the workplace. What if standing out from the rest was seen as a good thing?

Fitting in with the culture of your industry or field of study can be valuable as it creates a shorthand lingo and provides a helpful cultural dynamic. Unfortunately, this type of uniformity can cause individuals with significant potential to go unnoticed and undeveloped. It doesn’t have to be that way, a great way you can stand out from your peers by stepping outside of your scientific identity. Take time to write or speak to audiences that are foreign to your field of study. Develop a way to let your personality shine through your presentations, a great way to stretch your skill set is to learn from someone in your professional circle who does this well.

Learn more about professional development and how to cultivate a diverse skill set by listening to Yaihara’s full conversation with Mark on this helpful episode of When Science Speaks.

Connect With Mark and When Science Speaks



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