Career Profile: Digital Science Advocacy
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Brice Russ is the Social Media Producer for Science at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Assistant Director for Yuri’s Night, an annual worldwide celebration of humanity’s past, present and future in space.
Guest blogger Anna Dausman had the pleasure of speaking with Brice. The interview is being presented in several parts.
Anna: How did you first get involved in communications?
Brice: I love space exploration. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a huge space nerd. When I was in undergrad, I joined a group at UNC called “SpaceTalk,” a chapter of SEDS, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. My junior year at UNC, I went to their annual conference (“SpaceVision”) down in Orlando, Florida – and I fell in love with space all over again. It was at a point where the Space Shuttle was winding down, but we were really starting to hear about the X PRIZE leading to organizations like Virgin Galactic, setting up the dawn of a new era in space.
The problem was, SEDS was full of aerospace engineers, computer engineers, mechanical engineers, and the occasional biologist or computer scientist. I’m a linguistics major, sitting over there like, “What the heck am I supposed to do? How can I use linguistics to help get this space program off the ground?” I started to think about how I could use my humanities skills to help spread the word about space.
At that conference, I encountered the organization Yuri’s Night. They gave a presentation there about their “World Space Party,” where they host events all around the world every year on April 12th. I thought, “I don’t have to be an engineer or a rocket scientist to contribute to this.” I talked to the co-founder on the last day of the conference, and two days later I was their blog editor and director of media relations. I jumped right into writing their blog and press releases — and I stayed as their media chair for the next 5 years. I still advise and help out with their outreach when I can, and I’m also a member of the Yuri’s Night Board of Directors.
Anna: What additional resources or materials would you recommend for people interested in communications and social media?
Brice: There are some great resources for people to teach themselves through platforms like Coursera — but the big thing, if you want to get directly involved in communications, is to jump right in and get direct experience.
Especially for social media, there’s always some group that needs help – a nonprofit, a local business, or a school program close by. There isn’t necessarily a fully developed training discipline, for social media especially, because it’s so new and is constantly evolving, though some programs are starting to get off the ground. We all have some background in social media as end-users, but from a corporate, organizational perspective, the best thing to do is volunteer to do it for someone else. Learning as you go is a lot more helpful.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to create opportunities for themselves as an X?
Always be willing to try and get your experience however you can. It’s important for your resume, but it’s even more important for you to build your skills and realize if what you’re trying out is your kind of career or not. Don’t feel like you’re pigeon-holing yourself if you’re just trying something out. For a while I was a ‘never say no to any opportunities’ kind of person. Sure, eventually you have to say no – if there’s too much going on – but especially when you’re starting out, that willingness to try out anything (if it’s not ridiculous), to meet more people who can point you down the road – that’s very valuable. Just in general, it’s valuable to be interested in new opportunities and possibilities.
Are there any additional resources you’d like to share?
Check out the “Versatile PhD” community. If you’re pursuing a PhD, especially if you’re considering a nonacademic career, you can feel very alone sometimes, but the VPhD website is full of these folks who are thinking about or have actually done the same thing. You’re not alone. You can be part of this community.
LinkedIn is great for job searching, in addition to networking. The jobs that are posted through LinkedIn’s database are more available than you’d ever think. The site’s filters are more rigorous than many job search databases, and it’s a lot easier to immediately browse your personal connections. (Full disclosure: I got my first job out of grad school, with Wolfram Research, by applying through LinkedIn.)
If you’re transitioning out of academia, it can seem like there’s only one path (one degree, one job) – but I may be living proof that there’s really no one right way to pursue a career outside of academia. There’s no reason for you not to be doing what you love simply because you haven’t checked off ‘this one thing.’
Thank you Brice for sharing your inspiring story with use here at Career Linguist! And a big thank you to guest blogger Anna Dausman for telling it!
Guest Blogger: Anna Dausman is a linguist and storyteller based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Anna earned her BA in English and Linguistics from the College of William & Mary, and is pursuing an MS in Public Administration from Fels Institute of Government. You can reach Anna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sectors profiled in the “Profiles in Linguistics” series: Corporate Social Responsibility, Healthcare Communications, Library Science, Knowledge Management, Naming, Non-Profit Communications, Program Evaluation, Publishing, Social Media Marketing,Tech, User Experience Research, Training and Facilitation and many more!
If you would like to recommend someone (including yourself) for a future profile, please contact Career Linguist.