STEMM Profile: Dr Krystina Mossop | Writer, editor, and academic consultant | Mind Your Way | Bellarine Peninsula | Victoria

Dr Krystina Mossop [Image: Mind Your Way]

“It’s okay, and normal, to make mistakes. No, really: you don’t have to get it right first go. And ask for help!”

Inspired by the potential of a more equitable STEAMM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths, medicine) environments, Dr Krys Mossop is a communications consultant with interests in science, gender, race, intersectionality, and academia. With a longstanding affinity for all things aquatic, her Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree saw her examining the intricate mating systems of sex-role reversed Zeus bugs in the streams of tropical Queensland. At Monash University, Krys’s PhD research investigated the ecology and evolution of the desert goby, a small desert fish grappling with the challenges of survival in the stunning but highly dynamic landscapes of the Kati-Thanda–Lake Eyre region.

Now working in research translation at Mind Your Way, a progressive communications and coaching consultancy active in the academic sector, Krys continues to draw heavily from her scientific background. She applies a strategic, analytical lens to craft compelling texts and presentations with academics and other professionals needing to better communicate their work to the world; Krys also mentors young entrepreneurs at Bawurra Foundation, an initiative working to preserve Indigenous culture and knowledge and drive greater equity in learning opportunities.

Krys has recently moved locations from Melbourne to Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula – sea breezes and quieter pace highly recommended – and welcomes connections with other local Women in STEAMM.

What do you love most about your professional role in STEMM?

I’ll restrict myself two things here – but it could be a long list!

First, the chance to translate amazing research and amazing ideas into a piece of precise, targeted communication that convinces. I do this currently with text ranging from grant applications to value propositions to educational material.

This translational work make use of those sometimes-abstract skills: critical thinking, lateral thinking, creativity, analysis. What is the strategy and political context here? What impact are we wanting to create? Is the argument logically constructed and evidenced? It’s demanding, but it’s also a privilege to handle people’s research content, and really satisfying.

Second, working with incredible people behind the research. There are so many personalities, and so many individual stories behind why people got into their line of work – whether it is examining the finely branching structures of the lung or uncovering wondrous new applications of big data. I get to play a small part in prompting new thinking, asking people to clarify and explain what others will not “get”, and acting as an advocate – especially for the kinds of challenges that can leave women, in particular, feeling lonely or disillusioned. So there’s a coaching element to my work that I never would have envisioned while studying science in school or even later, but is incredibly fulfilling.

How do you balance the different activities and tasks you need to perform?

Accepting that there are bigger goals and smaller ones – and sometimes, it’s okay to give yourself permission to let go of smaller tasks, or those that ultimately will not matter as much. Saying “no”, or readjusting timelines, so that you deprioritise the “No, this won’t matter in 6 months’ time” tasks to ensure you care for the big-picture things – that may extend to outside of work. An important distinction for the perfectionists among us!

Also, project management software can transform your stress levels and headspace. I’ve found it amazing for internal teamwork and communication.

How do you cope with self-doubt? How do you cope with imposter syndrome?

Ironically, it was incredibly powerful for me to realise, really realise, that my outcomes and successes are not determined only by my own ability and hard work. An important bit of context: the real but subtle – slippery, even – factors that are outside of our control. It might be unequal power dynamics, a culture that does not value dialogue, or a workplace in which you don’t feel like you belong. (For me, that’s included: “Where are the other women? Where are the other brown women?)

It can be illuminating to consider some of the research on how gender (and intersectional gender, in particular) influences our experiences. Here, I would really point to highly digestible resources, such as the Women at Work podcast series, to engage without necessarily diving into extensive reading. (For instance, do you get specific, actionable feedback at work?)

Of course, that does not replace the need for appropriate self-reflection, growth, and improvement. But for those of us inclined to take more responsibility rather than less, and when working with others who aren’t affected by the invisible barriers that can operate for women, it’s confidence building to have a way to externalise the niggling experiences that can really add up to affect our well-being, contributions, and ability to thrive (or not).

I’ve also begun keeping a folder, which can be paper or electronic, to capture my achievements. It can be as simple as a really nice piece of feedback from a colleague, supervisor, or student; a successful funding outcome; or even a finished project that demonstrates new growth or skill. This can also be a good way to evidence check your thoughts when your confidence gets shaky. Can I go for that promotion? Could I put my hand up for that project or role – or ask someone else if they would support me to do so?

What are your three key pieces of advice to your younger self?

  1. It’s okay, and normal, to make mistakes. No, really: you don’t have to get it right first go. And ask for help!
  2. Pause before reacting. Get comfortable with quietness. It’s amazing what can emerge when you don’t rush to judge yourself; or if you slow down a conversation.
  3. Know that you can do this, and that you are worthy of investment.

What advice would you give early career researchers/professionals – especially women – in STEMM today?

Identify and own your own, unique pathway: the amazing set of interests, motivations, skills, vision, and thinking that no one else will replicate. It’s a bit like the long-game version of your own elevator pitch. (I wish I had clued on to this earlier!) Are there key research areas that light your fire? Is there a specific set of problems in the world that are core to impacts you want to create? Or is it something different: the achievements possible of a great, beautifully constructed team; or a powerfully enabling leader. And what are you great at, or could be great at?

Give yourself permission to reflect on such questions, because the ability to articulate your own narrative – no caveats, no apologies – is what can help you to know your worth, resist the urge to second guess yourself or contort yourself to fit some dominant norm, write grant applications that say “invest in me”, identify connections and allies across the sector, and bolster your ability to say “no” and “yes” at the right times.

A few tools to help: dedicating time for self-reflection, or working with a coach or therapist, can be liberating. And if you don’t find supportive, relatable figures in your immediate environment, then know that there are other ways to find people who “get it”. For me, deciding to actively engage with Twitter was invaluable. It suddenly meant being surrounded by this chorus of other voices – who sound and look different, lead diverse lives, and come from various disciplines and locations.

Twitter: @KrysMossop

LinkedIn: Krystina Mossop

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