Come Out at Work: As the Child Within [video]

Don’t scoff! We all were children once, so we hold within us that young kid, or inner child, who wonders about the big world, plays readily, and is excited to figure out what makes things work.

The problem is, so many of us bury that kid deep inside, as if she has no relevance to the adult world in which we live.

Except Eric Schadt, pioneering biologist and chair of the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Listen to how he describes his work environment, starting at about 0:45.

Did you catch that? He describes where he works as a “sandbox.” More specifically, in discussing why he made the move to Mount Sinai, he states:

The simplicity of Mount Sinai is you have a CEO who runs both the hospital and the medical center, and sort of reduce bureaucracy, embed yourself in all of that, and see if in that kind of sandbox you could revolutionize the way this kind of information could impact decision making in the clinic.

Metaphorically speaking, this superstar scientist sees himself as playing in a sandbox during the workday. It suggests he’s exploring, working with his hands, collaborating with others, and having a fun time all the while. As a bonus, playtime is leading him to make all kinds of breakthroughs.

So, do you play at work? If no, how can you find the sandbox in your workplace?

Image via

Become an Expert in Your Field

Geneticist Eric Schadt is the quintessential expert. He’s redirecting the practice of biology from a reductionist model to a systems model, which means he knows that finding the cure to a disease is more likely to be done by studying whole systems of genes rather than individual genes. And as if blazing a trail through this new frontier weren’t enough, the way he demonstrates all his expertise is really remarkable.

Dr. Schadt works to make all of his research findings freely accessible to everybody, including profit-seeking drug companies.  He realizes that the information he shares reflects the information he actually knows, which is what comprises his expertise, natch.

To this end, he co-founded Sage Bionetworks, a non-profit biomedical research firm with a mission “to create an open access, integrative bionetwork evolved by contributor scientists working to eliminate human disease.” Not only is he making his own knowledge available, he’s creating a repository for all biologists to make their knowledge accessible, too. Radical!

Just how much intellectual wealth does he share? Alot, all over the Web. Is there a better place to broadcast yourself in 2011? To Schadt, the Chief Scientific Officer of Pacific Biosciences, the answer appears to be “no.” Take a look at:

We glean so much by studying this guru’s example.  Mainly, to be open about the information you have is to show the scope of your expertise. The more information you share, the more expertise you have. So what about you? Read more

Eric Schadt Commits Violence at Work (And So Do You)

Contrary to his teddy bear looks, pioneering scientist Eric Schadt (pronounced “shot”) engages in battle every day at work. In a laudatory feature in Esquire, Schadt relates how the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn influenced the way he thinks about violence in his career.

Initially published in 1962, Kuhn coined the term “paradigm shift,” which captures the essence of Dr. Schadt’s current endeavors. From Esquire:

According to Kuhn, scientific progress is not a peaceful process, characterized by the gradual accumulation of knowledge. Rather, it’s a nearly political one, characterized by acts of intellectual violence. A paradigm is like a king — it’s the body of knowledge and practice that coheres around a theory or a discovery, and in periods of stability everybody serves it by practicing what Kuhn calls “normal science.” Eventually, though, it becomes insufficient to its own ends and enters a period of crisis, during which it comes under attack by those practicing “extraordinary science.” At last, the king is overthrown, and that’s a paradigm shift.

Schadt, who practices extraordinary science as the Chief Scientific Officer at Pacific Biosciences, says, “I remember the exact month, almost the exact day I started reading that. It was when I first started graduate school in 1993.”

The article continues:

A paradigm shift requires not only scientists practicing extraordinary science; it requires “attackers” and “persuaders” willing to declaim the end of the old order and announce the dawn of the new. Schadt has turned out to be both. He’s very aware that biology is in the middle of a paradigm shift and very aware of his role in both the murder of molecular biology — the king is dead! — and the establishment of its successor. He’s even produced a documentary film entitled The New Biology, which heralds the arrival of a biology that’s “more like physics” and “more quantitative in nature” than biology has ever been.

Did you catch that? To recap: 1. The discipline of biology–the study of life itself–is being decimated and rebuilt as we speak. And 2. Eric Schadt is forging the path to the New Biology. Indeed his star is rising.

So the genomics guru commits all kinds of violence at work. And so do you. Read more

Wearing Shorts to Your White-Collar Job Can Advance Your Career

Eric Schadt at work in uniform.
© Andy Reynolds

Despite what Columbia Business School students are hearing, dressing down at work can be a boon to your career. In the words of Eric Schadt, former executive scientific director of research genetics for Rosetta Inpharmatics:

“What I have to do every day is push super hard on the thinking front and on the doing front,” he says. “It’s much easier to push and think hard if you don’t have to think about other things that don’t matter so much.”

It prompts us to evaluate how we spend our energy in preparation for our work day, and how comfort in the workplace relates to hard work, or in Schadt’s case, super hard work.

How comfortable is he on the job? According to The Scientist he owns about 30 identical white polo shirts and 10 pairs of identical khaki shorts, and wears this combination with white socks and Birkenstocks. Read the full story here.

Wearing shorts to work has indeed been lucrative for Schadt.  The organization he helped build was sold to Merck for $620M in 2001.

Columbia students would be impressed.

Shout-out to our friend Piro who initially told us about his friend Eric.

How do you get in gear for your workday?