Ryan Freedman: Learning the Language to Lead

Author: Ryan Freedman
Fellow Type: California Sea Grant State Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2014
Host Agency: Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

Along with my Sea Grant fellowship this year, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) also supported a COAST research intern from California State University, Channel Islands. Since the internship focused on a project that I manage in my fellowship, I asked my manager if I could take a prominent role in guiding the intern to improve my professional leadership skills. Fortunately, she agreed, and this past summer, I was able to participate in the selection process, and ultimately became the day-to-day manager of Andrew Brinkman during his internship.

In Andrew’s short 11 weeks at CINMS, I quickly learned how much effort was needed to properly mentor an intern. I took time to identify his strengths and weaknesses, and made sure to set aside time to help him develop new valuable professional skills. It was my responsibility to train Andrew on how to use all different kinds of equipment, and manage the data from our shared projects. Luckily for me, Andrew was a hard worker with a great capacity to learn. Despite his terrestrial ecology background, Andrew quickly picked up the basics of marine research, overcoming the unique difficulties of conducting research on the water.

In addition to Andrew’s time in the field, he gained skills relevant to his future scientific career; most notably, developing his professional writing ability. Andrew and I worked in tandem to write the internal CINMS manual on the West Coast Observations project for the sanctuary. Making sure that Andrew thoroughly understood the project was important, but ensuring his writing clearly articulated the process became just as critical. The creation of this manual didn’t only help Andrew professionally; I also learned how to communicate more effectively with people outside my field through the mentoring process. My master’s degree heavily depended on the technologies used in many CINMS projects, and I had fallen into the trap of using jargon that is not easily understood by the public. Working with Andrew made me realize the limitations of my own scientific communication. By collaborating with Andrew and discovering where my weak areas were, I believe our final product was better then I could do on my own.

Andrew’s fellowship ended in August, and I was extremely happy with the outcome of his time with the Sanctuary. He is currently in his senior year at California State University, Channel Islands, and is hoping to continue his education with a graduate degree.

Written by Ryan Freedman