Category Archives: U.S. graduate school

In my previous blogs in leadership development, I intrdocued “Become a successful leader (1): Everyday Leadership“, “Become a successful leader (2): Self-Awareness“, “Become a successful leader (3): Know who I am, and what personality I have.“, “Become a successful leader 4: Be an inspiring leader, The Golden Circle Theory“. Here, I would like to discuss another key component, “communication” in leadership development.

Communication is an art of understanding

Communication is an art where we need to keep creating understanding to deliver the right message between the talker and the listener. The communication process includes encoding our thought/ideas into words and behaviors and decoding this information into meaning. Misunderstanding occurs when the listener decodes the words and behaviors into a different meaning. To avoid the misunderstanding, we need to know 7C’s (correctcompleteclearconsistentcredibleconcerned/connectedculture) and 1 V (Volume). Moreover, what we do not say in the conversation and how we say it is very important to achieve effective communication.

Information transmission

Communication is a process of information transmission. Talker/Writer express ideas and thoughts in words or behavior, which encodes the message by one brain. The audiences decode the message to collect the information; however, each audience’s brain might translate it into different information. Also, in the human mind, emotions usually come faster than thoughts. Therefore, if you are in the mood, do not say anything or reply to any email because your emotion might highly affect your communication. In other words, we should always communicate with others in an adult-to-adult way.

Curse of knowledge

Cognitive bias usually occurs when an individual in a group unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand the message. For example, when we learn something new, such as cancer biology, we start to talk with professional words. Even if we are talking to other people without a biological background, we forget to explain the information or switch to simple terms to transfer the information. This is what we call the curse of knowledge. Therefore, we should always assume that we are not talking to experts if we do not know the audience.

Unconscious Communication

Sometimes there is a hidden message in our verbal or non-verbal expression. For example, intonation is a way to express the hidden meaning within a sentence. If someone said that “I didn’t say you broke my equipment,” we could try to stress a different word in the sentence to see if there is any difference.

  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment

Another example is body language. It is an interesting topic that sometimes we might unconsciously express our emotions through body language. If you found out that someone stands with folded arms when talking, you could assume this person disagrees with what you said.

Communication is based on trust

To have an effective communication, trust is an important factor to connect individuals in a group. There are 5 elements to build up trust: consistency, openess, loyalty, competence, and integrity.

  • Consistency: How often do you change your mind?
  • Openness: Do you share information about yourself or do you just expect others to do so?
  • Loyalty: Do you support people only when everything is great or also when they are struggling?
  • Competence: Do you know what you are talking about?
  • Integrity : Are your actions matching your words ? 

Communication Strategy for a good leader

A good communication strategy for a leader is to include both positive and negative aspects in your message and be specific and concise. An excellent example is that both U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Massachusetts governor Edward Everett gave a speech after the Gettysburg battle in 1863 (Civil War). Everett’s speech was 2 hours long, and Lincoln’s was 2 minutes. However, everyone only remembers what Lincoln said in the address. Therefore, good communication should be short and specific.

If you are interested in Lincoln’s speech, it is the links for the speech and transcript.

Conclusion

Communication is very important not only for leadership but also for everyone in daily life. In the next blog, I will introduce how we communicate with people from different cultures and how we lead an effective meeting.

Become a successful leader 4: Be an inspiring leader, The Golden Circle Theory

I have explained everyday leadership, self-awareness, and personality in previous blogs. Being an inspiring leader is essential in leading a team/group to become successful. Additionally, an inspiring leader should be passionate, confident, decisive, emotionally intelligent, and strategic. For example, Winston Churchill brought the U.K. to the victory of World War II; Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the American people with him “I Have A Dream” speech to contribute to the American civil rights. This article will introduce the golden circle theory proposed by Simon Sinek. A new thinking logic could help us to learn inspired leadership.

The Golden Circle Theory

The Golden Circle Theory

The Golden Circle Theory provides an exciting way to think about a brand and business and inspire your audiences/consumers/team members. Usually, when a team leader tells his/her team members, the first thing is the task we need to do. Second, the leader talks about how we make it, and the last is why we need to do it. However, if we reverse this thinking logically, first, we explain why we want to do this. Will this be more inspiring? Taking cell therapy for type I diabetes patients as an example, a group leader first tells a story to describe the daily lives of type I diabetes patients receiving multiple shots of insulin every day. It is challenging because no one likes to get shots. To save the patients from insulin injection, we need to “cure” diabetes, not just “treat” it. Last, we would develop a new therapeutic to transplant the pancreatic cells in the patient’s body to replace the damaged pancreas and regulate the blood glucose level. This is an example to show what an inspiring leader does.

Another example-Apple

Apple sold computers initially, but why did Apple become a huge company with various products, including the iPhone, iPod, iPad, MacBook…etc. Instead of promoting the products, Apple first explains its core value in designing a beautiful product that everyone can easily use it. That’s the reason why Apple start the business. Then Apple tells consumers how they do it and what they can provide in the Apple event. After the event, people worldwide crazily buy every product from Apple.

How does Golden Circle Theory work?

Most leaders or organizations like to do from “What” to “Why” (outside-in), but an inspired leader/ organization thinks oppositely from “Why” to “What.” To understand how it works, first, we know that human beings always try to find out the meaning; therefore, people do not buy what you have done but why you do it. Another explanation is that the human brain is the organ that makes decisions. In our brain, the outer layer, the neocortex, is responsible for rational, analytical thinking and language, and the inner sections, the limbic brain, are responsible for emotional, feeling, and decision-making. So, decision-making is not from language but the feeling or emotions. In other words, it is our nature to decide by our gut feeling.

TED Talk by Simon Sinek

If you are interested in this, you could also watch the TED talk video by Simon Sinek. He proposed this theory and explained how it works.

Conclusion

In sum, an inspired leader/ business would move audiences with a touching story. We could learn the inspired leadership by the golden circle theory to think from “Why,” “How,” to “What” in the business. I hope everyone can learn and practice the golden circle theory and become a good leader to lead your team/ company to success.

Become a successful leader (3): Know who I am, and what personality I have.

In the last article, I introduced what self-awareness is and why it is so important for leadership development. To better understand ourselves, except for the reflection and asking others how they see us, we could also take a personality test. The most popular personality test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which consists of 16 personality types. Here I will use the MBTI personality test to explain how we use it to know who we are and what personality we have.

Free MBTI personality test

The official MBTI test is a paid test, however, there is a free version through a platform, called 16 Personalities. You could take a free test and get the result to know what type of personality you are.

Why do I need to know my personality?

Our behavior is decided by our personality traits, and the behavioral outcomes would highly impact our relationships with others. There 6 different types of relationships in our lives:

  • The container: people who make you feel safe and secure
  • The twin: people who have similarities with you
  • The adversary: people who usually oppose and confront you
  • The mirror: people who provide reflection to you
  • The mystic friend: people who know you in a mysterious way without speaking to you
  • The conscious partner: people who company with you and share the life experience with each other

We all need these 6 types of relationships to help us for personal growth and transformation at certain time points in our lives. Therefore, we have to learn our personalities and manage our relationships.

4 key elements in the MBTI personality test

In the MBTI personality test, we use 4 elements to characterize us from these personality aspects: mind, energy, nature, and tactics. In each aspect, we could divide into 2 different personality types.

  • Mind: where you focus attention; extraversion (E) or introversion (I)
  • Energy: the way you take in information; sensing (S) or intuition (N)
  • Nature: how you make decisions; thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Tactics: how you deal with the world; judging (J) or perceiving (P)

To better understand the personality type, here is the definition for each type:

  • E, Exroverts: Enjoy hanging out with people, easy to get energized by people, enjoy a variety of tasks, a quick pace, and are good at multitasking
  • I, Introverts: Enjoy working alone or in a small group, prefer to work at a deliverate pace, also like to focus on one taks at a time
  • T, Thinkers:Good at using logical analysis, objectively weigh pros and cons, and value honesty, consistency, and fairness to make decision
  • F, Feelers: Tend to be sensitive and cooperative, and decide based on their onw personal values and how others will be affected by their actions
  • S, Sensors: Realistic, like to focus on the facts and details, apply coomon sense and past experience to come up with practical solutions to problems
  • N, Intuitives: Prefer to focus on possibilities and the big picture, easily see patterns, value innovation, and seek creative solutions to problems
  • J, Judgers: Tend to be organized and prepared, like to make and stick to plans, and are comfortable following most rules
  • P, Perceivers: Prefer to keep their options open, like to be able to act spontaneously, and like to be flexible with making plans

16 personalities

According to the 4 elements and 8 types, we could divide people into 16 personalities. First, we use goals, interests, and activities (Energy&Nature) to define 4 roles, Analysts (_NT_), Diplomats (_NF_), Sentinels (_S_J), and Explorers (_S_P). In each role, 4 personality types are defined by the preferred way to achieve goals (Mind&Tactics).

Once you find out which type of personality you have, there are resources on the 16 personalities website to introduce the personality including strengths, weaknesses, relationships, friendships, parenthood, career path, workplace habit…etc. From this information, we could better understand ourselves and train and grow to compensate for our weaknesses.

Conclusion

From my personal aspect, I think that finding out who we are, and what personality I have is a fun thing because it provides some clues that I never thought of. Taking me as an example, the test result is Commander (ENTJ-A), and I checked the information about this type. I learned that my weaknesses might be stubborn, intolerant, poor handling of emotions, cold and ruthless, but I could start to work on these to develop my own leadership. What is your test result? Please share with me. I am interested in seeing other personality types.

Become a successful leader (2): Self-Awareness

In last article, I introduced what everyday leadership is. Self-awareness is the first task in leadership development. We should learn how to lead ourselves to a successful career before we could lead people. This article I will share the concept of self-awareness, and people who want to start the leadership development to practice self-swareness and in advance to aware of others. Once you get more understanding in yourself, you would know how to make a right decision in a crisis.

What is Leadership?

Before you continue to read the blog, you could write down what makes a good leader. Here I will list some characteristics I think a good leader should have:

  • Charisma
  • Competence
  • Passion
  • Vision
  • Listening
  • Responsibility
  • Problem solving
  • Positive attitude
  • Communication
  • Self-discipline
  • Relationship

Also, another question is what not makes a leader:

A manager does not mean a leader; having power is not leadership; Charisma also does not mean leadership. In fact, different cultures have their own definition in leadership, for example, the leadership in the U.S. is to adapt different cultures and becomes a cultural melange.

What is a good leader?

A good leader is like a pilot of an airplane; he/she knows to find a way to reach the destination. Therefore, an effective leader should have a high degree of eomotional intelligence in addition to IQ and technical skills. Moreover, there are 5 components in emotional intelligence:

  • self-awareness: know my and other’s emotion, strength, weakness, values and goals.
  • self-regulation: know to control or redirect disruptive emotions and impulses
  • social skill: manage relatioships in a group
  • motivation: encourage others to achieve for the work/ goal
  • empathy: consider others’ feelings when he/she is making decision

What is self-awareness?

The definitoin of self-awareness is to understand myself in emotion, strength, weakness, value and goals. The way to achieve self-awareness is to use reflection and feedback to gain insight into our strength and find out the need of our personal development. Sometimes it is a tough part in leadership development because we are always afriad of finding our the hidden part of us, and we might miss our chance for personal growth. Additionally, if we want to protect ourselves from problems, it might create more problems and consume all the energy. So, when we face struggles and become upset, it might be a great time to discover anything about ourselves but it is not consistent with what we think we are.

How do we achieve self-awareness?

We could achive self-awareness by following ways:

  • introspection/reflection/meditation
  • resonances
  • identify crucible moments
  • ask others how they see us
  • take a personality test

Frist, we could ask ourselves, “who am I?”, “what are my strengths?”, “How do I perform?”, “Am I a good listener?”, “How do I learn?”, “What are my values?”, “Where do I belong?”, “What should I contribute?”. Meditation might be a way to allow you to think all the questions above, and we could meditate by using resonances which ampligy the signal by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object. For example, we might be in good mood when we see a beutiful picture or listen to the music we like. This is the right time to do meditation. In addition, when there is any crisis, we should put ourselves in other people’s shoes to oberve ourselves. Or we could think about any crisis in the past, and if we could go back to that time, do we still solve the problem in the same way? These are the methods how we achieve self-awareness by oursleves. Self-awareness is could also be achieved by the help from others. For example, we could ask the people surrounding us for the feedback and how they see us. Or we could do a personality test to better understand ourselves. I will discuss the personality in my next blog.

Conclusion

Self-awareness is a great miletone in the leadership development and sometimes it is difficult for us to find out anything bad in ourselves. But trust me, it might be hard in the beginning of leadership developement, and if we keep working on self-awareness, it could lead us not only in sucessful career but also to a good leader.

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What is chemical engineering? How do chemical engineers earn 108k in a year with a bachelor’s degree?

If you are a high school student and want to know what chemical engineering is? Is it reasonable to choose chemical engineering as a major in college? How can chemical engineers make 108,000 USD with a bachelor’s degree in a year? Because I studied chemical engineering and civil engineering at National Taiwan University. I would like to introduce what chemical engineering is and what you will learn from chemical engineering.

What is chemical engineering?

Chemical engineering is to apply principles of chemistry, engineering (math and physics), biology in manufacturing processes, including refining raw materials, mixing, separating, and purification for valuable products. To become a chemical engineer, several professional skills are required, such as fundamental physic, chemistry, engineering mathematics, including solving partial differential equations, unit operations (fluidic dynamic, heat transfer, mass transfer), equipment design, and process design. Additionally, the training would allow a chemical engineer to work in the petroleum industry, including the upstream oil industry and downstream chemical companies. If you are interested in the detail of basic training in chemical engineering, you could check the chemical engineering handbook.

How important chemical engineers are in the company?

From the training, the role of chemical engineers is to manufacture the valuable product for the company with a cost-efficient process. Taking the petroleum industry as an example, the first thing chemical engineers should do is select the source and refine the raw materials. Second, chemical engineers would apply the fluid dynamic with the unit operation to design the pipes to connect each equipment unit to separate the oil into different products, such as the distillation tower. Additionally, distillation column design is a critical step in crude oil separation. The number of stages (trays) in the distillation column would be calculated to ensure the purity of the product. However, the number of stages would also affect the cost-efficiency of the process. Fewer stages in the tower might cause impurity in the final product. Still, more number of trays would increase the cost of manufacturing. Therefore, the importance of chemical engineers in the company is to optimize the process with the lowest price to manufacture high-quality and valuable products.

What industry could chemical engieerg do?

Chemical engineers could work not only in the petroleum industry but also in other industries that required product manufacturing, such as the semiconductor industry, the pharmaceutical company. Each industry requires additional training; for example, if you want to work in the semiconductor industry, you need to take courses in semiconductive materials, photolithography…etc. If you want to join the pharma, it is better to learn biology, including cell culture, protein biology, virology depending on the drug product. Therefore, you could explore your career interest before deciding which classes you want to take in college.

Be smart to choose the school for your future career

Last, I want to explain that chemical engineering at different schools might focus on another field. For example, the chemical engineering department at Cornell Univerisity provides more courses in the semiconductor field and biological field than petroleum field. Chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin focuses on classes related to the traditional oil industry. In other words, the training in chemical engineering from different schools might affect your future career due to the skills you learn.

Conclusion

I believe that chemical engineering would be a great starting point to explore your future career if you are interested in the engineering field because we could apply the fundamental knowledge from chemical engineering to different areas. If you have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, you could choose another major in graduate school for additional training. Hope you will get a better understanding of chemical engineering from this blog, and feel free to leave a comment to let me know if you have any questions about chemical engineering.

Tips for preparation of graduate school application in US

I have mentored two Taiwanese undergraduate students in U.S. graduate school applications through Project Tyra mentoring program. I believe that many students might have the same questions when they are preparing for the documents, so I would like to have an article about the tips for applying to U.S. graduate schools, especially in the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In graduate school applications, the most important documents are a statement of purpose (SOP) and curriculum vitae (CV). Here are some tips for SOP preparation and CV.


In the application materials for graduate school in the U.S., SOP is the most important document because it would allow the graduate committee to know more about you. For example, academic experience, research interest, academic performance, and motivation. In the educational background, you could write the concentrations in college and any award or scholarship you have received. Also, if you are top 5 % or better in class, you could mention this in the SOP. In the research experience and interest, you could list any related experience in academic research and your research interest in any potential lab you would like to join. Another critical element in the SOP is motivation which the committee wants to see from the applicant. The motivation includes the passion for science, the interest in academic research, and the future goal after the training from graduate school. Notably, in the U.S., the faculty has a significant influence in accepting graduate students because the faculty needs to pay tuition and living expenses/insurance for the graduate students. So, if you are interested in any faulty’s research, you could also mention the faculty in your SOP. Then you might have a chance to talk to the faculty. In the structure of SOP, I think it is similar to a cover letter for a job application. The first paragraph should be an abstract of the SOP because the committee member might decide if he/she wants to read the rest of the SOP by the first paragraph. In the following sections, we could have experiences in research, outreach education, and the motivation to pursue a graduate degree in applied school. Moreover, the most important part is the passion for science and motivation. Most of the faculties want to see the passion in applicants. Suppose there is a great story to describe the passion for science and research. In that case, this SOP will be a great document to persuade the committee/faculty to take you as a graduate student. On the other hand, a CV is also a very important document to highlight the applicant’s background, education experience, and research experience. In addition, the recruiting committee might use a CV as an initial screening to select the top candidate for potential interviews. In general, the length of the document is 1.5-2 pages for SOP and 1 page for CV. If you have many publications that list in the CV, you could extend it to 2 pages.


In sum, application documents, SOP and CV, should be simple and easy to read. More importantly, remember to highlight the critical information and list this information on top of the CV and the first paragraph to make sure the committee member read these.

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Jason(Yen-Chun) Lu, All right reserved.