As I sit here at my desk to share my story on networking, I take a moment to look outside
my window. I see a bright summer day, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and I hear
the wind rustling through the trees, I feel content. I am in Germany, a land I wanted to live
in since my childhood in Bahrain.
I come from a culture where the old-boy network is an integral part of everybody’s life. Be it
mundane issues such as finding a reliable greengrocer or fishmonger in the
neighbourhood, to life-changing events such as getting into a good academic institution or
landing a much-vaunted job, it is who you are connected with that helps out. Hence, picking
or choosing one instance where networking has shaped and altered my life is a
daunting task. However, my moving to Germany five years ago, a childhood dream coming
to fruition, is probably the most significant event in my life and it was brought about by
I won’t call Vee my best of friends, not the kind who knows you inside and out, your
secrets and foibles. We were fellow lab rats for three years in a research lab in India, worked
together on a key project, and had an easygoing work relationship. While I left for the US to
pursue my PhD, Vee was still stuck in the rut, unable to get a similar position elsewhere.
Through this, I helped Vee as much as could, especially in drafting essays and statements of
purpose since Vee’s didn’t quite have the way with English I did. That was the only
communication we ever had. Thankfully, Vee was accepted at a university in Germany to do
his PhD. A few years down the line, my project had faltered badly and it was becoming
apparent that I’d have to give up on the PhD and the US. Things finally came to a head and I
eventually returned to India. After another year I was at cross-roads in my career, somewhat
late in life to begin afresh and too jaded to continue as a lab rat with no prospects of
growth. And then comes a call from Vee... He had heard through the grapevine about my
misfortune and commiserated with me. But nothing prepared me for his offer, ‘’Would you
like to join the lab I am working in?’’ Words can’t express how I felt at that moment.
Getting into any European university for scientific post-grad studies is much, much harder
than other places for numerous reasons – age, nationality, the need for an unblemished track record,
limited positions…a higher than average bar to say the least. I knew because I had tried in the past. In fact, I had advised Vee to focus more on the US and not Europe for the same reasons. I mentioned
as much to Vee as we chatted and his reply was along the lines of ‘’Don’t worry about that,
my boss trusts me, and I know how good you are at scientific research. I’ll talk to him and
send you an offer letter.’’ Five years have passed since I joined Vee’s lab, just as he finished
his PhD and moved to the US for a post-doc. A year down the line I switched my career
to full-time scientific writing and went through the Herculean task of setting up my freelance
consultancy in Germany.
Things are settling down now and I am happy with my career, my business, and most importantly, I
am happy that my childhood dream of living in Germany has come true, all because of one
person in my network.
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