You probably wouldn’t think that your selfie game and your professional communication skills would be that related, would you? Think again.

During my undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo, I discovered my passion for social media communications and design while still continuing to learn about disease and the healthcare system in the Health Studies program. At the beginning of 2A, I decided to reach outside of my comfort zone and apply to be the Artistic Director of the University of Waterloo Style Society (UWSS). I had never been a part of a club prior to this, but I was eager to meet likeminded creative students and make friends who enjoyed social media as much as I did.

Natasha throwing snow

Luckily, they took a chance on me and I got to learn about photography, blogging, and graphic design with other students which provided me with mentorship and an opportunity to explore my creative side. Through this positive experience, I continued to work on building these skills that, at the time, seemed like just an additional hobby. Later, I was given the opportunity to be the Digital Communications Manager for TEDxUW and eventually became the Co-President of UWSS by the time I graduated, all while making more and more friends who were happy to learn from each other (shout out to the Friday photoshoot crew!). While I don’t claim to be a social media guru or expert photographer, I was able to learn a variety of skills in these areas that unexpectedly crossed over into my professional life in research.

Natasha using microscopeCurrently, I am a MSc candidate in medical biophysics at Western University, where I use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study how cancer spreads. That sounds almost as far as you can get from media communications and marketing, doesn’t it? Maybe, but what I have learned is that my “hobbies” from undergrad have actually benefited me in the scientific world. Learning about graphic design and the importance of good UX has allowed me to create great presentations and posters to present my data effectively and communicate the importance of the research questions that I am tackling in the lab to researchers and patients. My experience with photography and blogging made me a good fit to design a website for my research group and document my experiences as a woman making the transition into science. My experiences with marketing have given me a strong foundation for roles where I am responsible for designing communication materials for conferences and symposiums.

So, what does this mean for you? Explore your interests, even if they seem far away from what your professional goals may be. You never know how these skills will help you on your own journey to success, whatever that looks like for you.

Check out Natasha’s photography on Instagram: @natashaknier