This month we welcomed two new staffers to our Projects Team! This week we spoke with the first of our two new team members, Dr. Amanda Beacom, Senior Network Scientist, to get to know her better. Next week, check back for our discussion with Kyle Brees, our new Research Analyst!
Tell us a bit about yourself – where are your from and what’s your professional background?
I grew up in Visalia, California, in a region known as the Central Valley, the agricultural powerhouse of the state. From there I have mostly hopped back and forth between various east coast and west coast US cities (San Francisco, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Boston).
In college I studied biology and public health, and then worked for nine years coordinating health education programs and publications for the National Kidney Foundation, the International AIDS Society, and the Journal of Infectious Diseases. I gradually realized I wanted to transition from education to research, and went back to school, first to earn a master’s degree in public policy, and then a PhD in communication. Following graduate school, I completed a postdoctoral fellowship studying informal advice networks in the Canadian long term care sector, then served as a Visiting Scholar at Boston College. And then I stumbled upon Visible Network Labs!
What is it about network and network science that attracts you to work in this field? What’s your “network story?”
Through my work in health education and community health organizations, I became interested in the diffusion of new ideas, policies, practices, and behaviors. When I discovered social network analysis in my PhD program, I realized it was the perfect tool to use to understand and improve how this process of diffusion occurs within groups of people and organizations. I was hooked.
How do your experiences, values and beliefs impact your approach to network evaluation and analysis work?
When I do analysis and evaluation, I always try to keep Stephen Covey’s old admonishment in mind: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” And for work and life generally, one of my favorite mantras is from a fortune cookie message which read, “Kindness is the greatest wisdom.”
What do you enjoy most about working as an analyst or evaluator?
I love the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to answer a question or solve a problem. Also, I love thinking about the best way to present the results of this process to ensure those results are actually utilized and generate productive, meaningful action. I love working in teams and learning about new issues, problems, and solutions in our communities.
Away from work, what do you for fun? Any hobbies, interests, clubs or other activities?
Favorite pastimes include reading, jogging, barre class, and snuggling on the sofa with my dog and cat. I am always engaged in some sort of self-improvement project, with variable success; the current ones are learning how to meditate and to speak Japanese.
What do you hope to accomplish in your new role at Visible Network Labs?
I’m excited to apply my network science skills to the range of super-interesting network evaluation projects that clients and community partners bring to VNL. I hope that I can contribute to the ongoing development and improvement of the products and services VNL is able to offer.