Networking (and the Vancouver Tea Festival)

Or as I’m going to call it, “networking” fingerquote end fingerquote.

To start, the industry I’m in (or rather, the industry I’m trying to break in to) requires networking. Most industries do, really, and on a scale of dependence out of ten, geology’s more like a four. In Canada, your end goal is to become a P.Geo, or Professional Geologist, a registration designated by APEG, or APG, or a variation of that sort of which depends on the province you’re practicing in. It’s (usually) the same association that deals with registering engineers (they like to lump us together, and that’s the case on the west coast), though geoscience isn’t treated as strictly (you can’t get paid as a “geologist” but you can still technically ‘do geology’ unregistered). So you need a degree in geology, and that degree needs to adhere to APEG’s syllabus, and on top of that, the syllabus requires additional courses, and then you need four years of work experience.

Sorry, this is going somewhere.

So I’ve been to several conventions and talks related to my field, where you’re expected to mingle and network, and students are expected to work the crowd for possible summer jobs. Summer jobs are the way of the geology student. It’s half getting your name out there before you graduate, and half getting job experience before you get job experience.

To sum this all up, I suck at networking. I’ve been to many conventions and wallflowered each one. I can be quick to adapt, after I get that first awkward, stuttery conversation out of the way, but the mineral and exploration sector has not been going well for me. I have social anxiety. It’s what I deal with every day. Across several geoscience conventions, I have made no connections I could call “contacts”; I have gotten no contact information off of anyone. Certainly nothing that would help me move forward. I have worked in the field though, but I feel that was more the result of me getting lucky in Co-op than actual go-getting on my part.

So how is it I managed to network better at a tea convention, in a field I don’t actively plan to have a job in, than I ever did across several geology conventions, in a field I’m planning to have a career in?

Well, to start it might be because I knew one person going in, who was already ‘established’, a friend, and more than happy to introduce me to people. Often before I even got a chance to answer ‘have you met blank yet?’. He was also fairly stationary, which gave me, a socially awkward, introverted person, someone to orbit. It at least gave me a home-base to return to.

I met more people there than I thought I would (which still isn’t many to most folk), shook hands with a few entrepreneurs… Met a director. I think the best part was putting faces to company heads whose rise I actively followed on the internet. From kickstarter to grocery store. Some I remember from years back, simple, quiet posts on Steepster introducing their brand new company. I’m avoiding putting names to people since I don’t want to single out companies and I like to be vague and anonymous myself. There were even companies that had opened less than a year ago–or after the last tea festival (two years ago). And one or two companies I didn’t even realize operated in the lower mainland. Plus a few from across the border.

My only disappointment was that the Cowichan Valley Teafarm didn’t attend, especially since Victoria no longer has a tea festival itself (although I hear tell–from one of the interesting folk I was introduced to–that it may be making a comeback under new management…). I would have definitely liked to meet the purveyors of Canadian-grown tea.

I wish I could have managed to introduce myself to a few more of the interesting folk there, at least gotten a bit more of a conversation in. One of the benefits of being socially awkward is not knowing the right time to leave, and wandering around a tiny convention hall for several hours in the background until people start noticing “oh hey weren’t you here earlier”. That started a few chats. I’ll take it. Although I am equally bad at goodbyes, and may have slipped out like a ninja at the end.

There was one encounter that wasn’t directly (or indirectly) instigated by a previous contact, and I have to give myself a little pat on the back for that. Of course, it was brought about by a lecture on India’s tea history, and pretty much just turned into geeking out about tea history and tea books with the presenter afterwards. It was nice to discuss my current reads with someone face to face; I was carrying a few of my teabooks on me at the time (partly for the geek-cred, partly so I would have something to read on the long bus-ride down to the convention hall). I just have to work up the courage to keep in contact; recommend teabooks; make friends.

At any rate, I think from my rambling it’s safe to conclude that the (second annual) Vancouver Tea Festival was a success. The first event had a rocky start, and as someone might recall, I didn’t even get in. But first times are for making mistakes, and I think their main mistake was just “too successful too fast”. Their venue was too small, they were still sorting out volunteers… I spoke with a few people who attended the last event, and heard positive things despite its many drawbacks. But the VTS took an extra year off to make sure the next one would come back with a bang.

The result of the fest was a few emails and a few phonenumbers, and now the next step is sending out a few hellos. I haven’t yet. Networking is hard. But maybe if I can manage it, this sliver of experience will carry over and I’ll do a little better at AMEBC: Roundup in January.

As a few closing remarks: I’m currently reading Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic, and also have checked out The Tea Cyclopedia. We’ll see if I get around to finishing it during my upcoming Finals. But hopefully I’ll have some reviews, rambles, and thoughts up in the future.

I forgot to bring my creditcard and only packed cash (stupid me) but while there, I picked up Lumbini’s Nature’s Gift, JusTea’s Handcrafted Kenyan Black (I already own Mt. Kenya and have been coveting their handcrafted black to see how it compares…), and this little buddy:

buddy

Who I picked up from Crimson Lotus. I’ve named him Jerry. Unfortunately, they’re from the states and had hand-converted all of their US prices by the current conversion rate. The Canadian dollar currently sucks. I couldn’t afford much from them. They had a whole lot of interesting tea pets (and a number of interesting puer teas).

If only I’d taken out more cash. Poor planning on my part.

A transgendered, tea-drinking, rock-hammer wielding, mineral-collecting, fashionable, mid-twenties Canadian.

1 Comment

  1. Jerry? Funny name.
    Don’t worry, networking is not as easy as some might want to believe and I am sure you will manage to improve your skills at it. Tea conventions might be a good exercise and a more relaxed one.

    It is nice to see tea things going up in other countries.

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