eLabBlog

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with the Right Lab Tools

By Jim St.Pierre 4 min read 09 Nov 2023

Large pharma companies know what tools they need to succeed and (generally) go out and get them. Why are start-ups and small academic labs hesitant to do the same? Is it just a matter of fewer financial resources? 

From what I’ve seen talking to labs, big and small, there’s more than just money at play…

Setting Your Lab Up For Success with Lab Essentials

To succeed as a research lab in academia or industry, you need a minimum set of supplies, instruments, reagents, kits, and other tools. In the life sciences, for example, everyone doing bench work in your lab will likely need a set of pipettes for accurate liquid handling. Without them, it may be nearly impossible for your lab to operate. If budgets are tight, you may skip the expensive programmable models and use a manual pipette. But no one working in a lab today would skip manual pipettes and choose to pipette by mouth to save additional budget. 

That’s an unsustainable, inaccurate, and unsafe recipe for disaster!

It doesn’t take much arguing to convince modern-day researchers that mouth pipetting is a bad idea. But there are other categories of lab necessities that are as antiquated as mouth pipetting yet still widely used and accepted.

Paper vs. Digital Sample Management: Beyond Budget

Every week, I speak to start-ups or small academic lab researchers who feel that paper lab notebooks and spreadsheets are a smart, budget-friendly solution for tracking and managing samples. They don’t realize that this outdated data management system costs them more money in the long term than software solutions like a digital lab platform

One of the most common reasons I hear from executives and lab heads for not considering a digital solution is:

“We’re still in early-stage research and don’t really need it yet,”

It’s the “really” that always catches my attention. There’s some uncertainty nestled in their statement. The inclusion of “really” suggests that the person I’m meeting with hasn’t fully convinced themselves that they don’t need a digital platform for sample management. Simultaneously (and ironically), they’re trying to convince me. 

The other common objection I hear is: 

“We’re a new lab and haven’t fully established our processes yet.” 

Wouldn’t an effective workflow for data entry, management, and retrieval be the kind of process you would want to establish early in lab operations? If you don’t do it now, your team will have to break old habits when you finally switch, which will be much more complex. Establishing new processes is the perfect time to adopt new software. The software supports the process and helps to enforce the new desired behavior.

The Hidden Enemy of Laboratory Success: Imposter Syndrome

So, what’s with the excuses?

In the life sciences, we pride ourselves on approaching problems with total objectivity. 

But, in reality, we are still human, with our own biases, fears, and emotions. In the case of sample management, the truth is that many researchers feel they haven’t “earned the right” to use modern lab digitization software for sample management, record keeping, etc. That sentiment is just beneath the surface of the excuses described above. 

Statements such as “We’re too small” or “We’re not there yet” are different facets of the same self-doubt. What these arguments boil down to is something akin to imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome can take on many forms, but it generally means a feeling of being a “fraud” or not being worthy of success. In the context of this article, “success” is having access to all of the same tools that a larger organization would use to do the same work. 

Just because you’re at a small lab or start-up today doesn’t mean you plan to stay small. You must surround yourself with the tools of success to reach your goals. You are worthy of using effective data management software now. 

Yes, even on a budget. 

Yes, even if you’re a one-woman startup. 

It’s never too early to start using the tools that will help you save money and time and ultimately support your success. 

Conclusion

Don’t let imposter syndrome cloud your objective reasoning and force you into a fear-based decision. Find software that allows you to start small (and inexpensive!) but will grow with you over time – as both your headcount and the scope of your work expands. 

There are software options out there that:

If you’ll excuse me for butchering the analogy, stop trying to pipette your data by mouth. Choose the right tool for your lab. You deserve it!

To learn more about how eLabNext can help you establish the best sample management process for your lab, get in touch with us here today.

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