Idella Yamben

by Leslie Jernegan

For Idella Yamben, co-designer and consultant for the Ideadvance Seed Fund at UW-Extension, it wasn’t until graduate school that she realized she needed to take a harder look at her career path.

Although Yamben knew she’d earn her Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology from UW-Madison, she didn’t know what she’d do with it. She didn’t want to continue down the line of doing a postdoc and conducting more research. Rather, she found the business side more appealing.

Reflecting now on her job search out of grad school, Yamben says, “It can actually be a lot of fun, and it actually becomes a lot more fun the more you know about yourself, and the more you network with people and understand how other people are doing things.”

A scientific recruiter position for Kelly Scientific Resources was just the start Yamben needed, as it gave her the opportunity to work across Wisconsin with a variety of different scientific companies to understand more about the jobs for which they were hiring. Her science background, she says, gave her credibility in conversations with colleagues and recruits.

Yamben eventually left the company to seek a position that would help her job growth, which brought her to her current position at UW-Extension. But it wasn’t searching job posts that led Yamben to her current role. Instead, her journey speaks to the power of networking.


The currency is information. The networking never stops.

—Idella Yamben

“When I was a recruiter I was looking at people who were in higher-level positions,” Yamben says. “I was studying their commonalities in how they got to where they were, and it was always from networking. It was always because they knew somebody, and that was because they’d met and maintained good relationships with past coworkers, and they were out there going to different things and finding ways to volunteer and be part of the community, and add value to people’s work.”

Yamben took those lessons to heart, and immersed herself in the Madison community, looking for places to volunteer, expand her own skill sets, and do something new based on the passions she had – most notably in entrepreneurship. Her interest in entrepreneurship influences her advice to job seekers to “being entrepreneurial in your own right.”

“What is it you add?” Yamben asks. “What is the market need? How do you get that product out there? It might be through volunteering. It might be through networking. It might be through starting something yourself. It might be through consulting. Whatever the case, you’re driven by your passion to get that product, to get you, out there.”

Although she’s not using her Ph.D. for lab work, Yamben says, “it gives you a set of tools that apply in a variety of different circumstances – that research ability crosses all different types of industries.” No matter what her position, Yamben will always be looking for opportunities to learn, build teams with shared visions, form deep relationships, and stay current, especially in fields outside of her specialty.

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