"You always have to be curious, asking questions about how the world works. That’s the one most important characteristic. Of course you have to be intelligent, but without curiosity intelligence is meaningless. You need to be enthusiastic. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: an academic career is difficult. Research is a step into the unknown, and it can be daunting, frustrating. You need your enthusiasm to get through it. There is a lot of criticism and rejection in the academic world: reviewers telling you your papers are crap, grant agencies rejecting your proposals. I had a review panel recently tell me that I had little in-depth knowledge of paleontology, my own research field! That one really stung. And it was ridiculous. But that kind of criticism happens, a lot. You need to be able to shrug it off. You need the mentality of a top athlete or politician: somebody who can deal with any failure and get up for the next round, and also deal with success (the high-impact papers, the funded grants) without getting a big head or going lazy. Quitters don’t last long in an academic career. Neither do slackers, and believe it or not, contrary to some perceptions of the academic world, neither do jerks. And the last critical skill, I would say, is the ability to communicate. You could be the most brilliant, curious, enthusiastic, persevering academic stud in the world, but if you can’t communicate your work to your peers, to the public, then nobody will realise it. Make sure you can write competently, speak passionately, design killer PowerPoint slides. Honestly, probably my best skill is that I am a good communicator. I love to write and give talks. I’m lucky that those things come naturally to me."