vrijdag 25 maart 2011

PCDI: second postdoc retreat - from behind the scenes

A report of PCDI's postdoc retreat that took place on February 16-18 in Heeze. I attended the retreat last year as a participant and this year as a member of the organizing committee. 

Original post on PCDI's community website:

Second retreat? Yes, after the great experience of last year, I decided to get involved and joined the organizing committee. When I attended the retreat last year, I had the question that all the participants have: do I want to be a scientist, and if not, what DO I want to do? Although I had some ideas already at that time, things got clearer during these three beautiful days in April (see my report from last year). Because I enjoyed the retreat a lot I decided to help in making the 2011 retreat at least as nice as the one in 2010. 

The organization started in August, when the postdoc committee was assembled. In September, when the committee met for the first time, we divided the tasks among the nine of us and brainstormed about the theme of the event and about potential keynote speakers. Since that first encounter, we kept in touch with each other frequently by email, gathered keynote speakers from our own contacts and found enough networkers for the round-table discussions. Five months and two more meetings later, the postdoc retreat was a fact! The three days we had worked so hard for were about to start... Would it all go well? Would all the keynote speakers make it? Would the participants enjoy it as much as we all did the year before? Needless to say I was a bit nervous.

And then it started... three exciting days! And everything went just fine (at least, that’s what we think). Our work paid off well: the retreat was fully booked and the evaluation forms we analyzed showed that most participants enjoyed the three days in Heeze. Looking back at the organization, it didn’t seem an awful lot of work, as we discussed a lot via email and the work was divided among all of us and spread out over a number of months. I learned a lot about organizing a real conference and working together in a team. And next to that it was fun! When do you get the chance to just call a professor to invite him/her to give a lecture? When can you talk to a famous person as Bas Haring in person? I think I can speak from the whole committee if I say that we enjoyed organizing the 2011 retreat. So if you are in doubt about organizing next year: just do it!

This year, I saw the retreat from a different perspective: I attended some of the lectures and workshops, but also used some time to prepare for activities at the retreat. And as a participant I was also asked the usual question: “So, what are your plans?”. As I have been thinking about and working on a new career in the last year (see one of my blogposts), my answer was that I had a clear idea and a job in the pipeline. So, people started asking me how I (almost) got this perfect job and I found myself almost in the position of one of the networkers. In my case, the way to find the perfect job was: be visible! All the things I want to do in a future career, I have been doing next to my postdoc over the past years (writing, organizing events (here and here)). And by not being afraid to speak out my wishes for a new career (even when this could harm my position as a scientist), I was visible among people in the field. In this way, I basically created my own job (or, others created the perfect job for me).  
So as take-home message: be visible and create your own perfect career!It is time to take charge of your future! Follow PCDI and be the first one to get news about the next postdoc retreat: sign up for the newsletter on the website: www.pcdi.nl or follow them on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/PostdocNews. 

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