(by Deepak Raj Pandaya)
It was a great respite for me to escape the Delhi summer heat and reach Hamburg to attend the PRIMO programme on ‘Transferable Skills’, conducted by our host and coordinator, University of Hamburg (UHAM). The workshop was long and productive, lasting from 24th May to 3rd June of 2016. Initial 8 days of the workshop were designed for all ESRs (Early Stage Researchers) and the last 2 days were for newly joined ESRs. It was very well designed, having inputs with an academic orientation and skills development programs to bridge the academic and non-academic world. The workshop kicked off with an academic writing skills and methods sessions conducted by Prof. Cord Jakobeit, Stephan Hensell, Jörg Meyer and our ER Faiz Sheikh. The whole of the 2nd and half of the 3rd day of workshop was dedicated to career planning whereby Rob Thompson, who was our career coach, focused on techniques to face an interview board and how to prepare a CV for non- academic career, not just this, Rob also tried to explain characters of different colleagues we tend to face or might face in our work environment while labeling them as red liners and blue liners, and different approaches to deal with varied situations and personalities. During the later half of third day, Jurgen Willems from University of Hamburg shared his experiences of researching on the non-profit and public sector, briefed PRIMO fellows as to what do these organisations expect as employers, while recruiting.
Having a career in academics is rigorous and requires a lot of patience; one of the biggest struggles in it is to secure finance for the subject that you want to research on, both for short long term. Sonja Bartsch from GIGA and Katharina Berghöfer from UHAM addressed this particular issue on whole of fourth day. These sessions were of particular interest for fellows who wanted to pursue a career in academics or at least want to make academics, an alternate career. The presenters of the sessions very well explained the queries on funding possibilities/opportunities, also briefed us on details about writing and refining grant applications for EU, and other funding organizations. The last day of the first week ended with wonderful insights into the non- academic industry, where Klaus Deutsch head of research, industry and economic policy of The Federation of German Industries (BDI), shared his experience of working in corporate world after completing his Ph.D, presented insights on the German and global corporate world with more focus on their expectations, current requirements and how to go about addressing them, keeping different aspects of policy levels in mind and therefore, how to tap into the job market. The day ended and weekend started with sharing of experiences by young researcher Felix Mengel from the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), who described his experiences of looking for jobs in think tanks and policy institutes, as well as how working with these institutes and developing an academic expertise is possible for a non academic audience.
The session on academic writing, for non-academic audience spilled over to first day of the next week, which was Day 6 of our workshop where Sascha Suhrke from Zeit-Stiftung briefed the ESRs on Zeit-Stiftung, its functioning, approaches and global partnerships. Along with this, he also explained about different opportunities for fellowships and working with Zeit-Stiftung, and many such organisations. The second half of 6th, 7th and 8th day of our workshop, was spent on refining our academic writing whereby all ESRs discussed papers of their peers, gave feedbacks and also received feedbacks from our PRIMO team members who were already in advanced stages of their academic research, namely Prof. Cord Jakobeit, Stephan Hensell, Jörg Meyer and Faiz Sheikh. As PRIMO is all about study on different aspects of regional powers, the workshop was well designed to include perspectives for regional power specialists in the private-sector. Doris Hilger, from PRIMO’s associated partner Hamburg Chamber of Commerce (HCC), in her session explained about the importance of knowing a region, and how this aspect facilitates to ease the trade between economies. Along with this, we also had an interactive session on the importance of commerce chambers, how they function, operate and facilitate international trade. The 8th day of workshop had sessions on gender and diversity, where along with Patricia Konrad from UHAM, the ESRs discussed different aspects of gender, inclusion, diversity and adapting to those diversities for a peaceful coexistence with profound integration in societies around the world.
Finally, last two days of the workshop were designed exclusively for the newly recruited ESRs that missed academic training sessions during the start of PRIMO program. In these two days of additional academic training the ESR’s were trained in methods and techniques of research with focus on academic writing, and discussions on their Ph.D work. Thus, we concluded our programme on Transferable Skills Workshop at the University of Hamburg, and happily returned to our host institutions to recoup, before we gathered again for the annual conference in September at the University of Oxford.