A few questions to the Chair of PhD Day Groningen 2018

PhD Day Groningen is an annual event organized for PhD and Research Master students to broaden their research and career perspectives. Every year it attracts hundreds of PhDs from different disciplines from all over the Netherlands and beyond, making it one of the biggest PhD events in the Benelux. It is a day filled with talks by renowned speakers with different backgrounds, workshops providing tools to navigate PhD life, a career fair where several companies and nonprofit organizations present themselves, and an after-party (which takes an artistic form this year) where visitors can meet each other. As chair of the main committee, Carla Roos has been leading four teams from November onwards to make this event happen. This year’s edition will take place on the 21st of September in the Oosterpoort. For more information and tickets go to phd-day.nl

How did it all start?

“I do not really mind what type of committee I will be part of, so you can place me wherever you think I will fit in.” This is how I ended my application for the organizing committee of PhD Day Groningen 2018. After admitting that I had no organizing experience whatsoever, I was very surprised to be invited to become the chair of the main committee. I gave it a lot of thought before accepting this invitation, but my excitement eventually defeated my time concerns.

What did you expect?

On the negative side, I expected that I would have a hard time chairing effectively, because I do not consider myself a typical leader. My image of a typical leader is a very self-confident, carefree, popular party-animal whom people envy; someone that has a natural leadership shine allover. I further expected to confront a lot of stress, especially this summer, to get everything done in time. On the positive side, I expected to learn, meet new people and have a lot of fun.

“Now I am convinced that leaders too, are insecure sometimes and that hiding this fact is not effective at all. I also discovered that leading is listening.”

Have your expectations come true so far?

Concerning the leadership expectations, I gradually discovered that by just being myself and communicating frankly, I could make big things happen. Now I am convinced that leaders too, are insecure sometimes and that hiding this fact is not effective at all. I also discovered that leading is listening. It is not bad when others take over in a meeting, as long as the chair keeps things within limits, both time- and content-wise. Concerning the stress, I experienced this way less than I expected. I sometimes felt invisibly powerful upon discovering that many things I worried about, appeared to be already taken care of by the teams independently. However, there are (working)days, which are becoming more and more common, that are occupied almost entirely by PhD Day business. Lastly, all my positive expectations came true: I did learn a lot and met many nice people with whom I had a lot of fun in the past few months.

What has been the most challenging thing you had to do?

The first challenge we encountered was having to equal the overwhelming success of last year’s edition. Attracting our keynote speakers was a challenge as we were doomed to kowtow for last year’s keynote by our own Groningen Nobel Price winner. However, I think we succeeded by inviting three less well-known but just as amazing scientists. Another challenge was that I had to “fire” one team’s head. This team was not functioning effectively leading to a near escalation of conflict within the main committee. Looking back, I feel I should have handled this differently by giving more timely and explicit warnings and being more involved in this specific team. However, now the air has been cleared and the ex-head and I even do yoga together. Connected to this is the third more general difficulty: being annoying in pushing people to get things done. In the past half year, I sent so many WhatsApp and email messages with polite but firm requests for action.

“I am by far the most proud of realizing my wish to bring art and science together on our event.”

What have you learned (about yourself) you did not know before?

I discovered that I can be an effective leader on my own terms. My self-confidence grew out of success resulting from just following my intuition, trying my best and being honest about my doubts and insecurities. I also became more aware of what the organization of such a big event entails (even now I do not know the details of all the work that has been done). However, I also learned that by joining forces with a group of motivated people, you gain almost supernatural powers. This insight increased my confidence for organizing large-scale projects in the future.

What are you most proud off?

I am by far the most proud of realizing my wish to bring art and science together on our event. Given my background in both art and science, I see a lot of commonalities and opportunities for mutual inspiration. As the Program team’s head was worried about work overload, I took charge of arranging the artistic acts to enrich visitor’s daytime experience and the indoor festival at the end of the day where science meets art (which is a PhD Day’s first).

“Sitting at a table with six government officials, I accomplished this all by just being myself and showing my genuine enthusiasm.”

I am also very proud of closing a 14.000 deal with the Akkoord van Groningen. They gave us 4000 for sponsorship and 10.000 for our festival, which enabled us to attract more and more professional acts. Sitting at a table with six government officials, I accomplished this all by just being myself and showing my genuine enthusiasm.

What have you enjoyed most?

I enjoy exploring new places and meeting diverse people. Organizing PhD Day brought me to places I never discovered during my five years of study in Groningen. It also introduced me to a variety of people I never would have met otherwise, from government officials to artists. Besides dreading the event because it will be a very stressful and extremely taxing day, I also think I will enjoy the event itself, especially the opening speech on the mega-stage of the Oosterpoort! I hope to see you all there!

Did you get excited? Please click here to register for PhD Day before September 18.

Carla Anne Roos is a second year PhD student in the social psychology department of the University of Groningen, where she studies social regulation in online interaction. She completed both her Bachelor’s and Research Master’s degree in Groningen. However, she also likes to travel and explore new realities, passions that brought her all the way to the other side of the world, to Melbourne, Australia, where she carried out her research internship. Besides science, she loves practicing and consuming art in all its forms.