19 June 2019, by Luis Fernandes
Moin, Hamburg! We are back to kick-start 2019 with a three-day learning marathon. On your marks, get set, GO! We began on January 14th with Dr. Tanja Meyer-Threschan who spoke us about funding applications and research proposals. I am sure everyone has cool research ideas, but what about the means to carry them out? After almost two years in this project we know that research is a tough thing. But finding funding opportunities is definitely tougher. Many great ideas rot in someone’s drawer because they lack the resources to be materialized. Dr. Meyer-Threschan has several years of experience on both sides of the table, that is, both as a researcher and as someone who sits in different funding bodies. We used the day not only to break down a research proposal into its building blocks and craft a successful one, but also to learn to reason as funding bodies. It was extremely valuable to understand how these bodies think, assess and decide on what to fund. I feel we were saved a lot of time in the future, and some common mistakes.
We then proceeded with soft skills courses. That is right, soft skills courses. PhD students in technical fields, such as health economics, tend to disregard those courses. No? At least early on in their careers. The priority is to master mathematics, statistics, economics, coding languages, and all sorts of “geeky” or “nerdy” things. The assumption held is that soft skills are learned on-the-job and take time to soak in. So, such courses are considered a complete waste of time. Let me prove you wrong.
On the second day, Dr. Gaby Schilling introduced us to leadership and team building. Experience in leadership roles was varied in the group. Some have previously held leadership positions in formal and informal settings, whereas others referred they did not fit the profile. They were not “natural” leaders. Dr. Schilling demystified this common belief by explaining how leadership can be acquired. We engaged in several role play exercises that simulated common situations we may come across when delegating or providing feedback to team members. More importantly, we focused on how to keep a team motivated.
We finished on the third day with Dr. Wiebke Deimann on interpersonal and networking skills. Beyond the centre or department where we work – as well as this ETN -, conferences are the ultimate network events. The European Health Economics Association conference, which took place in Maastricht last year, was for most of us a very first step into this world: 4 days, dozens of sessions, 100+ researchers. Presenting our work is essential, but conferences are speed dating events for academics. They open a world of opportunities. However, it is hard to manage so many people in such a short period of time. Luckily, Dr. Deimann introduced us to a hand of techniques on professional networking, small talk skills, and intercultural communication. I am looking forward to trying them out!
Time was short and weather was nasty, but ETN gatherings can never be without social events. We went on an escape-room experience – called “Hidden in Hamburg” – on board of the museum ship Cap San Diego, and enjoyed lovely fish afterwards in the Portuguese neighborhood nearby. Unfortunately, this was our last time in Hamburg. Bis bald! See you all in Denmark in a few months!