My career in science was born from my keen interest and curiosity to know the mechanisms and nature of things coupled with a desire to make a positive impact to the world. I was the type of child always asking Why? and How?
Let me now direct these questions to you. Why did you become a PhD student? How are your experiencing your PhD? How do you envision your future?
When I decided to study biology, this was mainly because of pure interest. Back then, I could never have predicted what my life would be like today, neither can I predict now how my life will be in the future. The most valuable advice I received as an 18-year-old in this context was from one of my high school teachers: “You will be putting a lot of time and energy into it; choose something you Like!”
During my bachelor and master studies, I struggled with fear of failure. I was crying during exam periods, my heartbeat and breathing accelerated when looking at the tower of books I needed to study, I had sleepless nights. Even though, I did realize that all these expressions were totally irrational, psychologically I wasn’t able to let go. Over the years, I found a way to cope with this and to balance it out, turning my fear into strength; and I graduated with compliments from the examining committee.
After my master thesis, I kind of rolled into the PhD. The ultimate mantra during my PhD period was Work hard, Play hard. I was so passionate about my topic, and I truly believed in the experiments I was doing, that for some periods I worked 24/7. I enjoyed the passion, and I had a lot of fun with my fellow PhDs. However, I must admit pursuing a PhD goes with ups-and-downs. I remember the difficulties to get that first paper published, the revisions, the strict timelines, the disappointment which comes with the trial-and-error concept, the misalignment between promotors, co-promotors, and other involved parties, and the loneliness when I was writing-up my thesis.
In September 2015, I officially became doctor in the Neurosciences. I was proud and ready to take the next step in my career. However, I had no clue what that step should be. Would I become a teacher, would I go for an academic career, or something else? With some steps in between, I ended up in a rotation program, set-up by Johnson and Johnson.
Every step, every rotation, every course, every experience, has contributed to where I am today. I don’t regret anything. However, looking back, I acknowledge that making choices would have been easier if I knew what the options were. What are jobs you can do with/without that desired PhD title? What is the difference between an academic career, working in a small spin-off, or a multinational? Do you really need 10 years of experience for certain jobs?
Without any project management experience (apart from experimental planning during my PhD), I became project leader in the pharmaceutical industry, and with that, I really found my spot. Although, I must make a side note here. You all know Icarus, right? My enthusiasm, my passion, and my clear focus emphasized by the high-demanding environment brought me to a burn-out in spring 2018. I came out stronger, and more connected to myself than I have ever been.
All these experiences triggered me to help PhDs who have the feeling they are stuck. This can be in the content, in developing specific skills, in relationships with promotor or colleagues, in mental balance, or in envisioning your future. I followed numerous courses to become a professional coach and this is how EDK PhD coaching arose.