#093: Sabine Englich Story

In this episode, Dr. Sabine Englich shares her career story from the perspective of a coach and tells us about the essence of developing a satisfying career. Dr. Sabine had been a science manager in the Max Plank institute for over 20 years. After retirement, she started her coaching career and currently she is helping young PhDs to fulfill the transition from academic into the professional life.

“In my story I want to show you that the chance for satisfying career lies in the awareness of your own personality, of your needs and of your skills.”

Dr. Sabine Englich

To know more about Sabine’s story, please listen to this episode. If you also have a story to be told or if you know someone, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Enjoy Listening!

Transcript

Hello and welcome to PhD Career Stories, the podcast about career paths inside and outside academia. My name is Suzan Mansourian and I am very pleased to introduce Dr. Sabine Englich to you. 

Dr. Sabine had been a science manager in the Max Plank institute for over 20 years. After retirement, she started her coaching career and currently she is helping young phds to fulfill the transition from academic into the professional life.

Dr. Sabine shares her story from the perspective of a coach with us and tell us about the essence of developing a satisfying career. 

We hope that her story will be inspiring to you. Enjoy listening. 

Sabine: Hello! My name is Sabine. In the following, I will tell you my career story from the perspective of a coach… What can you learn from a long professional pathway. Reflecting this way, what would I have changed if I would have to do it again. 

I studied physics. I was trained as a mediator and later on, as a coach and I worked all over my life in positions, organizing or managing science. 

That’s a story in short.  

And now let’s start from the beginning and let’s have a deeper look in the crucial turning points and how they were triggered. 

I grew up in a normal middle class family. My father was engineer, my mother was house-wife. And I went to a good school. This was usual at this time in Germany. 

It was a time of science, of space science, space traveling. It was the time of the moon landing and that really fascinated me. 

By the time I used to read biographies. And I had read one by one of the famous physicist Werner Heisenberg. in German title Der Teil und das Ganze, in English, Physics and beyond. In this biography, he was describing his study time in Götting and I was totally fascinated by this atmosphere of creativity, of curiosity, of discussions and of friendship. 

And I made up my decision: I want to study physics not for teaching, but for science. and this was supported by our young attractive physics’ teacher in school. 

My environment was more hesitating and confident to that: physics and a woman! no chances! All that raced my stubbornness. 

And finally I found myself among thousand male students in mathematics together with twenty other woman in an auditory.

The decision to study physics wasn’t triggered by my social environment and my early determination inert me to explore other options which might have come closer to my personality. 

Without questioning, I went on with my studies but then something happened. 

I travelled to India. 

By the time in the early seventies very popular among young people at least in Germany. There, I experienced the poverty of a developing country. Returning to Germany I had to take a class of theoretical elementary physics. And this was a shock which plunged me in deep depressions. And brings me to the point where I hesitated whether I should go on with my studies. During this visit I had realized that I am a hands on person, that I need a job which needs social skills and practical application far away from theoretical physics and research. 

It took me some while to come to a decision. I had finished most of my studies, I still had to write my thesis and I had to pass the final exams. 

So finally I came to the conclusion to finish up my master even though it would give me a real hard time. A comfort to me was a thought that I would have the chance to study something which would please me after I have my degree. But this mental crisis made me aware of my personal needs and talents. So, looking for a thesis topic I was looking for something which would meet most of these needs. So I searched in the medical related field and found a group which was just in the state of establishing the field of cryobiology. 

And what I found as well was the atmosphere from the book, the spirit of creativity, of curiosity, and the work on the thesis, all of a sudden, was extremely fun. 

To make a story short, I finished my master, I got a scholarship for the United States where I went with my fiancé. 

When I got an offer to do my PhD in Germany I returned even though my fiancé remained in the United States and finished finally my PhD. 

This development I never would have expected before few years ago. 

Viewing the work of my thesis, I learned some more aspects on my personal needs. I’ve moved in a highly interdisciplinary group. I always found it very satisfying to bring people together. Today you would call it networking. 

I’d like to organize and to manage. 

But at the same time I learned what I didn’t like to do. 

I was good in developing ideas but I wasn’t patient enough to follow up. 

I did not like to write papers or to publish or to write applications for money. 

And to realize that. it was clear that I never would follow an academic career. 

Nevertheless it was important to finish the PhD because this will open up a lot of new job options outside of academia. 

But the most important was that I was aware of my strengths and talents. So I looked very strategically for jobs which would need them.

I looked for jobs in research institutions and ministries. I even applied in a publishing company. And I finally had a lot of luck!

I got a job as the personal assistant to the scientific head of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg. This was, at this time, Harald zur Hausen, who was later on was awarded the Nobel Prize of Medicine. This position allows me a deep insight how science works, how an institution is managed and what is necessary to run the infrastructure and how political issues are handled. 

This was a great and enormous experience and laid a good background. 

This time something very important happened: the wall fall and Germany became more united again. 

This affected my career because the science council sets up evaluation groups to develop a plan how to match the two different German science systems. I got the offer to assist one of these groups for biomedical research. 

It was an extremely uptaking but also inspiring experience, traveling with highly  renowned scientists and learning a lot of science politics. 

And after five fears, my time on this assistant level was finished. 

During this time I mostly was the spokesperson for others but finally you have to take your own responsibility and get into a situation of being active. 

Now, by looking for a new position, I could bring in my education, my talents and my experience. I found a job as a kind of science manager in the newly founded institute of Max Plank society. 

The institute at the beginning was headed by two scientific directors and my duty was to build up the infrastructure which is needed to run a scientific institute. 

For that met my skills nearly perfectly. In this position I remained for over twenty years even though I’ve got some interest for other offers but nothing came so close to what I wanted to do. 

I started first by myself and over time I became responsible for a group of sixteen coworkers. And this was a new experience since I had to develop leadership skills. 

So I discovered new aspects of myself. I was good in arguing and convincing…people …and I was open enough to listen and to develop new perspectives. 

Since research is a field which evokes a lot of conflicts, I started training as mediator and later on I completed the training in coaching. 

This provides me with a lot of tools I could use in my daily working life.

So and now after my retirement, I had started another career, by offering career coaching in the academic area, since I see a real need to help young academics when they have to fulfill the transition from academic education into professional life. 

Looking backward, what does the story teach us?

When I would have to choose again today, I probably wouldn’t study physics again. 

Being aware of my personality, probably something like mechanical engineering or architecture would have speeded my talents, skills… much better. Nevertheless I had a career that was inspiring and satisfying to me. 

And what was the reason for that? Since I am a very analytical person I use this ability to my own actions and always reconsidered my position… and I listen to my intuition… so I was able to find job options fitting to my skills and to my personality…on my professional pathway it looks on the first glance very linear. This has also to do with incidents and luck. Of course there were hesitations and I sacrificed a lot of my private life but that’s another story. In my story I want to show you that the chance for satisfying career lies in the awareness of your own personality, of your needs and of your skills. The working conditions have changed tremendously during the last fifty years and they will change even more dramatically in the next decades due to the digitalization. This calls for a high flexibility of the working people. 

Therefore a stable platform is needed and that will be provided by self-awareness. 

In my work with young students, I often observed that they start their studies enthusiastically. But soon get caught in a tight circle of study requirements, finishing the master degree, the PhD and becoming postdoc, without developing a vision how future should look like. 

And then they’re facing the transit from education to the self-responsibility of creating a career.

Many have a good feeling for the individual talents and find a plan… but those who are missing that, should rely on help of someone who can give guidance. Coaches can provide you with tools to develop the sensitivity for your personal needs and can help to develop a vision. 

I hope I could show what is the essence of developing a satisfying professional pathway.  I thank you for listening. I wish you good luck for your future professional life. 

And that is it for another episode of PhD Career Stories. As always, we would love to hear from you. You can contact us by commenting on our blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. If you like what we do, please subscribe to our show on Itunes or Spotify. So that’s goodbye for now, but we will be back with a new story for you in two weeks time.”

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