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#123 Round table discussion with EATRIS on the power of soft skills in your professional journey

In this episode, our guests talk about soft skills and reveal why they hold the key to unparalleled success in any professional setting.

Published onJun 09, 2023
#123 Round table discussion with EATRIS on the power of soft skills in your professional journey

Are you curious why soft skills are crucial for your career growth?
Whether you're a seasoned professional or just starting out, this podcast is your gateway to practical tips, real-life examples, and expert insights that will help you harness the full potential of soft skills.

In today’s episode, our host Tina Persson will have a roundtable discussion with our guests Patricia Carvajal, David Morrow, Antonio L. Andreu (Toni) and Alex Gardiol from EATRIS.
EATRIS is a non-profit, European research infrastructure for translation medicine that focuses on improving and optimising preclinical and early clinical development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics, and overcoming barriers to health innovation.

Join them as they talk about soft skills and reveal why they hold the key to unparalleled success in any professional setting. From effective communication to taking risks and being able to adapt, these hidden gems go beyond technical expertise, empowering you to thrive in the job market.

Remember, in the competitive job market, it's not just about what you know but how you apply it. Soft skills make the difference, so let's dive in and elevate your career to new heights. Stay tuned!

#123 Round table discussion with EATRIS on the power of soft skills in your professional journey

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Tina Persson: Hi and welcome to PhD Career Stories Podcast. This is Tina Persson from Malmö, Sweden recording and I have here today people belonging to an association called EATRIS. And it is a masterclass, I would say, a round table discussion around careers and possible careers that I know many of our followers would be very highly interested in learning from. So the topic is career perspectives for scientists 2023 and beyond. And just a short background about EATRIS. EATRIS is a nonprofit European research infrastructure for translational medicine, providing access to experts and facilities from, I think it's 144 top academic centers across Europe. Did I get the numbers correct?

David Morrow: I think it's 148 now, Tina.

Tina: So it is steadily growing, it's fantastic. It's a huge organization here. And just who do I have with me in this fantastic team here? I have David Morrow. You heard him here recently. He is a Scientific Program Manager and a PhD. We have Patricia and she's a Scientific Project Manager, also a PhD and then we have Alex. And Alex is a Science and Business Developer also with a PhD title. And then we have the man over the crowd, the director himself, also a PhD and his name is Toni. So I will open up this round table here about careers. And I would like to start with you, David. I read about your background and I noticed you started your career in the United States and just very shortly, American Heart Association, where you have been a funded Principal Scientist, and then you came over to Europe. Why did you make this jump? United States and Europe. I'm curious to learn that.

David: Well, I think when you are in a place for ten years, from the personal aside, you have to make a decision if it's going to be your home and settle down. And I don't think it was a fit. Actuall, I think it had run its course, because I'd gone down the traditional academic path, up to about research professor level, had my own lab but then I looked ahead and something was missing from me. That would put me on a different journey and yeah, and then do an MBA and take both of those combinations of business and science and come back to Europe to see where else I could fit in.

Tina: What did you know about Europe before you came?

David: I live in Europe, I'm from Ireland. So, I mean, there was a draw to be closer to family and to be back in Europe. You know, I had no problems in America, but I did prefer to live in Europe and be close to everybody back in Ireland.

Tina: So you were born in Europe, then went to the United States and then came back to Europe?

David: I did, yeah.

Tina: Yeah, I missed that part. But you know, when you came back to Europe, what did you experience? Did you become a little bit American on the way? So what differences did you notice when you came back? Because this is what I hear from many of my coaches that, yeah, I went to Europe, Europe, and then back to the United States, it was different.

David: I mean, I would actually recommend and advise every scientist if they could, to do a postdoc in the United States because they do it very well. The institutions they have, the way they work, I think it was a fantastic advantage for me to do that. And I came back with a different skill set, a different way to work. And I think a lot of people say they benefit from going to the US and then bringing that knowledge back to Europe. But it was a bumpy ride. I didn't go straight to EATRIS. I tried to get another job first in Spain, in Barcelona, which was a bit of a failure because it wasn't a fit. But these things will happen, you know, when you go in one direction. And a lot of people listening today will experience that as well. When you switch directions, you're going to hit a few bumps. I certainly did before I ended up with these guys at EATRIS.

Tina: We are going to come back a little bit later to that feeling of failure because, you know, it is important to come over them and say it's not failure, it's a learning experience. But we would come back to that, David, here, because I would like to turn my face to you, Patricia, that you're from Bolivia. Then did a PhD in Barcelona and then a small trip to industry, coordinating a European unit. You have an extremely diverse background, so how did you end up at EATRIS?

Patricia Carvajal: Thank you, Tina. Well, I started my career in Bolivia, where I did my Bachelor in Biology. But my curiosity, my scientific, and also eager to learn, pushed me to look for an international PhD career. So I came to Barcelona to obtain my PhD and then I had different professional experiences here and I combined the private industry with public research institutes, and I had the opportunity to acquire a lot of skills and knowledge. And my experience in managing European projects and coordinating large consortia, these gave me, let's say, the experience and the confidence to came in to EATRIS, where my job is about managing European research projects, and I think that all my background and my experience in this field made me like a good and ideal candidate to work at EATRIS.

Tina: But you say Bolivia and then PhD in Barcelona, why Barcelona?

Patricia: Yes. I didn't select Barcelona by myself, because I was looking for different places also in the United States, but it was like, let's say, a lucky opportunity that was open at that time in Barcelona. And some colleagues of mine recommended to me that there was a very good chemical engineering institute in Barcelona where there was a PhD Position, so I applied for that and that's it. It was not easy to find a PhD position because I was trying to, as I said, to get a PhD position in the United States or UK. But at the end this was yeah, like my fate or I don't know how to call. But this opportunity at Barcelona was open at that time and this was the door that was open for me. And since then my professional career and also my personal life changed.

Tina: Yeah, we will come back to that. So now we have failure, we have fate. A lot to talk about here today. Turning our face here to Alex, when I read about you, I read Uruguai and then Paris doing PhD, and then the United Kingdom (Cambridge), and then industry in medical devices.

So of course, I'm super curious to hear how you end up here at EATRIS?

Alex Gardiol: You want it from the beginning?

Tina: Maybe a shorter story, you know, you have a fantastic background.

Alex: I went to the French Lycée in Montevideo, and at the end of my Baccalaureate, I was awarded a fellowship to study in Paris. So I did all my studies in Paris, including my PhD, in Neuroscience and (unclear). And then I went to Cambridge to do a long Postdoc, trying to further the research into the topic I have scratched the surface during my PhD. So it was a very, very interesting scientific journey. I very much enjoyed my career as a student and as a Postdoc. At the end I was curious to know how the other side was, how to apply, and how to do applied science? And I wanted to go to the industry. I wanted to have a look at the pharmaceutical industry because a lot of my friends were in the pharmaceutical industry. It was a time where the industry was a bit in turmoil. The period was known as patent cliff. So it was very difficult to get a job in the pharmaceutical industry and that's why I took a sidepath and went into the medical devices, working in microscopy, which is something I'm very passionate about, as a scientist, and I enjoyed and I enjoyed this, this time in my life working with microscopes and meeting different people. So, you know, in your PhD and postdoc you are very focused on your subject, then you expand your horizon and see what other people are doing. And then I took another slightly unusual path and it was to go back to university, but this time as a student. I went back to the lecture room and did a masters. So I was the only one with a notepad and a pen. Everyone else had a computer taking notes. So it was a bit of a shock to the system. And the students it was like, I could be their mother, so that was another shock to the system. But I very much enjoyed having young friends and being back in the university. And after that I got a few short, short things of consultancy and working in biotech and startups, and that was a very enjoyable, very enjoyable time. And building on my knowledge on what the industry, the challenges, the finance of the whole ecosystem around translational medicine is. And I think it all crystallized coming into EATRIS, where everything comes together, both the industry, the research and this desire to bridging that gap that takes research into a product, into something that can be benefited.

Tina: Is your career, like Patricia, she said it was a sort of an accident, for David it was sort of coming back. Did you plan your career, how would you define it?

Alex: I think I did plan it academically. You know, academia is a linear path, there are not many branches. Once you leave academia, you find yourself bouncing between different opportunities and following, as a sailor, to where the winds take you. And it's something that you learn and you learn a lot, perhaps a lot more than you would learn in a linear career with always doing the same and following funding after funding etc. You come out and then you meet different people, very similar to you to some extent and very different as well. And it's very enriching.

Tina: Yeah, it's interesting what you say, the linear thing and the bumps in opportunity, but it requires actually that you're open minded. And now we have Toni the last man here, an amazing career. I understand it's the United States, New York in Colombia, wasn't it? Then Spain. And you had moved sort of from being a Scientific Expert to Policy Making and Innovation. And now also a leader, director, you know, the leading position here. So the whole career, I guess, would take very long. But I would like, if you could say, you know, some key things that led you to become a director of a team like EATRIS.

Toni Andreu: Yeah, that's interesting because I am the oldest one of this office party, which means that my journey has been much longer than maybe Alex or Patricia. Okay, so to make a long story short, this is a young MD that was always interested in research. So in around 1980 something, I had the opportunity of learning more, developing a PhD program, so I went to Columbia University in New York because I was very interested at that moment in the area of rare diseases, neuromuscular disorders. And it turns out that I landed in a place where there was an amazing opportunity for discovering new things about mechanisms of expression of these groups of diseases. I was very lucky because there was this situation when you are at the right place at the right moment. So I was in the middle of a couple of breakthroughs, I had the opportunity of publishing significant relevant papers, and that opened the door for me to go back to Spain, creating my own research group. And at some point, just for, you know, for some specific momentum, for some coincidental situation, I had the opportunity of introducing myself into the policymaking world in the National Institute of Health in Spain, which is the institution that owns the research agenda in Spain. And just by chance, I had the opportunity of becoming the director. I became the director, and that opened another door, which was the door of the health system. Then I moved back to Barcelona and I was the CEO of one of the largest university hospitals in Spain. And then the Spanish Minister of Health asked me to create the Directorate for Research in the Spanish Ministry. I became the Director. I created the research agenda for the Catalan Ministry of Health and after 20 years of working in Spain, in science and in policymaking, suddenly saw this opportunity of jumping to the European landscape because EATRIS opened the position of Scientific Director, I applied and then I started my European journey.

Tina: You say something here, you know, being at the right time, at the right moment, we call it luck. And we have this famous athlete Ingemar Stenmark. But when they said, you know, you're so lucky, and he always said that, you know, it's interesting because the more I train, the more lucky I become. So, you know, luck and being at the right moment at the right time, it might be a skill, Toni, that you have. Have you thought about that?

Toni: Yeah, I think it is something that we all acquire. I mean, luck is that condition that allows you to open your eyes to identify the right opportunity. And as you get older, I mean, this is a skill that you make it a little bit better. Yeah, but in that particular case, I was really lucky. But I immediately saw that there was an opportunity for opening a new door and I jumped to it. One thing that for me has been something very important, something that I'm happy to share with you guys. My father always told me that one of the worst things that can happen in your life is at the end of your journey to look back and then saying, what would have happened if I had done? And I like just to experiment and then just to jump on things sometimes, in the middle of the darkness, but in my case it has always been a very positive outcome.

Tina: Yeah, of course it is. Because it is what you do with it usually, you know. But I like to hang on that, Toni, because this is a career podcast and I coach a lot of clients in careers. I coach people in career and leadership and particularly in career development, career transition.

I sort of bump into that. People are more afraid to fail than to succeed. That is simply holding them back. And this is part of the risk taking which I can hear Toni, that you certainly were open minded. But you were never afraid of taking a risk. So I would like to go back to David, what risks would you say that you have taken that led you forward in your career?

David: Well, I mean, to be part of faculty in a medical center for ten years, to be well established, and then suddenly decide to go (unclear) to do an MBA and come back to Europe and have a just because, as Alex said, you know, the academic road is linear. It's kind of safe. You know, you kind of work for yourself, you fly your own flight. But to leave that behind, this suddenly goes into a completely different environment where you probably have managers over you. You are not comfortable after sitting in your own office for ten years and really writing your own grants. And then suddenly then you were in an office with three or four people going to watch this. So that was a massive risk, as I mentioned earlier it took a while to get it right. The first time it was too much of a change, but then you learn from it. That is a risk, you know, to basically just drop your path, that you are doing very well on, to a different route altogether. But again, I have no regrets. I'm just (unclear) who I work with, and where I work and the direction I took. But it was scary for a while.

Tina: And I can hear you have courage to do something different apart from being expert in one field and then stepping out there and having the courage to learn something new. And we talk about the future here. That future skill, one of the most important future skills will be adaptability, for example, and connected to adaptability, of course, apart from emotional control or managing your emotions, being afraid to fail and etc, it is also to unlearn, because we talk a lot about learning things, but we don't talk about unlearning. And I like to hear from you, Patricia. What would you say that you have and you need to unlearn in order to learn new things?

Patricia: Yeah, I think that under our current situation and the evolution of technology and the world in which we live, we have to be able to detect which are the new tools, the knowledge that will be useful for us or doing our job. Which other, let's say, past knowledge that it's not useful enough or like to discard or update. Now we are always updating, the tools that we are using are always updated. So there is a constant evolution and this is something that we should be aware of, to be updated. Indeed, for my job, I always try to be aware and to look for the latest innovation news. I like to be updated about what's happening in the world, what's happening in science, and to use the most updated tools to be like a sophisticated professional.

And indeed, I read some time ago that zeta shaped managers are the ones that are able to learn and unlearn. And these kinds of profiles are the ones that are the most employable by industry. So yes, and this is a kind of a manager that is useful and this kind of manager is the one that is looked for in the industry, in the workplaces.

Tina: That's important because we know that PhDs work very hard and learn technical skills because you talk about technical skills. And going back to that, every third year we have to relearn. So that's also a very fast-paced world, but it's to unlearn technical tools that we have used, is for sure extremely important. And i'd like to go back to Toni before I go back to Alex here, since you've been in the career for so long, and I will ask maybe a more difficult question when it comes to unlearning, Patricia talks about technology and that we have to unlearn what we learned in the past to go into the future, and actually get more information into our brain. Toni, what would you say are the personality threats - if we are talking soft skills - I don't like that expression, but we can talk about human skills, behaviors, that you needed to unlearn or to learn a new behavior, to be where you are. Would you like to share that?

Toni: Yeah, it's quite interesting because I think that the main thing, you used the word before, that for me is the key word when we talk about career development, which is adaptability. For a few years, I've been conducting a coaching program for tenure track scientists in a biomedical research institute in Barcelona. And I had the opportunity of being exposed to a large number of young scientists in different biomedical domains at different stages of their development. And it's interesting because I think that roughly I could classify three types of approaches. One (group of) people that had a very well-planned prospecting development of their career, people that were just learning by doing, let's say, by not having a previous plan, and people that their focus was to understand how the system was evolving, and trying to adapt to the reality that was around them. And this third group was the one that had the most successful careers. So I think that the main skill that we need to unlearn is predictability and the need to have careful planning of what we want to do with this concept that we call career. I would prefer to substitute this word by “professional journey” or something like that, because the word journey implies this kind of unpredictability.

Tina: You know, I can add to that. That is what I work with as well, both with professors and particularly in careers. Stop planning, because you just get anxious if things don't work the way you have planned. So it's better to live a little bit in the here and now and adapt to each situation and open up for opportunities, which is not easy if you are STEM, which are usually a bit more cautious, usually like to plan, good in math and physics, very analytical, you know, we like to control things because we are trained to control and sort of be a bit little bit suspicious. So we train skills to be good scientists that might not play into our favor when it comes to career development. And Alex is that something that you can see has impacted you? Do you see it among the people that you work with now?

Alex: It's very interesting, I think, along the same lines of Toni. I don't like “unlearning” things, because I'm a brain scientist, so everything that happens to the brain, you prune one side, but you grow in another. So I think flexibility is something that resonates more with this concept you are bringing up. And it brings me back to when I was in Cambridge and searching for what to do next. I went to a lot of talks and career events and I met someone fascinating from the United Nations, who said you cannot predict what your career will be because the jobs of tomorrow don't exist today. And we live in a world like this, who would have thought about data scientists, like ten years ago or five years ago. If you go to university today, and when I got to the classroom of some masters students in drug development, I met with my young colleagues that were immensely anxious about their career, and I wasn't that anxious. And it was exactly because of that reason, things are evolving very quickly and they all wanted an answer, should I do this? Should I do that? Where would I find jobs? Just follow your instincts, follow something that would make you happy. And because, you know, nothing is written in stone. I'm not scared of learning something that seems difficult or new, because I am very flexible. I'm learning carpentry now, for example, it has nothing to do with work. But, you know, I don't feel that it's impossible to learn anything.

Tina: You mentioned some words here that are very common, that people mention and that may be a bit hard to define. And I would come back to, you know, David, because they came from Alex and I'd like to pick them a bit. It was both “flexibility” and “happy”, and I take the “happy” one for you, David, here. Does everyone know what makes you happy? If you don't know what makes you happy, how can you figure out what makes you happy?

David: Yeah, well, that's something that takes time, especially in the career, and that comes back to the word adaptability and so on. Because I may have said at the beginning of my journey at EATRIS that I may not have been too happy until I started to try to carve out my own space, which is which is the essence of a really good place to work by the way, is that you have an opportunity to do that. And I would wish that for anybody. (unclear). You have to have your own thing, what makes you happy. And that takes time. It takes work. You also have to be happy with yourself, though. That's the most important, confidence in yourself and be happy with yourself. And then you'll create a happy working environment for you and maybe for those around you as well. But yeah, it takes time, that's a big question.

Tina: And I'm glad you say it takes time.

David: Just another comment, I think Toni said this to me, when I first met him, in the first few weeks, he made a comment about if you're in a job, you know, it does take time, but you have to also have some type of goal posts on it, so that if you're constantly saying to yourself or questioning your position, you have to think about that, because there's nothing worse in the world than not being happy at your job. And I've had that experience and learned from it. When your legs are so heavy that walking into work, or as someone said, those kinds of jobs, on Sunday night you're going ”Oh God, tomorrow I'm working!”. I don't have that at EATRIS, I'm lucky. I don't have the Sunday night blues, even if it's a busy period. And I would wish that for everybody, I really would.

Tina: But you have it David because you took responsibility. I meet people sitting at jobs, and I know they're going to listen to this podcast, and I know you will inspire them when you say it, because I'm coaching people that come to me and say, I've been working five years in this job and I'm not happy. My legs are heavy, it's really hard to stand up in the morning, but people around me tell me I have a good job.

David: Yeah, well, people can say that when they're looking in, you know, it's what goes on in your own head, and how you live your life and your job. But again, it's cliche, but you have to be happy in what you're doing. It does take time. We can't keep questioning what you're working out for ages, you'd be better off just delivering pizzas or doing anything, you know, work in a bar on a nice island. Don't work in any job for too long if you're not happy in it. Life is too short.

Tina: Life is too short for that. So thank you, also Alex for bringing happy and flexibility. I'm going to hang on to that, because happy is indeed, and for you guys listening here now, it is something you need to work on and everyone needs to work on the word happy because it's only you who can define it, no one else that can define happy for you. But you, Patricia, I'm kicking in here flexibility and it's because clients are coming to me and they say, you know, I'm going to apply for this job. Or they told me this job, I need to be flexible, so how can I tell you I am? And then of course I say, well, you know, I can measure you statistically how flexible you are considering the pool of people. But first of all, we need to define what you think you mean by being flexible. So, Patricia, would you like to elaborate around what you define as being flexible from your point of view, when it comes to your career, if you put it that way.

Patricia: Yeah, I think that by experience, I would also define myself as a flexible and adaptable person. In my early career stage, after obtaining a bachelor in biology in Bolivia, I had this strong desire to (discover) new countries, new cultures, new languages. And that's the idea that pushed me to explore more and to look for opportunities outside my country. And also taking risks because I didn't know where I was going to go at the end. But my desire also to improve, to improve my skills, to improve my knowledge, this is all the energy that pushed me to to take new risks. And then when I started the PhD, I also had different challenges that I had to face in order to have good grades, to learn new subjects, a lot of new techniques, and also to solve scientific problems. So everybody, all my colleagues are scientists and many of you have suffered from many problems during the PhD. This is a good way to test yourself and to be aware that problems can be solved in time, and you just need to put dedication, love, and a lot of love. There is motivation. I was lucky and I consider myself also lucky that I keep my motivation in the things that I'm doing. I like to learn. I like to understand what I'm doing, I also like to have a good quality, for example, output. I like to be proud of my output and that's for me a good indicator, it is a way to measure how I'm doing in my job. So also when I change jobs, for example, from scientific to administrative or project management, that was a challenge also for me, but was an opportunity to learn new skills. I went from the scientific, to the scientific and also to the administrative, and that gave me a lot of set of skills that now are useful for my current job. So I think every time you face a challenge, depending on how you take that, that could be an opportunity to acquire, say, a new skill, a new know-how that will be useful for your future.

Tina: Yep. You're talking about learning here and, and daring to learn and see things that you don't know you're going to be able to use. So you don't know why you do it. When I listen to you here, you all have done that, a little bit. You are curious, sort of. So you learn things, but maybe not always know why. It is just sort of a feeling that you have, you know, why not? And that is something I like to to also say that, you know, again, going back to many of the clients I have that ask me, you know, what should I do, and how can i do it, should I have that, and my CV that, and should I take that course? They want an answer. And I say, you know, we need to take a step back. How much money are you willing to pay? Because it's also very common, you know, to take courses. I can take many courses, but I don't want to pay for them. Someone else has to pay for them. And I say, you know, there is one thing, you know, it is that you can't take a course that is very expensive and you risk losing the money because the course was not good.

But it could also be a course that changes your life. So the input of the money will give you ten times back. And this is the same thing with coaching packages. It is sort of like to have a controlling behavior of if I do that, I want my receipt immediately. So what I'm asking you here is that is, is it so that you need in the future, if you want to jump into a situation that you have done here, all four of you, you need to involve this sort of risk that you don't know if you're going to have a paycheck back on something that you do. You always take a risk that you did it, but, you know, it wasn't the best move at all. Or you take a course or you pay for something and it wasn't really planned out as you expected. But in the end, that was the key for being successful in the end. Is that something, Toni, you would like to elaborate around a little bit, this risk taking, not knowing if it's worth the money.

Toni: I think the key word for answering this question for me is the word that Alex used, which is instinct. In this career, in this profession, in this world of research. It happens also in every important moment in life. I mean, there are moments when you have to make decisions. And I think that the guide for making these decisions is to follow your instinct, and the instinct is something very interesting because the instinct is feeling your guts, doing what your gut is asking to do. Because that same duration of work, the brain that knows all the context, all the pros, all the cons, the analytical par, is bringing some information, but also this emotional side of your heart also is bringing in all this contextual, emotional information that relates to what you are, your values, your happiness, etc. So having this kind of emotion and this objective syntheses in the decision making process, which means following your instinct, is always the right way to do it. And it's something interesting because it's never objective. It's something that you can’t put in a piece of paper, but it's something that is this inner voice, that is telling you, this is the right way to go. In the research domain I think this is particularly important, because we are always confronted with lack of predictability, with mysteries, with this kind of uncertainty in the clarification process. And I would like to add something because you've been using the concept of learning of all things, right, which is this wonderful thing about research. But we cannot forget that the research domain is something that gives you the amazing opportunity of learning from others because it is an environment where you are exposed to people that come from different experiences, different cultures, like, I mean, the four of us, we are a perfect example I mean for me it's a privilege to work in a place where I can learn from people every day. Little things, sometimes big things, other times, from people like David, Patricia, or Alex. This is something that doesn't happen in other careers. This is why this job is so intoxicating.

Tina: It's intoxicating. And now you're coming into something else. And we still have 10 minutes left of the podcast here, and we're going to circle around it a little bit. But you really spotted it in instinct, it could be a podcast itself, what is that actually? But I believe that in modern society we have a closed instinct. We don't listen to the instinct for a reason or two, and particularly in science, but also in the careers I learned and experienced that a lot. But we are going to talk about something you mentioned here Toni, it is to learn from other people,we talk a lot about team and team engagement and they say, you know, written in job ads, etc, that you need to be excellent in communication, etc. And when I talk with my clients, they say, “Yeah, I'm excellent at communicating.” And I say, “Now we need to dig deeper into what you mean by excellent in communicating, on what level you are communicating.” Because the feedback I get from companies is that many that come out from PhD or Postdoc, that stay a very long time in an academic environment, that they need to be better in communicating. And then I say, you know, now you need to help me to specify. And it comes to what you talk about here, Toni. Communicate with your team members, learn from your team members and communicate with your manager without the manager coming to you to ask for information. So it's sort of sharing information constantly with your teams and that for some it doesn't come naturally. So I would like to go to you, Alex, from your perspective, would you like to share, for example, what you had to learn about communicating to be a stronger team member or manager, for example?

Alex: I love this topic actually, because I can see exactly what you get into, and I think I see all of the others laughing. I think as an academic, and I'm sure that we can do it much more eloquently, with the “and the cat went there, (unclear) and the cat ended up in a tree, (unclear)”, it bores people. Because we follow a logic of trying to explain the cause and the consequence, we try to be very factual (unclear), all these reasons why this is true, and we bore everyone. My partner is from the finance world and they start by the end, and we have conversations that are absolutely kafkaesque, where I have my eyes open like this, because my partner starts by the end, and I don't understand how we got there. And then I start by the beginning and my partner (unclear). Maybe that's the secret to happiness. But anyhow, I think if I were to give advice to people that want to transition from academia, we all speak the same language, understand each other, like explaining the long process. Make it one of the first things you learn from the business environment, you know, go somewhere where you have to communicate quickly in four lines, a simple concept without talking about everything. There are books, it's a very easy skill and very, very helpful because, it's true, we have this way of communicating that doesn't work in business, business starts in the end. You know, the executive summary, give me the punchline. That's something you learn, it takes a while to understand, but it's good when someone says, “Please, you know, give me three bullet points.”

Tina: Yeah, the feedback I got when I went from academia to industry was, could you stop preaching? We are really tired of you preaching for us here. Could you just talk? And I know I remember, I didn't get it. But now, many years afterwards, I'm sort of smiling because this is what I'm training PhDs in industry, you are preaching and teaching a bit much. Maybe you should try to figure out the other person's perspective a bit more. So, yes, and I agree with you, punchlines many times to deliver the match. But David, I'd like to hear your perspective on this.

David: Well, communication, I mean, traditionally, scientists have not been very good at it. And I think we all know that. And I think it's interesting, in EATRIS, because I think we all have become better communicators because we deal with people every day, because I think we're starting to realize science, medicine, really is a people business. So we had to learn to be better. We all have our own styles. You are right about, you know, I myself, I probably talk too much. I know that. But it's something you learn. But it's about knowing how to communicate with the individual I think, because everyone has their own style and that's something that you learn with time. Sometimes you get it wrong, but you have to, as individuals I've worked with that. You don't want to kill them sometimes, but you have to learn to just back off or, you know, you have to develop your own techniques. But it's not easy, but it's something you get better at with time, I think, Toni, maybe you'll say maybe the elder statesman out of all of us, you probably better than anyone of us that I know, because you learn over time. But it's something, it's an issue because communication is everything in a team. If you don't have it you're in a lot of trouble.

Tina: And sometimes, you know, communication, what many people forget is to listen.

David: Measure twice and saw once, that's what my father tells me.

Tina: We forget that listening is a part of communication and I see smiling. Thank you David, and Patricia, your perspective on the topic?

Patricia: I think it's a key element in our daily life, in our daily work, especially now that we are working from different parts of the world. And we have to be very effective in communicating our ideas, instructions, tasks, whatever. So I think nowadays,everybody, all professions, this is a key skill that all of us should develop very, very well. And I would say that for our work at EATRIS, it is a key point to be very good communicators, to understand very well the receivers of our messages, and also to think very well how we are going to structure our message, especially for project managers like me. We have to be very, very good communicators for giving instructions, for example, for facilitating that things are done in the proper way, let's say, and that is communication.

Tina: It is. Toni, consider now that I apply for a job to be part of your team, and I write in my resume, I'm excellent in communicating, a true team player, etc. How would you test that?

Toni: Well, I think I will listen and I will explain how I feel, what I want to do, what's my plan. And I would encourage that other person to create this kind of communal space where we are sharing our thoughts. And if I detect that chemistry that does exist in this process of sharing how we feel, and there is honesty and transparency, for me that means communication. Because communication is a skill that you also have to learn. I mean, when you start, you know, working with someone else, you need to understand, for communicating, for creating this common space where you feel you are sharing part of yourself. You need to understand that the context of that person, and the personality, it's a chemistry that needs to be built. This is essential for having efficient teamwork, because I mean, in complex organizations like us, these functions do exist and appear all the time. So if I know that David, Patricia and Alex, and they do it all the time, this is why, for instance, working with these guys is just great, because I know that if something worries them or is not working, they are going to put this openly on the table. And that allows me to work in an environment of trust, and that makes work more efficient.

And also that helps create a sort of self-human relationship with the other, which is part of this kind of learning process.

Tina: So I hear something very important here from you Toni, and thank you for that, that is to be yourself, and you have to share more than your technology and professional you, in an interview. You have to show who you actually are. And there is nothing like, you know, this is, I like to tell you listeners, listen to what Toni said. It's about being you, they are going to recruit you. They are not going to recruit your technical skills. They can read that in the résumé, but in the interview you have to share who you are, what you want. And it's not about a perfect answer many times, and laughing is fully okay. I'm quite sure, Toni, it would be a fantastic, and amazing experience to be interviewed by you, I feel that. Yeah. So because talking about yourself, your dreams and also learning from a person like you in an interview is an experience itself. So thank you a lot, Toni, Patricia, David and Alex for the round table discussion here. This is Tina Persson from PhD Career Stories, and I hope you enjoyed the podcast. And what I would say here finally is that you can learn more about all other topics that we have recorded and we have many new interesting topics upcoming on the podcast here. You can follow us on the web page,, you find us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, and a little bit on Twitter, and never hesitate to contact us if you know someone or an organization that you think deserves to be on our podcast. And we promise, me and my team, to take action on that. So with that said, thank you a lot. It was absolutely amazing having you on board and have a wonderful day and speak soon.

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