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#27 PhD Career Stories: 1 Year Anniversary

PhD Career Stories one year anniversary podcast celebrated with a round table with our team!

Published onJul 21, 2017
#27 PhD Career Stories: 1 Year Anniversary

A year ago, Tina talked to Michele. At that time, he was a PhD student looking for a job in industry. “I have a feeling that you have a lot of energy; would you like to share what you have learned with other people so that you will make life easier for them? Because, you see, I have a dream and a vision to start a podcast.” And Michele said, “Why not? I would love to! I don’t know how to do it, but I can probably learn.”

Learn how this story continued to where we are now.


Hello out there in the world! It’s Tina Persson, the founder of the PhD Career Stories podcast, here. 

I’m sitting in my flat in the southern part of Sweden, in a town called Malmö. It’s the third biggest city in Sweden. And it is raining! We hardly had any summer (temperatures) here. But it’s a perfect day to produce a podcast. This is a very special one. It’s a one-year celebration podcast. It’s unbelievable that we have been going on for so long!

I’m going to talk a little bit about the start of it, what we have done and not only that, but share a lot of interesting stuff. Then the team will share what they have learned and what they do, so please stay tuned.

A year ago, I talked to Michele Manzo. At that time, he was a PhD student looking for a job in industry. He realized it was extremely tough. He was very desperate and frustrated when I met him, because he’s a goal-oriented and ambitious young man. But I asked Michele, “I have a feeling that you have a lot of energy; would you like to share what you have learned with other people so that you will make life easier for them? Because, you see, I have a dream and a vision to start a podcast.” And Michele said, “Why not? I would love to! I don’t know how to do it, but I can probably learn.” I thought that was good, because I didn’t either know how to do a podcast and would also have to learn. Then there were two of us, I, Tina, and Michele. 

But I realized we needed more people, because the goal was to produce one to two pods per month. So I asked another coachee, Paulius Mikulskis, whether he would like to join the tech team of the podcast. Paulius, who’s a cautious man, said that he needed to think. Two months later, if I don’t remember incorrectly, he said that he would love to join the team. Paulius is now an extremely important member of the editing team, doing a fabulous job editing all the pods that we’re getting into. He’s also very good at the technical stuff.

Then I realized we needed another person for the social media and PR. We can produce a fantastic pod but if we don’t have a person that’s really enthusiastic, loyal and energetic, who understands social media and how to distribute the podcast, there will be no podcast because we won’t have any followers. The name of this person is Maria Sjögren, who’s worked at Karolinska Institutet and has a huge interest in PR and scientific communication, social media communication in general. 

So that was the starting team. It was Maria, Paulius, Michele and I. We were the starting point for the first podcast, which was released on the 22nd of July, 2016. Until today, we have produced 26 pods. Two pods per month. We are very glad that we have succeeded to keep up the tempo, so that you guys know that every second Friday, there will be a new pod. Today, you can follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and, of course, the PhD Career Stories webpage:

Looking at the statistics, we have about 8,000 downloads. It’s amazing. We have followers from literally all over the world. On behalf of the PhD Career Stories podcast, I would like to say thanks for being there, following us and coming back to us with suggestions of people who might give pods and ideas. We love having that because it makes our podcast grow. Remember, it’s because of you followers that we continue to work extremely hard to develop the PhD Career Stories podcast. 

I hope that you have have noticed that we have started doing more films and the interview concept. In August and September, there will be even more when the PhD Career Stories podcast is special guest at the Max Planck Symposium for Alumni and Early Career Researchers and the Max Planck Career Fair in Berlin. Wow! We’re going to talk to so many people that you can learn from when it comes to career paths both inside academia and towards industry - or something in-between! You know, we have a freelancing world, we have the small companies, the venture cup companies and so on. As you can hear, a lot is happening.

Very quickly, during autumn 2016, we actually needed more people in. Maria had a huge amount of work spreading the podcast. We needed a person with a great network and who was burning for communication, with podcast ideas, wanting to share the PhD thing, as we call it. And I found her at the Max Planck Symposium for Alumni in Berlin. Her name is Jo Havemann. She’s a freelancer with her own business and a fantastic network in Germany and Africa. That makes her extremely special. Jo has a huge heart and is extremely passionate. I would say “passion” is the word for Jo. She’s loyal and puts a lot of work in. We’re so grateful to have her.

So we were five people. That’s how it is, the team grows. And everyone in the team is different, I want to share that. 

In spring 2017, we decided to take another step by improving the publishing. So far, it has been a pretty simple way of producing a podcast. We simply edit the podcast that you guys send to us. But the ambition grows. Maybe we want a jingle. Maybe we should have an intro so we can tell a little bit about a person before they give a podcast. Maybe we should have some music, or more films, and so on. We also have ideas about sponsoring. For the money we get in, we could do and share even more with you guys. In order to get all this together, we need someone to coordinate us. I want to point out that PhD Career Stories is a voluntary project. All these people working with me, they do it in their spare time. All of us have a lot to do. From time to time, we run into last minute panics when it comes to the publishing. So, it was time to pull another person into the process. 

We needed a process driver. A process driver that keeps track of the production of the podcast so we can meet the deadlines and start to coordinate different events, and who pushes us to be more proactive. That person was another coachee of mine, Anna Westerlund. She’s now doing the job of the process driver. We can feel in the PhD Career Stories team that we have gotten a bit more rest and peace now, because Anna has a little eye on us, and supports and reminds us in a very gentle and nice way. We also developed all kinds of tools to keep track of the publishing and to follow each other. We use Slack, Facebook, Messenger, LinkedIn and the old-fashioned telephone. 

The next step that we will take, I have mentioned it, is going to be the sponsoring, maybe turn PhD Career Stories into a company. We will be present at the Max Planck Alumni Symposium. We will interview more people. I promise you, dear followers, this is just the beginning of the PhD Career Stories podcast. There will be more. And it will be more because of you as well, so please support us. Please come back with ideas and more. So, I would just like to say thanks to the Max Planck Alumni for inviting us and thanks to you followers.

Now it’s time to hear what the rest of the team has to say: Michele Manzo, Paulius Mikulskis, Maria Sjögren, Jo Havemann and Anna Westerlund. They will share their dream with the project, their task and their biggest aha moment of the year. We also have Olesia Snezhkova, a PhD student at Lund University. She’s the web designer who does all the graphic work for PhD Career Stories. The logo, the presentations on Twitter and Facebook, the web design behind that is all thanks to Olesia. Today, she’s working as a specialist consultant at Eclipse, a consultant company in Stockholm. Unfortunately, she couldn’t take part in this one-year celebration but she will be back later and give her story and share some tips and tricks. 

Thank you very much for listening. All the best to you and have a great summer! 


Hi! Welcome to the PhD Career Stories podcast. My name is Michele Manzo, and I’m a co-founder and contributor to this podcast.

It’s finally been one year! I can hardly believe that we made it all this way and we’re now ready to celebrate and be happy about our first candle. I still remember when Tina suggested this project for the very first time. I was almost ready to sign my first contract for the company I’m currently working for. In a way, I felt it was the right time to share with others the experiences I went through, the struggles I faced. Also, the very important lessons I had learned from Tina, which inspired me to proceed and not giving up, and from contact with others. 

I got extremely excited about this project. In the beginning, obviously, I had no idea how a podcast works. But doing some research and some trial and error processes, we managed to organize the first structures and we went out with the first pod. It was unbelievable that we actually made it and we managed to be on air. It was a fantastic experience to share this with Paulius, Maria and Tina, the founder team at the time. still remember when I recorded my own podcast, which is the third in the series. It was an extremely, let’s say, tight recording for that podcast. I was running late with the recording and I was traveling to Iceland, so half of the podcast was recorded in Sweden and half was recorded in Iceland. To continue this tradition, I’m recording this podcast from Paris. Even though I live in Stockholm, I’m not there every time I record the podcast. I’m currently in Paris to improve my French, as learning is like running - it never ends. So, I’m spending July in Paris to improve my knowledge of French and learn something new, experience something else and stretch myself to a new level.

Going back to the PhD Career Stories podcast, it’s really been a surprising experience. I’ve learned so much out of this project. I’m extremely grateful to have been able to work with fantastic colleagues in our team. I’m in the editing team with Paulius. We edit the files we receive from you. At the same time, we take care of the technical part of the podcast: the media host, creating the platform and infrastructure, so that Maria and Jo can spread the podcast on the other platforms.

Answering Tina’s questions - the dream, what I’ve learned, what I’m looking at. The dream is that this podcast could become a reality, career change of PhD. I lead this transition of my own and I think I would have been very glad if had known before some of the tips and tricks, problems and embarrassing situations. But in a way, this is also part of the learning process, doing the mistakes, learning and reiterating. It’s the only way to truly improve ourselves. So, the big dream is that we could really make a difference in somebody’s career development process. 

I have learned that cooperative work is easy to say but not easy to put into practice. Being able to coordinate with the others, being able to be effective with that, needs a lot of communication. It’s something that I’ve been learning and improving a lot. There’s always room and vision to improve, under this point of view.

What’s going to be the big next? Currently under development, as Tina has mentioned, we will develop new formats. We don’t really know where we’re going but we’re not stopping, and this is thanks to your support and suggestions for improvements. 

That’s all from Paris. I wish you a great summer and thanks for listening! Have a nice day!


Hi! I’m Paulius Mikulskis, one of the co-founders of the PhD Career Stories podcast. 

My dream with the project is that it will become a bit bigger, have a bit more reach and people will find it very useful. Hopefully, that the podcast will affect their life in a positive way. I think that’s the most important thing which can come from this project.

What is my task? Well, I mostly do audio editing. Besides that, I look into how to solve problems we encounter, like organizing our podcast stories or what tools we should use to make our process as efficient as we can.

What is my biggest aha moment during this year? I think that my biggest surprise is that we’re still going and we’re not losing steam. We have more people joining in and it’s much bigger than I thought. Maybe it’s because I usually underestimate everything, but I’m really surprise how big this project has become. 


Hey, this Johanna Havemann. Most people just call me Jo; or Dr Jo ;)

As Tina already mentioned to you, she and I met a bit less than a year ago in Berlin, Germany, when we both attended the first Max Planck Alumni symposium. I was impressed by her energy and her way to engage with her audience during her presentation. We share the passion and profession to encourage young scientists to pursue their dreams and unleash their full potential throughout and after the PhD.

During a Skype session, when Tina asked if you would like to participate with an episode in PhD Career Stories I felt both humbled and insecure. Humbled because I loved the idea behind and the concept of the podcast and insecure or almost intimidated because I had never really considered to be involved in a podcast myself. And this is how I gave my first one while I was in South Africa visiting a friend and spoke about the journey as an emerging scientist and then quit to eventually become a trainer in Science Communication.

Shortly after I delivered my podcast I was recruited and warmly welcomed into the production team. The team spirit is amazing, very positive, friendly and engaging despite the physical distance as we are spread across Europe. Well, three European countries if I’m not mistaken. But occasionally more than that as we all like to travel.

I live one of my passions by being part of this team. So far, I only met Tina in person and that has been a while ago. And still also the others feel like good old friends because we keep encouraging each other, we jump in if one cannot meet the deadline for personal or job-related reasons and just keep the ball rolling. I am curious where this journey will take us from here and what we will report at the next anniversary. To me the best with this podcast is really that we are all set to recruit speakers from around the globe to inspire PhD students and scientists in general also globally. Many of the challenges that people face during their PhD and with career choices thereafter are more or less the same anywhere on this planet. I hope that through PhD Career Stories we will be able to highlight also the work and aspirations of scientists in the Global South, like Latin-America, Africa and South East Asia, where equipment is often scarce and modes of interacting with the global science community limited for various reasons. The internet has already proven of being capable of bridging some of those gaps and this podcast is yet another tool to add on this. So yeah, we are looking into a bright future.

My tasks in the team are mostly dissemination on social media together with Maria and also recruitment of speakers for upcoming episodes. So do get in touch if you feel like you would like to share your story. You can find and contact all of us on Linkedin or reach out on the various PhD Career Stories social media channels or by email or our contact form on the website.

My biggest learning so far is that for me it was right to follow my passion, looking at where I am now and I can only vaguely assume where I’ll be in three or 5 years from now. Many of us have more than one thing we are interested in. As a scientist, we usually need to focus on one thing. And even by doing that to me – and as I learned also to others – it is important to take the time for other things that are important to you. Obviously, family and friends, and even if we are aware that quality time spent with the ones who are closest is important and that it is an effort to make time for them there are also other things that are worthwhile to experiment with in your life, like a hobby. I was quite surprised to find more and more people who manage to balance their working life in a way that they not only merge private and business issues, but found job that truly fulfils them and still gives them the headspace to relax and recover after work. Maybe that’s one of the things that cannot be the status quo for long but should always be aimed for. Bottom line is, I enjoy listening to every episode as we get to hear people explain how they follow their heart, get kicked into the right direction – not sure if there really is a wrong one – what they achieve in their lives and what circumstances and people made that even possible. Each of these stories is very personal and of course unique and to me that is the best part of this podcast and most humbling to be part of it.


Hi! My name is Maria Sjögren and I am one of the co-founders of the Phd Career Stories podcast.

When my dear friend and previous colleague Tina told me about this project during early spring last year, I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of this exciting journey.

Being a PhD that defended my thesis back in 2008, I still vividly remember how important, crucial even, it was for me to learn about all the different PhD career stories that others shared with me to be able to finally take the leap and try a different career path than the one I had always imagined for myself.

This is something that I will be forever grateful for and all of a sudden, I was provided with the opportunity to become part of the PhD Career Stories project! A project in which I would now get the chance to pay it forward! Nothing could have made me happier!

As you may already have guessed, my dream with the PhD career stories podcast is to provide hope and inspiration to all PhD students and PhDs around the world that are thinking about their career opportunities after a PhD. To help illustrate that anything is possible after a PhD - you just have to listen to your heart and believe in yourself!

Being one of the co-founders of the podcast, during the last year, I have contributed and delivered on all aspects in the podcast production, from recruiting speakers, to recording episodes, to editing and publishing the podcast audio files on Libsyn to managing all our distribution channels such as the website and social media and so on.

Today, I am part of the Production & Social Media Team that focuses on the publishing and dissemination of the podcast episodes. I also provide backup for the team and as such I help out in all parts of the podcasting process when needed.

My biggest aha during this year has been to learn that although our career paths after a PhD are very different indeed, we all share more or less the same journey when it comes to learning about our transferable skills and how valuable we are also outside of academia. That becoming aware of and realising the value of our hard-earned strengths and skills is the key for success when pursuing an alternative career outside of academia.


Hi there, I’m Anna Westerlund, the process driver of the PhD Career Stories podcast. As Tina mentioned before, I’m the newest member of the team, having joined earlier this spring. 

To recap what my role in the team means, it’s to take care of the production planning and keep track of who does what and when it should be finished, the goal being to improve the number of ready-for-release podcasts in pipeline little by little. Because we’re all more or less new to this podcast thing.

My dream with the PhD Career Stories podcast is simply for it to be somewhere PhDs or PhD students, or anyone else for that matter, can turn for career guidance and advice. For the podcast to help people feel less lonely and perhaps less lost in career transition. I think it would be wonderful if we could spread the PhD Career Stories podcasts to university students and graduates, PhDs and PhD students around the globe so they can make use of our growing collection of career stories and advice at a timely point in their life.

Lastly, as for my most memorable aha moment of the year so far, I’m going to have to say it’s the fact that leaving academia didn’t feel like a failure to me. I had my worries it might, but actually it felt, and it feels, pretty good to have taken the step. I’m close to three years post my dissertation defense and I just started a new job in industry. I feel like there’s a whole new world of possibilities out there and I feel free!

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