In this episode, Dr. Ali Al-Sawalmih shares with us what he deems an important lesson from his PhD for his current position as the managing director of the Marine Science Station (MSS) Research Institute in Aqaba, Jordan.
For one who wants to be a researcher, or first before becoming a director or a manager, being organized can save time, can make your work perfect and it can make you avoid mistakes as much as possible.
Tina: This is Tina Persson from PhD Carrier Stories, founder of the Podcast and it’s my pleasure here today to be at the annual Max Planck Alumni meeting in Berlin Harnack-Haus. It is the third time PhD Career Stories is here and I have a very special guest, Ali Al Sawalmih from Jordan he’s a PhD in Physics and now holds a brand new position as director of the Marine Science Institute. He’s a Max Planck Alumnus and he has a career behind him at Max Planck Institutes between 2002 and 2012. Welcome, Ali!
Ali: Thank you! I am happy to talk with you and to talk to the listeners also.
Tina: Yes thank you very much and I know that you know about the PodCasts and that you have listened to some of the Podcasts
Ali: Yes, sure, I listen to them and I am very much excited to listen to every episode actually and to learn from the experience of others.
Tina: Yeah learning is important and we learn from having raw models and believe me you are a raw model.
Ali: Thank you and I keep learning.
Tina: This is one of those skills, and that’s you know one of my first questions here because I know our listeners wonder sometimes was it any idea that I started my PhD when you’re in the middle of doing a PhD work, you start to ask yourself questions. What would you say? Why did you start the PhD?
Ali: Yeah for me at least the PhD was the way to increase my knowledge deeply in both experimental and theoretical aspects. I wanted to investigate natural materials, the structure of materials also, especially those naturally occurring calcified materials.
The PhD phase was great for me to increase my knowledge, to get all information that is required for providing me with enough knowledge.
Tina: Thank you and if you put it that way and if you now look back being a director, what would you say is the single most important skill that you learned during your PhD that you can make use of today as a director?
Ali: I’m surprised that this skill is towards the organization, to be organized is very important. For one who wants to be a researcher first before becoming a director or a manager being organized can save time, can make your work perfect and it can make you avoid mistakes as much as possible.
So I think the skill of the organization and planning and structure and being on time all these aspects has contributed really and helped me in my current career.
Tina: Yeah being structured and planning are important skills to succeed. Some say that a PhD doesn’t maybe challenge your I.Q. as much as actually finish things.
Ali: Yes many think that one who has a PhD he’s clever but okay not necessarily. Yes, he could be clever but as you said I mean he can be very well organized, he can plan for measurement, he can make conclusions out of his results all these contribute to the personality of the one who has finished a PhD.
Tina: So would you then say is that would you be as successful as you are today without a PhD.
Ali: Actually yes I mean having a PhD degree is not really necessary for getting a position and being successful in life.
One can build himself by learning from others. The most important thing is that’s one keep in his mind that I want to learn all. So feeling that you’ll still need knowledge is very important to guarantee that you keep learning.
Tina: That’s interesting because we have some keynote speakers here in Berlin of Harnack-Haus that say that learning that ability and team spirit is important in the new digital world, would you agree there?
Ali: Yeah sure I mean learning is something and practicing what you learn is something else. For practicing what you learn, teamwork and communication and connection and networking then become very important for a successful career.
That’s why we are here in the Max Planck Alumni.
Tina: And that that follows up with the next question. What does that Alumni network means for you because I know that you are one of the key people building up the alumni network in the Middle East? How important is that for you?
Ali: Yeah I believe that science needs networking because I mean that’s why collaboration started all over the world. It is necessary that people know each other, people know what others are doing. Not only that but also no group in a University or in the world can do everything alone.
So if you act the efforts at different centers you can end up with great work, great research. That’s why I believe that this alumni idea is wonderful from the Max Planck so they let all alumni meet and communicate and at the same time this can result in projects, visits, connections, and so on.
Tina: So if you now look on the back again here to your PhD time and the job you have today are there certain things that you did not learn during your PhD that you wish you had learned?
Ali: Actually, I mean one of the things that PhD students mostly don’t learn is how to present themselves.
Tina: Yes, Selling skills!
Ali: He is swimming in experimental work, he is merged completely in experiments. His time is fully given in experimental work. Networking is absent and also at the same time he isn’t able to present himself very well. That’s why many when they finished their PhD have a big problem in finding a job. I believe that’s one thing that I should have or I wish I had learned to present myself and find some time for networking and connections.
Tina: Yeah that is what Alumni is networking, meeting people, you can see on me and you, we get to know each other, now it’s the 3rd year, we start to talk about other things than Science.
If you think about how we have a lot of followers from all over the world even though we wish we had a little bit more followers from your country in the Middle East but what advice would you give our PhD and Postdoc listening to this podcast when it comes to them you know career advice.
Ali: I will advise first of all that nothing is easy.
So they don’t expect that things are very easy, directly jumping from university to industry or another university very easy. The only thing that I advise them for this case to override this challenge is to be positive, to be optimistic, and to keep hope all of this and don’t give up.
If they keep this I am sure that they will reach their goals as soon as negativity and passive thinking started in their minds they may go in the wrong direction.
Tina: Yes thank you very much! That was Ali Al Sawalmih from Jordan gave you some advice and I’m extremely proud to have met you and looking forward to the future here with Ali and the next alumni meeting.
And also to see you networking in the Middle East because it’s hard times in that part of the world at the moment.
Ali: Yes I think that human is making the change.
Tina: Human is making the change that’s wonderful words.
Ali: This so I believe that we have done the problems and we can solve them.
Tina: So with those words Ali I say thank you.
Ali: Thank you, you’re welcome.
Tina: All the best!
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