We invite all interested female scientists to the regular meetings of the “CECAD Female Faculty Club”. At these informal get-togethers, we discuss general and gender-specific topics (e.g. career planning, work-life balance opportunities, mentor programs, support for women and families from the university). The “CECAD Female Faculty Club” is aimed at all female scientists, at all levels, in order to promote a vertical network between young female academics and women who are already established in their careers.
CECAD is aware that women tend to contribute less to discussions or conversations in a male-dominated environment due to a feeling of insecurity. Women also tend to be more reserved in the context of job interviews. CECAD therefore offers specific workshops for women scientists, e.g. to build up more self-confidence, to assess patterns of male and female communication and behavior and practice how to deal with the issue accordingly.
CECAD also encourages women scientists to continue a scientific career by supporting their participation in the various courses and workshops organized by the University of Cologne’s ‘Female Career Center’. In addition, we also encourage participation in the Cornelia Harte Mentoring Program, which gives young female scientists the opportunity to meet women holding leading positions in research, industry, business, or research management.
Lena-Sophie, please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, what do you do and what triggered your decision to take part at this mentoring program?
· I am a third year doctoral student in the laboratory of Prof. Thorsten Hoppe at CECAD. I really enjoy working in science, however I aim to understand what other possibilities there are besides a career in academia. Therefore, this mentoring program was a great opportunity to learn more about job opportunities outside of academia.
What are the core elements of the program and how long is the program duration? Were you able to easily integrate it to your busy lab schedule?
· The program takes 1 year and consists of 3 different parts. One part consists of at least 4 meetings with your mentor. Secondly, there are workshops to strengthen your soft skills and to learn more about jobs outside of academia. Further, you meet at least 4 times with your peer-group, which consist of 4 - 5 other mentees to exchange experiences and talk about problems and chances. As the majority of the meetings took place in the evenings, it was possible to integrate the program very well into the busy lab schedule.
How was the matching between you and your mentor organized?
· The program starts with a kick-off workshop. The aim of this workshop is to find out what goals you want to achieve during the program duration and what kind of mentor would be the best fit. After this workshop you were able to talk to the coordinator Ms. Anne Schiffmann and let her know what kind of mentor you are looking for. In most cases Ms. Schiffmann can then provide you with some suggestions but you also have the option to look for a mentor yourself. As soon as a mentor has been found, the first meeting can be set up.
Who was your mentor and what were the main inputs you gained from her?
· My mentor was a female product manager working for Qiagen in Hilden. She was still quite young, however already working in her second position. This combination was great as she still very well understood what kind of fears and questions you encounter from a PhD student’s perspective but on the other hand she already gained experience in 2 companies that she could share. I was able to learn from her what a daily routine looks like in her job and what kind of skills you require to succeed as a product manager. Further, I was able to visit her at Qiagen to get to know the company and her colleagues.
In what ways has the program provided you with insights on how to grow professionally?
· The workshops that were offered by the program taught us many soft skills to succeed in our career as a female scientist. We had workshops about career-planning, application-training, self-presentation and project-management. Further, we were able to meet several speakers from industry to tell us more about their experiences outside of academia.
What do you consider the greatest benefits of this program? Would you recommend mentoring to other doctoral candidates?
· The greatest benefit from this mentoring was to shed light on working outside of academia. Since as a PhD student you get to know mainly academia, it is very difficult to decide whether you are suited for other jobs or whether you might enjoy working in a different field. During the Cornelia Harte Mint Mentoring Program I learned a lot about myself, about my options outside and also inside of academia, about the job spectrum that exists as a biologist and it taught me a set of soft skills to succeed as a biologist. I would definitely recommend this program to other PhD students and am very happy that CECAD enabled my participation.