Notes from the life of an ordinary being

Fun learning

I was recently at this year’s MASTS Graduate School retreat in Aviemore, Scotland.

MASTS, the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland, is a group of marine research institutions that pool resources and skills to better progress marine science, through communication, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration. The institutes are spread across Scotland, from Shetland to Strathclyde and Lewis to St Andrews, yet there’s a strong belief in continually strengthening that far-flung community, and the Grad School retreat feeds in to that community spirit.

At this year’s retreat, there were three core staff organisers, about 25 students, 10 presenters/speakers and two main themes: to identify one another’s skills; and the importance of career management & personal development right the way through your PhD.

I’m going to list here things that I learnt or thought were important, but in no particularly order. (Having easily listed 20, I’ll stop there and hopefully create another list from other talks.) It’d be really great if people added to it by commenting below. To lead gently in to the list, here’s a pretty pic from Roybridge, on the way from Oban to Aviemore.


Twenty points from the MASTS 2015 retreat

1) Cooperation is essential – it drives scientific research today.

2) MASTS can help you find institutions/individuals with the skills you need.

3) MASTS can help you find fellowships or internships.

4) Keep on the look out for transferable skills; once you’ve learned them add them to your CV.

5) Be under no illusion: writing up and working at the same time is very tough. Resist it if you can but sometimes, for one reason or another, you’ve just got to do it.

6) Don’t be afraid to say NO. Don’t let flattery get the better of you!

7) Develop your critical thinking. Don’t believe everything you read.

8) Be ambitious.

9) Always visit the place you’re intending to work before accepting a job offer.

10) Build networks: internal, external, personal…

11) Build local relationships to provide backup support eg extra/emergency childcare when things go pear-shaped or don’t quite align.

12) Listen to what people have to say; be open to comments and ready to make changes.

13) From the Quality Management session:

– Quality is not perfection.

– Quality is reliability, consistency and continuous improvement.

– Quality is the result of a comparison between what was required and what was provided.

– A continuous cycle of PLAN, DO, CHECK, ACT, should lead to continuous improvement.

– Auditor training is a very transferable skill; do it if possible.

14) Your thesis puts your science into the context of lots of other people’s science.

15) Update you CV regularly – keep a list of your skills. (Repeated point to remind me I need to do this.)

16) Experience leads to knowledge: pay it forward!

17) S.M.A.R.T objectives: specific, measurable, achievable/attainable, Relevant, Time-constraint. (Taken from Angela’s grant proposal writing session. I intend to expand on that in a separate blog entry.)

18) Understand who you are – try the Myers Briggs test to help you find out. Know what you’re good at. Know what you need and what you enjoy. Actively look for and select jobs/roles that match.

19) Read 7 habits of highly effective people (Covey, 1989) or at least a summary

[And here’s a link to an article that includes Merrill & Covey’s  2×2 Urgent-Important matrix, where the writer stresses the need to invest regular time on the Important-not urgent things and actively prevent yourself from getting tied up and bogged down in the Urgent-NOT important stuff.]

20) Your career is yours to manage.

One response

  1. Sally Rouse

    Sums it up very well Cathy 🙂

    From Lois’s public engagement session, I learnt how to tie my shoe laces properly for the first time in 27 years.

    But on a more serious note, the annual retreat always reminds me that whatever it is you are stressing about or feeling insecure about is totally normal and everyone feels the same way. We are all in it together!


    March 18, 2015 at 15:03

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