We, Daria Shlyueva and Lisa Frankel from the BRIC institute participated in the LIBRA Career Development Compass, which was pilot programme for female researchers from 10 EU-LIFE institutes in 2017. The main elements of the programme were two three-day workshops, a mentoring programme, and networking among the 20 participants. The themes of the workshops included self-leadership, tips for interviews when applying for group leader positions, pitching your research ideas, inspiring talks by established women scientists, learning about leadership styles, negotiation skills, and how to motivate others. The mentoring programme allowed each participant to choose a mentor from a EU-LIFE institute and seek useful advice with regards to strategic career planning. This consisted of online one-to-one mentor-mentee meetings as well as the opportunity to visit the mentor, present our research at their institute, and network with local community.
Among the most useful workshop topics, we found especially self-leadership, interview practice and learning to pitch our ideas. But the most empowering and encouraging element of the programme was no doubt meeting the other 18 like-minded women who shared our passion for science and ambition for an academic career. “If she can do it, I can too” - this was probably the biggest motivator for us. Through the LIBRA compass programme, we created a forum where we learned and can continue to learn from each other by exchanging constructive suggestions and experiences. Moreover, two intensive 3-day workshops and online communication in between those meetings allowed us to build trust enough to share confidential documents such as successful grant applications, interviewing experiences and CVs. This was also a bit of an eye opener for issues regarding cultural and country-specific differences in academia.
Upon returning to our home institutes from these meetings we were filled with new energy, confidence and motivation to pursue our career ambitions. The programme has now come to an end, yet our enthusiasm has stimulated the wish to continue to meet. As the programme was financed for one year only, we are currently looking into different possibilities of how to achieve this goal. Due to the strong success of the programme, we would hope and encourage EU-LIFE to continue to pursue and fund similar concepts in the future.