Farewell SystemsX.ch: a successful final retreat
This year's SystemsX.ch retreat took place from May 29 - June 1, 2018 in the picturesque village of Saanenmöser in the Bernese Oberland. 24 systems biology researchers took part in the initiative's final retreat, which focused on career development for young scientists. The successful four-day retreat was once again run in collaboration with hfp consulting, whose trainers all have backgrounds in the life sciences. As well as focusing on developing specific tools to help the PhD students and postdocs further their careers, the retreat also allowed time for reflection on the SystemsX.ch initiative as a whole as it comes to an end.
The workshops focused on equipping the young scientists with the right tools to help them make career decisions, and included plenty of hands-on sessions designed to put theory into practice. From the initial self-reflection on individual values, the sessions moved towards identifying personal strengths and weaknesses and how these can be drawn on to make well-informed career choices that fit with one's values. At the end of the retreat, participants practiced interview techniques, bringing together everything they had learnt over the course of the retreat.
Participants valued the practical nature of the retreat, and many expressed confidence that they will be able to apply what they learnt in planning their next career steps.
A hallmark of the SystemsX.ch retreats is the relaxed, open-minded and supportive atmosphere created by the trainers and the participants, and this year's retreat was no exception. Despite the full programme, there was time for relaxation and self-reflection, as well as getting to know each other better. The social activity was a half-day hike in the beautiful surrounding mountains, providentially planned before the onset of torrential rain in the afternoon.
One of the highlights of this year's retreat was surely the newly-introduced panel discussion. The four panellists, all with backgrounds in life science research, represented careers in academia (Bart Deplancke), industry (Kathleen Sprouffske), communication (Isabel Klusman) and education (Patricia Palagi). In small groups, participants were able to ask the panellists about their career trajectories and the key decisions or occurrences that had led them to where they are today. The familiar and trusting atmosphere of the retreat was decisive in building an intimate rapport between the panellists and the participants, which was without question one of the strengths of the retreat.
Participant Diego Ulisse Pizzagalli from Università della Svizzera italiana sums up the retreat with two words: "Appreciation and respect. These two core principles of the SystemsX.ch retreats allowed us to share our personal motivation and values behind doing research." At the end of the retreat, there was a short session in which participants could share their overall experiences of the SystemsX.ch initiative. It was clear that the initiative has played a huge part in some of the young scientists' lives over the past few years, and that the retreats in particular had played an important role in their self-development. We hope the participants of all past SystemsX.ch retreats will be able to apply the skills and cherish the experiences they gained with us in whatever career path they choose.