My experience of the first Research Institutes Technician Symposium

My experience of the first Research Institutes Technician Symposium

Last month several Babraham Institute technicians attended the first Research Institutes Technician Symposium, #RITS2019, to learn about the impact of the Technician Commitment since its launch two years ago. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we were excited to meet new people and hear about other people’s experiences.

The Technician Commitment is an initiative founded to help technical staff address and overcome challenges that they currently face while working in research. Many institutes and universities have already signed up to this commitment to work together and share approaches to tackle common issues.

This year the symposium centred on career development, one of the four key areas that the Technician Commitment focuses on. It was amazing to hear where people’s careers had started, and the unusual paths that led them to their current role.

Technician careers are not as straight forward as some other career paths; a clear progression is rarely seen. The Technician Commitment, and events like RITS2019, help highlight these issues and support individuals and organisations to take steps towards improving them.

The day involved many interesting and absorbing talks that followed the careers of Directors and Professors, who had originally started their scientific endeavours as ‘just’ technicians. These were accompanied by presentations from technicians at various points in their careers, including apprenticeships. One such talk was given by the Babraham Institute’s very own Jessica Podd, who talked through the process she followed to complete her apprenticeship. Jess’s presentation was a brilliant testament to her own hard work as well as all those who worked at making the animal technician apprenticeships possible.

The meeting also included a facilitated networking session, which showed how wide-reaching networks can help further your career. Despite there being over 100 technicians from the six partner institutes involved in RITS, we actually found that some of the most interesting networking this provided was meeting fellow technicians from the Babraham Institute!

The talks touched on the invisibility that can sometimes come with being a technician and being out in the spotlight with our fellow technicians was an unusual but amazing feeling. We as technicians need to remember that we deserve to be valued, we are skilled workers and we can be proud of our skills and accomplishments. We often have an enclosed and limited connection with people outside of our daily sphere. Events like this, and the Institute becoming part of activities such as the Technician Commitment, give us hope, give us structure and maintain the skills that are so integral to research.

I recommend all the technicians at the Babraham Institute, and those at other institutes, to take pride in their careers. I have been inspired to class myself as not ‘just’ a technician. I am a skilled research professional who is part of a wide framework of technical departments within my research setting; we are all constants in the transient world of research. We are the backbone of our workplaces and we deserve to be seen. I think everyone involved in science and research can be excited for what the Technician Commitment can mean to them.

For more information on the Technician Commitment, or upcoming events, please follow this link: https://www.technicians.org.uk/technician-commitment