15 March, 2023
On Friday 3rd March, the third Research Institutes Technician Symposium (RITS) was held at the Hinxton Conference Hall at the Wellcome Genome Campus. This was attended by Institute staff from a range of our science facilities including the BSU (the Institute’s animal facility), the Gene Targeting Facility, Flow Cytometry and Biological Chemistry. The symposium was established by a network of Technician Commitment leads at nine research institutes with the aim to promote the Technician Commitment and to help develop careers within the technical community as well as provide the opportunity to build relationships with colleagues and technical specialists from other institutes.
The Technician Commitment is a sector-wide initiative to help promote the work of technicians, focusing on four main areas - visibility, career development, recognition and sustainability, and the theme of this year’s RITS was building confidence to develop your career as a technician.
The day started with networking over morning refreshments. My first impressions were of the great location and beautiful grounds, and that there were a wide range of people from many different institutes and varying roles. There were profiles of each delegate displayed on poster boards around the main hall which helped to facilitate networking and interactions. Each profile contained a picture, job title and short description about what you enjoy about your role.
After the breakfast and welcome there was a facilitated networking session involving writing your interests on a sticker and walking round the room talking to strangers. ‘Oh no!’ I though, but after the initial panic wore off it was enjoyable and certainly helped with making new connections. Following on from that warm-up ice-breaker the morning was filled with engaging talks and workshops covering topics such as imposter syndrome, the Herschel Programme – a leadership programme for women and those identifying as women in technical roles, and several talks from different technicians regarding their work. Imposter syndrome is the internal feeling of intellectual phoniness despite obvious success. Some self-doubt is normal and can be helpful but the imposter experience is not healthy as it can stop people from putting themselves forward for promotion or taking on new tasks. Discussing this with others it was both a surprise and a relief to see how common this experience is.
Following the day’s theme, there was an emphasis on empowering technical experts through confidence and courage and reinforcing the message that technicians are the backbone of science. We shouldn’t be afraid to advertise our skills and be proud of our strengths.
Lunch involved browsing the trade stands, enjoying the catering and more chatting with other attendees, which was much easier now that the initial awkwardness had worn off!
The final part of the day was the RIT awards ceremony, celebrating the achievements of technicians. The Institute had five nominations for various categories and one award for the Animal Tech Conference team who won in the category of Outstanding Collaborator.
With the symposium’s message of confidence and courage in your career I also felt that what I learned can be applied to my personal life, hopefully leading to not just professional development, but personal as well. One thing that was said during the day which stuck with me was ‘taking good ideas from conferences is one thing, implementing them is another’. I hope that we can all take what we learned from the symposium and apply it to our daily lives and continue to promote the aims of the Technician Commitment. Visibility and recognition are important for technicians, I believe it provides inspiration for others with an ‘if they can, I can’ attitude. One thing I do feel that I will take home with me and continue with is the pride I feel in my job as a technician here at the Institute.
Thank you to everyone who help organise such a stimulating event and who participated. I’m sure everyone who attended went away motivated by not just the event’s programme but by the exchange and sharing that went on as well. Here’s to continuing to promote, celebrate and develop our technical specialists for the vital work they do.
Image credit: A group of attendees at the Research Institutes Technician Symposium. Image courtesy of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Matt Dunkinson from UKRI and Mark Danson from Connecting Science.
15 March 2023