Summary and replay of the 4th IAHR Online Coffee Chat on Range of career paths: Industry versus Academia

The fourth IAHR coffee chat for young professionals took place on the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2022. The event was organized by Dr. Isabella Schalko from ETH Zurich and the IAHR task force on strengthening diversity and gender equity.

The general idea of the coffee chat is to bring together young professionals with established engineers and researchers to discuss career-related topics with a special focus on women.

4th IAHR Coffee Chat: Range of career path. Industry vs Academia

This coffee chat was on the range of career paths: industry versus academia and included four panelists. Tanja Janisch-Breuer, Head of the Hydro Power Plant Pool Kaprun-Salzach at VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH in Austria, and Dr. María Pedro Monzonis, Head of I+D+i Agua Potable at Global Omnium in Spain, provided insights on their career in industry. In comparison, Prof. Ioana Popescu, Associate Professor at IHE Delft in The Netherlands, and Prof. Blair Johnson, Assistant Professor at University of Texas at Austin in the US, shared their experiences from academia. More than 60 people registered for the event and sent questions in advance related to “comparison and transition between industry and academia”, “time management”, and “gender equality”.

The event started with a short introduction by the panelists and was followed by a moderated discussion. The discussion included questions such as “how did you find your current job position?”, “when would be a good to "transition" from one to another?”, “does completing a postdoc put me on a track to become a professor” to “have you experienced disrespect at work because you are a woman and how did you react”. The panelists emphasized that finding a job in academia as well as industry can be challenging. Especially for academic positions in the US, openings are commonly advertised in Fall, which may be a difficult time when finishing your PhD at the same time. Based on the panelists’ experience, applied research projects have been helpful to establish industry connections that can be used to transition from academia to industry. While a PhD as well as publication records are no requirements for industry, the panelists pointed out that they may be seen as an asset, as they demonstrate the ability of successfully finalizing a project. In case of disrespect at work, the panelists pointed out the difficulties of speaking up when you are still in a working relationship of dependency but recommended to address such incidents right away. In addition, they highlighted the importance of creating a welcoming working environment as a group leader.

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Additional coffee chats are planned in the future with topics such as “How to network at conferences”, “Promotion and tenure in academia”, or “Diversity within IAHR – how to get everyone involved”. If you have ideas for discussion topics, speakers, or other comments, please feel free to reach out to us. The next event will be announced via the IAHR website and on social media.

Dr. Isabella Schalko and IAHR Task force on strengthening diversity and gender equity.

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