Last week, I attended the OzCHI conference in Brisbane and here I will share some of my experiences.
Early Career Symposium
The Career Development Symposium was held for the first time at OzCHI, but was modeled after the previous events held at CHI. The group had worked the whole day on many aspects relating to career development and academia (e.g., work life balance, reputation building). As a PhD student, I had been invited to join the last group activity, where we briefly discussed publishing strategies. The participants reported at the end, that they found the whole day very helpful and I also would have liked to be there from the start 😉 . If you would like to attend such a symposium, Michael Muller and Geraldine Fitzpatrick organise a similar event at CHI next year.
Conferences are a great way to meet and get in touch with people who do research in your field, engage in discussions, … in short: to network. In this episode of the Changing Academic Life Podcast, Cliff Lampe and Geraldine Fitzpatrick talk about social networks in academia and that they are key to how we work. But how to do it? How to approach for example a famous researcher on a conference? Cliff Lampe refers to Phil Agre’s paper on Networking the Network, where some basic steps are outlined. However, relating to “famous researchers”, Agre writes:
If the person you wish to approach is significantly more powerful than you then the prospect of conversing with him or her will probably make you uneasy. That’s okay. Concentrate on meeting people who intimidate you less and your courage will grow. Your single most important audience is actually not the power-holders of your field anyway, but rather the best people of your own generation. These people share your situation and will usually be happy to talk to you.
I can totally relate to that and I agree that over time I felt much more comfortable talking to senior researchers. However, I still find it difficult sometimes to approach people “out of the blue”, although I am usually quite communicative. This is why I really like these pre-conference activities such as workshops or symposia, because you are then part of a small group and easily get to know the other “group” members. This makes it easy to pick up on a conversation later during the conference, and often you get introduced to other people by them as well. It’s just that much easier if you at least know a few people; and it’s also much more fun. Those workshops can even result in future collaborations, as did the workshop at NordiCHI, that I organised together with other DOME members.
At OzCHI, I was a student volunteer (SV) for the first time and this was such a great experience. The SV chairs Aloha May Ambe and Tara Capel were excellent in organising everything; we couldn’t have wished for better organisers. All students were super committed and we were all working together, even if we were not on duty. All of us had an eye on the WhatsApp channel if help was needed somewhere. During the conference, we talked also about each other’s research and life, and I really enjoyed meeting these inspiring people. As I am about to finish my PhD, I really regret that I didn’t volunteer on much more conference before, as this is really a great opportunity to network and make new friends 🙂 .
Sightseeing in Brisbane
Through the social programme of the conference, I was able to visit the famous South Bank Parklands and as the conference dinner took place at the Summit Restaurant, I also went to the top of Mount Coot-Tha. Unfortunately, it was quite cloudy, so we missed the panoraic view. However, Stephen Viller shared a picture on Twitter with a view from the mountain on a clear day:
The conference ended on Friday and my flight back home was on Saturday, so there was not much time to do any sightseeing in Brisbane. Thankfully, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane was recommended to me and I got help from Tara (the SV chair) on how to get there by bus. This was the perfect ending to my very first trip to Australia: I could not only see Tasmanian Devils and Wombats from close up; I could pet kangaroos and even hold a koala. Loved it!