A Fellow’s Perspective: What I Learned Serving On A Committee

Post written by a guest blogger Ahmed Kablan, Postdoc at NIDDK.

This past eight months, I have had the privilege to work with more than 20 other fellows and the OITE staff to organize the 5th annual NIH Career Symposium.  Serving on the planning committee was a valuable experience.  Some of the key things that I learned by volunteering as a committee member are:

  • The importance of teamwork and time management: In order to work well with your team it is crucial communicate clearly to avoid duplication of effort.  My time management skills have improved, resulting in increased productivity. By learning to prioritize the issues at hand and work with a team my life seems more manageable.
  • To practice leadership skills at all times: You don’t have to be in leadership position to build your leadership skills. Each one of us had the chance to take the lead on certain issue, or bring new ideas to the group.
  • To step out of my comfort zone: Getting out of the lab, talking to other fellows, and doing a different kind of work helped me discover skills I didn’t know I had, such as communicating my complex science in simple and plain language. I was also able to see how skills I have learned in the lab are applicable in other settings. Skills such as planning a project, explaining it to the other key players and justifying the resources needed to complete the project, or the ability to communicate effectively with people of broad educational backgrounds. 
  • How to build a network and witness why it is important: You have heard it a million times, but networking is an important skill to develop. What is not always apparent is how easy it can be.  Attending the Career Symposium social events was great. The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone was there to network. I was able to connect with the speakers and other attendees.  That let me see how we as a committee had used our network to make this event happen.  The success of this event relied on the ability of committee members and OITE staff to identify potential speakers and be connected to them enough to invite them to come. Your network helps you get where you want to go.  In this case it helped us put together successful and dynamic panels.
  • The value of using social media effectively: I have used LinkedIn more in the past few months than I did in the first six years after I joined.  I used it to advertise and start discussions around the information presented at the Career Symposium.
  • How fulfilling it can be to be a part of something like the Career Symposium: Working on the committee to organize the Career Symposium was personally fulfilling. I have benefitted first hand from a previous NIH Career Symposium, so by participating in this committee I hoped to help others find similar career guidance. Giving is really highly rewarding.

If you want to help next year, look for an announcement in September.