I recently attended the SITCE conference in Singapore, with my colleague Dr Anna Fraszczyk from Mahidol University in Thailand, where there were many rail professionals in attendance. We were invited to discuss the challenges of people at the heart of digital railways from our specific contexts in a panel session.
Events such as these provide an excellent opportunity for networking, making new contacts and opening doors for new career and work alliances and opportunities. When attending such events, maximising the event opportunity is a must. Before you attend the event, think about what you want to achieve from the conference. This might be to raise your professional profile, meet new colleagues, gain up to date information that will help you in your work or assess new career opportunities. Whatever the purpose of your attendance, preparation is key to a successful conference.
One of the key ways to gain visibility at a conference is to actively participate in some way – either as a presenter, a volunteer or session facilitator or chairperson. In Anna and my situations, we participated in a panel session that enabled us to discuss our key areas of expertise and interest. I was able to discuss what problems and challenges individuals face when seeking new career opportunities in the digital rail sector while Anna spoke about STEM and engaging young people in rail careers while still in primary school.
In my work, the challenges I see relate to assisting individuals to map and identify the skills they have to offer to an employer. I find many people have difficulty understanding what it is exactly that companies are looking for in their employees. That is, the job descriptions are not often well-defined. While they describe technical requirements, many job descriptions leave out much detail about the behavioural competencies, digital and soft skills that are required for the position. For example, how much time or percentage in certain areas of work, how does this align to the KPI’S of the position, what are the digital skills required, what soft skills are required and what are the key challenges of the positions. In my experience, people are seeking more detail in assessing employment opportunities so that they can minimise wastage of time on applying for a position that is lacking in detail.
So, after a successful conference presentation and audience engagement session with questions, we were satisfied with our conference participation and the career opportunities the SITCE conference provided. To finish the event well, the conference dinner enabled further networking with other international colleagues.
When you arrive home, a fantastic way to finish the event opportunity is to make new connections on LinkedIn, update your Curriculum Vitae and identify areas that you would like to work on in the future.
‘Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible’. Francis of Assisi
Dr Janene Piip