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Ten Things I Have Learned Since Getting My PhD

Ten things I have learned since getting my PhD

Today, I am continuing the series of posts in which I reflect on the last ten years since I got my PhD in June 2013 and then started my faculty position in November 2013.

In today’s post, I am reflecting on ten skills that I have picked up since my PhD – in a sense, the PhD is just the beginning of an academic journey.

Here are the ten skills I have learned and developed over the past ten years:

  1. Teaching skills: While I had some experience as a teaching assistant, I had never built up a completely new course from scratch. In the past ten years, I have taken professionalization courses through the USFQ teaching institute Shift and I have completed the Dutch University Teaching Qualification (a courseload of about 200 hours in total on pedagogical skills). I have also learned by doing, and by adjusting to pandemic and the post-pandemic generation of students. I now feel more experienced in setting up a course, and continuously working on improving my course.
  2. Grant writing skills: I had no experience writing grants during my PhD. I started out “safe” by applying for various internal grants at USFQ, and then learned from the person who was my daily supervisor during the PhD how to apply for funding in the Netherlands.
  3. Data analysis techniques: As a side effect of this blog, I have been carrying out a few studied related to academic topics, such as the impact of COVID-19 on academic parents and the affective dimension of the doctoral defense. This type of research was new to me, so I had to learn how to analyze text data and how to carry out statistical tests on the data from the questionnaires. I had fun turning those insights into Matlab scripts.
  4. Languages: I have been broadening my language skills in the last ten years. First and foremost, I had to learn Spanish to work in a Spanish-speaking country, and I now feel comfortable with my professional level of the language. I have also started to learn Swedish and Finnish on the side, but this learning is rather slow.
  5. Programming skills: We always further develop our programming skills. Besides learning how to program statistical tests in Matlab, I also have just recently started learning Python.
  6. Presenting skills: Teaching a lot makes one a better presenter, as you learn better how to understand a novice in the topic. I think that my presenting skills have improved over the years, and as a result I have been able to give a few international keynotes.
  7. Journal paper writing skills: During these past ten years, I have been publishing a fair amount of papers, and I have learned how to write better. I now know better how to write a clear introduction (related as well to my better understanding of the novice in the topic), and how to write a thoughtful discussion section. I also feel that I have now much more experience on how to deal with the reviewers and get a paper to be accepted.
  8. Leadership in committee efforts: Over the past ten years, I have become involved with a large number of technical committees and have started to take on leadership roles in these groups. Between secretary, president and vice-chair positions, I have learned a lot on how to work together with people from various backgrounds and towards tangible results.
  9. Reviewing papers: In these years, I have also reviewed a lot of papers – and I have become relatively fast at reviewing papers, spotting the weaknesses in the research (if present), and writing a comprehensive review report.
  10. Acting as an editor: Besides reviewing papers, I am also involved as an editor in various journals. I have learned how to deal with difficult authors, difficult reviewers, difficult publishing houses, and how to negotiate towards solutions, as well as how to deal with conflicting views and how to take fair decisions.

Which are the skills you have learned since you got your PhD?

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