Event Reflections

January 13, 2016 – PhD Panel Discussion

On January 13th, ILead Grad hosted a panel geared towards upcoming PhD Graduates. The panel boasted five PhD graduates with the intention of sharing their story of how they got to where they are now, their mindset at the end of their degree, and how to transition from an academic to industry setting successfully. The panelists consisted of Theresa Cooke, Director, Strategy at Simens Canada Limited, Anton Davies, Principal at RWDI Consulting Engineers and Scientists, Inmar Givoni, Vice President of Big Data at Kobo, Dan Rosen, Managing Director of Risk and Analytics at S&P Capital IQ, and Nick Timmins, Vice President, Technology at Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine.

Moderator Professor Doug Reeve opened the discussion by asking the panelists to recall their feelings around the time of their graduation. The group collectively noted feelings of apprehension and indecision for their next steps in life, feelings which resonated with the crowd of PhD students. Panelists went on to discuss skills they learned in their first few years outside of their PhD. Recurring discussion of humility and attitude in the workplace occurred with panelists describing the difficulty to unlearn some of the things that become inherent as a PhD student; such as solving a problem to completion and publishing – feats not necessarily associated within industry. The panel described the key ability for new hire PhDs to move from an individual, competitive environment, to one which celebrates community and cohesiveness.

The panel concluded with the discussion of value and leadership of PhDs within industry. PhDs provide value in their ability to approach and solve difficult problems and their ability to learn difficult concepts rapidly. With respect to leadership in the workplace, panelists described the unique position of PhDs to use their drive for understanding to motivate colleagues by determining their individual values.

Succeeding conclusion of the discussion, students had the chance to speak with panelists individually to answer any outstanding questions.

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December 1, 2015 – Authentic Leadership Workshop

This workshop was lead by Shakil Choudhury, author of the book ‘Deep Diversity’. What if the interactions with those different from us are strongly influenced by things happening below the radar of awareness, hidden even from ourselves? Shakil explores this question and argues that “us vs. them” is an unfortunate but a normal part of the human experience due to reasons of both nature and nurture. The conscious mind can be compared to the rider of an elephant, the unconscious mind.

The key elements of concern are: the science of emotions, the triggers in a conflict and the three sides to a conflict. Emotions are invisible and controlling. Studies have proved that the emotions in leaders directly influence their group members. For example, a calm leader settles people whereas a leader with too much optimism makes his group members over-confident. We react emotionally to the identities of people even without our awareness. We tend to have greater empathy for those most like ourselves. Anxiety, fear, vigilance and other emotions are recorded in the amygdala, especially regarding race and skin colour. The key competencies are self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and relationship-building & conflict skills.

A trigger in a conflict is something that sets us off like a word, gesture, tone, phrase, movement or action. They push us into the past, remind us of stories and experiences from our personal histories on an unconscious level. Any of these can invoke intense emotions that are out of proportion to the situation. A triggered mind exhibits both physical signs such as rapid breathing, clenched fists, headaches and mental signs such as judgemental thoughts, obsessive thought patterns, talking fast or shutting down and feeling victimized. So what strategies should we use to manage ourself when triggered? First, you have to notice yourself that you have been triggered. Re-centre and return to the present, notice and return to your normal breath and feel the sensations in the body. Take space for yourself appropriately. Shift your state and respond to the situation, don’t react to it. Some ways to shift your state are to go out for a walk, exercise, do an activity like painting, call and talk to a close friend or a family member. The emotions have to be constructively discharged.

Analyse every conflict through the ‘Three Sides of a Conflict’ exercise. This can be done with a close friend/family member/partner. Describe the conflict to your partner. Discuss together what the two positions are: your side and the other side. Throughout the exercise, you may need to have your partner play your conflict opponent, so show him/her how to play the person. Identify three positions on the floor to represent: your side, the other side, and outside(neutral). begin by asking yourself, which side a, I on? Do I feel more on my side, more on thr other side, or detached, neutral, blank? Depending on where you identify, take the side: whichever side, take time to express it deepest, most core message or feeling. Once you go deep enough into a side, you will notice a natural shift, a de-escalation that makes it easier to take the other side. If you haven’t naturally shifted to another side, allow yourself to be curious and explore the position you haven;t taken. Find what that side is about and the central quality of that position. If at any point you feel blank, stuck or lost, take the neutral side; step out physically and use space to explore something you might have missed. Keep awareness on how the sides change as you take the sides deeply. Allow this shift to happen. It is important to go slow enough and notice the shifts, changes, ‘aha’ moments, and new awareness as it arises. Keep moving fluidly between the sides until some insight, awareness or temporary resolution emerges. Take a moment to reflect on how things have changed since you started. Talk about the different sides to the conflict, especially the essences under the positions and see how this changes.

To really work through issues of racial difference and foster greater levels of fairness and inclusion, argues Shakil Choudhury, requires an understanding of the human mind – its conscious and unconscious dimensions.

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November 12, 2015 – The Joy of Reading – and Why Reading Matters to Your Success

Why Read? What to Read? When to Read? And Where to Read? These are a few topics addressed by Professor Doug Reeve during a discussion pertaining to the importance of reading and its contribution to our success. Professor Reeve took us through a vast list of options regarding the joy of reading; emphasizing the importance of finding what works at a personal level. Reading for pleasure, or for information; in the living room, bedroom, trains, work; reading in the morning, at lunch, every Sunday; these are a few examples of options explored.

During the second half of the workshop, Professor Reeve shared an extensive list of some his favorites and distributed copies of recommended reads to everyone in the room. It was truly a pleasure learning and hearing about some of the stories which have inspired him through our discussions as well as some readings from his favourite books.

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October 21, 2015 – Bringing Technical Knowledge in Public Policy – Peter Wallace

Bridging the gap between technical knowledge and public policy; this was a very important topic which was discussed during a seminar talk by Toronto’s City Manager, Mr. Peter Wallace. Mr. Wallace led a very engaging and thought provoking discussion on the role of engineers and technical people in the development of public policy. Certain barriers to the adaptation to technical innovations were outlined and discussed; and methods to overcome these barriers were suggested by Mr. Wallace.

An important message that arose from our discussion was the need for engineers to have the persistence to communicate their ideas effectively. Learning about other perspectives and understanding the different standpoints on particular issues can pave the way to effectively delivering your message and have it heard. Do not give up. Mr. Wallace encouraged us strongly to not give up on our ideas. ‘Language’ barriers exist between all professions and when working in interdisciplinary teams, persistence is necessary in order to get the message across.

All in all the event was a great success. Thank you to everyone who came out and hope to see you at the next one!

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October 8, 2015 – Leadership Styles Workshop

Analytical. Driver. Amiable. Expressive. These are the words that describe the four flavors of leadership styles that most of us fit into. The Leadership Styles Workshop was led by Annie Simpson, Assistant Director of the ILead program. This event saw a good response with students from various departments eager to find out what kind of a leader they were. It started off with a self-assessment questionnaire which helped in determining to which quadrant of leadership each one belonged. Analytical leaders live according to facts, principles, logic and consistency. They always need freedom to organize their own efforts. Driver leaders give the impression that they know what they want, where they are going and how to get there quickly. Amiable leaders place a high priority on friendships, close relationships and cooperative behavior. They get involved in feelings and relations between people. Lastly, the expressive leaders appear communicative, warm, approachable and competitive. They involve other people with their feelings and thoughts. Some of us may have more than one style, a more dominant one and another backup style.

The mechanics of a working group/team depend mostly on the leadership styles of its members. After each one discovered their own style, they were asked to discuss together their strengths, weaknesses, discover how they would be perceived by other groups and come up with strategies for building an effective team. While we should never put people in boxes and keep them there, it is useful to classify behavior so that we can better understand people and leverage strengths. People do change, adapting to situations, and we rarely spend our whole day in just one quadrant. When a particular style is absent in a team, some people tend to fill the gap with their less dominant style. Used in the right way, these quick personality profiles can help us be more effective with each individual, and the net effect is a stronger team. All teams need behavior from all four quadrants and the best way to get the best team is to let natural diversity into the team. The key is to encourage each person do well what he or she does well.

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September 21, 2015 – Networking Wine and Cheese

Purpose, practice, and plan; these are the three key concepts that were emphasized at the ILead Networking Wine and Cheese event hosted by Professor Douglas Reeve. Graduate students from numerous engineering disciplines came together to learn more about the concept of networking. Standing in parallel lines, we rotated from stranger to stranger, realizing more and more how little we all actually knew about this activity. As simple as the concept of networking may have seemed to us all, it was soon understood that the skills necessary to network effectively do indeed need to be learned and practiced. There are no strict boundaries defining the practice of networking, however to achieve optimal results one may likely resort to Professor Reeve’s three key words of advice: purpose, practice, and plan. Networking involves the communication of one’s purpose, whether it be their purpose today, or purpose for the next four years; in order to communicate this purpose effectively to others, one needs to practice and develop a networking technique or vocabulary that works best for them; finally, it is important to have a plan, to understand what you can or would like to achieve from your interaction and how you will go about to do so. The overall night was a great success allowing graduate students to interact, learn more about others as well as themselves. ILead:Grad aims to continue to deliver as productive, and enjoyable events as this one. Stay tuned!

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