On Monday 27 June 2022, the Faculty of Brain Sciences hosted their first away day for Professional Services and Technical staff themed ‘Making Progress Together’.
The theme encapsulates addressing the challenges being faced by staff and the need to promote collaboration to achieve a common goal of a positive and fruitful working experience. The aims of the day were to; foster networking among all staff; create opportunities to discuss career progression; discuss a technical staff network and share best practices. The in-person conference was joined by colleagues across faculty with a remarkable turnout of 106 attendees - of which 34 were technical staff and 72 were professional services staff.
The day kicked off with opening remarks from Director of Operations, Geoff Dunk, shortly followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session about career journeys with a focus on utilizing opportunities such as secondments, mentoring schemes, and the ability to network and achieve career milestones. Networking being an important segment of the day, it was crucial to raise awareness about existing UCL networks that staff could engage and be part of. ASTREA, UCL PGR Admin Forum, FBS HR Network, Finance Network, and the online Lab Technical Network were some of the existing UCL networks that presented information to attendees.
A refreshing vegetarian lunch gave attendees the opportunity to mingle before afternoon talks by Elizabeth Halton, Director of the Doctoral School, and Loleta Fahad, UCL Head of Career Development about career progression and pathways from a professional services and technical staff perspective.
The limits of daily in-person networking due to COVID was recognised through a vibrant and talkative room because of an organised speed networking session for both Professional Services and Technical staff. An attendee commented “The speed networking was brilliant - I only had time to do this with 3 different people and wish there would have been time for more of that (as I am new to the faculty)"- which demonstrates the significance of the session. Following speed networking, the Continuous Improvement Team at UCL facilitated a reflective session on balancing workloads for Professional Services staff. While, in another room, in acknowledgment of the desire for a cohesive technical staff community despite disparate roles and experience, technical staff engaged in a facilitated discussion about building a Technical Staff Network within the Faculty. This was appreciated by an attendee who stated, "I enjoyed the away day as it was informative and showed appreciation for technical staff and what we do."
The day ended with cakes, scones, and an opportunity to feedback on the outcomes of the respective sessions. An engaging Away Day like this validated the reason to have more events that bring people together in the nearest future.