Hannes first came to UBC for his third year of undergrad as part of an undergraduate exchange program. He then returned to UBC for his PhD. During new student orientation he met his future wife who lives with him in Germany now. During his PhD, he was part of an NSERC-CREATE program (the BRITE program) through which he had the opportunity to complete an internship which directly led to his current job.
What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?
I am a Scientist and Project Manager at the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international organization based in Bonn (Germany). My main responsibility is to manage a major global 10-year project to safeguard and utilize agricultural biodiversity. The project is entitled: "Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Collecting, Protecting and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives" (www.cwrdiversity.org).
I work to negotiate, coordinate, co-develop, initiate, monitor, and evaluate the project's activities with partner institutions in more than 35 countries around the world. Furthermore, I frequently represent our organization in discussions with donors and partners at meetings, conferences, workshops, and various inter-governmental fora.
How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?
My current work is basically 'implementing' what I have learned during my years in academia. While I was in grad school at UBC, I was able to learn a lot about the scientific underpinnings of what my organization is trying to achieve. This is helping me enormously every day, when I explain to our many donors and partners why the work we are doing is so important. I was also able to gain experience with managing smaller projects during grad school, which helped me learn valuable lessons, gain relevant experiences, and establish a network of contacts in my field. Many of the people I first interacted with during grad school are still providing me with invaluable advice today.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
I particularly enjoy working with a diverse set of colleagues and the many partners in our projects from all over the world. My education at UBC has helped me understand how important it is to pay close attention to the science/policy interface. Little did I know when I first started grad school that I would enter a job in which I am confronted with navigating science/policy interface on a daily basis. It requires a lot of scientific background knowledge but also a sensitivity towards – and understanding of – multiculturalism, which certainly is something that my time at UBC has helped teach me.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
I always envisioned working as a researcher either at a university or at an international research organization. The fact that I ended up managing projects as a job rather than carrying out field or lab research is something I very much enjoy but would not have necessarily predicted at the start of grad school.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
The reputations of the Faculty, the Department, and the University as a whole were probably my most important motivations. Of course, the fact that grad school allowed me to spend several years living in Vancouver and the Pacific North-West also didn't hurt.
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
As a grad student in my lab I was given quite a lot of creative freedom and responsibility to shape my own grad school experience. This was something I had to get used to at first but ended up thoroughly enjoying. It prepared me well for what was to come in life after grad school.
What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?
Keeping an open-mind and not being too upset about possible setbacks during grad school is always a good idea. Most grad school experiences don't follow a straight line – rather than getting hung-up about it, try and learn from the various mishaps and shifts in research direction that will inevitably come your way.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
Keep on the lookout for opportunities to familiarize yourself with different career paths. There are a lot of jobs out there that are very enjoyable but don't necessarily follow the classical progression up the academic ladder. Often these kinds of jobs can be quite rewarding, since they allow you to apply in the real world much of what you have learned in grad school.
How did you find out about/obtain your current position?
It was actually an NSERC-funded BRITE internship program at UBC that placed me as a summer intern at the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which then still had it's headquarters at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. This is when I first learned about the work of the organization, and a few years later, I was able to join as a full-time staff member.
How are jobs normally posted and filled in your organization or industry?
They are usually posted on the organization's webpage and, depending on the type of job, also advertised more broadly.