This blog was written by Gayatri Vaidya, from Education Initiatives, India. For the 2017 UKFIET conference, 23 individuals were provided with bursaries to assist them to participate and present at the conference. The researchers were asked to write a short piece about their experience.

The 2017 UKFIET conference was held recently in Oxford, bringing together participants from across the globe working in international education and development. The three-day conference offered research paper presentations, symposia discussions and a series of workshops.

On the last day of the conference, the 7th September 2017, for some of the participants, including myself, the day began with a fantastic early career workshop. The workshop was designed for people who have just started exploring the field of international education and development recently as a career. The main objective of the workshop was to create a network of early career professionals to help them understand that some of the perceived struggles or concerns are quite universal and there are tips and help readily available.

A group of 16 early career professionals from India, Pakistan, Japan, Australia and various UK universities attended the workshop. The workshop was coordinated by three facilitators: Attiq Sadiq, Caroline Jordan and Elisabetta Naborri from Cambridge Education.

The workshop began with a quick ice-breaker where each one of us introduced ourselves and interacted with the others – exchanging our career details, the early challenges, the reasons why we chose the field, etc. It gave us a good kickstart and the morning shyness was automatically shelved!

After the round of introductions, each one of us was given post-it notes to write our early concerns/ struggles or challenges at three different levels: personal, organisational and at the sector level. I am sure while writing these, each one of us had a feeling that what they encountered was a unique problem and that they were struggling in a silo…

However, when Caroline asked us to share our highlights in public, and Attiq started by sharing his, soon there were nods across the room. Each one of us started realising that many of the struggles were quite common and what we perhaps didn’t do well is to share and to ask for help! Soon, there were relaxed shoulders and curious minds wanting to talk to each other, to work out ideas together and to create a culture for themselves, for their organisations or for their sector.

We then quickly formed groups and identified one problem for each level and started discussing them with a view that together, we could propose more holistic solutions. Coming from different cultures and having dealt with some of these issues ourselves, we were able to propose solutions in a very short time – at least on paper!

By the time the scheduled end-time of the workshop came, we wanted more time and wanted to discuss more challenges to find solutions collectively. As a final decision, we concluded that since all of us were from different places, an active social network group would be created and more and more people would be brought into the group over time. Our ultimate objective was to create a growing network to support early career professionals in dealing with their routine challenges and also to provide them with the necessary handholding and expertise that can help them hop the career ladder quicker!

For me, it was an amazing experience and I returned home quite enriched. My group interaction helped me with certain takeaways for my own organisation as I tried to help a colleague sort out her challenges.

The Early Career Professionals have a Facebook page