Professional development

There’s pretty much universal agreement that professional development is a good thing. It helps keep skills and knowledge relevant, exposes you to new ideas and people and these combine to help make your career rewarding and interesting.

I don’t disagree with any of this. In fact, one of my major professional development activities is actually to help run a professional development program. My current role within the ILN is as Communications Director and I’m enjoying the challenge of writing a marketing plan and working with a team of volunteers around the globe to help promote the program. I’m also responsible for the survey we send to our participants at the middle and end of each round, both sending it out and making sense of the responses when the survey closes and we have a whole spreadsheet of data to clean and coax into a story. This survey is of vital importance to the development of the program, we’ve made many real and substantive changes to the way we run the program based on the feedback obtained by those who participate in the program. It’s important, real work and I’m learning many things as I’ve never done anything like this before. You can hear the ‘but’ coming, right?

It’s hard. I find it really, really hard to stay focussed and work on these spreadsheets. The data, by itself, stripped of the nice correlations, visualisations and statistical significances that it has when presented at a conference or to a meeting, doesn’t speak to me. It’s just so many numbers and comments on a page. I am not sure what I want it to tell me, I can only get it to tell me the things we’ve asked it before – so I have a model to work from. This makes me more determined to conquer the data and make it tell me something and learn a skill dammit! However, it’s not a happy relationship and I am easily distracted. Oh look. A butterfly…

Viceroy Butterfly 02 by Ken Slade. Used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Viceroy Butterfly 02 by Ken Slade. Used under CC BY-NC 2.0

The gorgeous patterns on the butterfly’s wings come from a series of tiny pieces put together in a certain way. I have renewed respect for all of those researchers out there plugging away at data to look for patterns so they can tell a story that will enhance human understanding, or maybe even cure cancer, or solve climate change.

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