Every four years, graduate students (pre-docs) at the IBM Research – Zurich Lab organize a networking event called the Zurich Alumni Convention (ZAC). Participants are invited from within the ever-growing community of current and former pre-docs of the Zurich Lab. Philipp Eib, co-president of the current crop of Zurich pre-docs, gives an insider’s view of the event, which took place this year on June 1 with 63 participants
Q: Why do you feel it’s important to organize an alumni event?
Philipp Eib: It’s all about refreshing the connections among the IBM Zurich Lab alumni as well as between the alumni and the Lab. For alumni, it’s an effective networking event, and for current pre-docs, it’s an important info event. It’s also relevant for potential recruiting, of course.
From the perspective of a current pre-doc like myself, it was particularly interesting to see what’s next. For me personally, that was another important motivation to organize this event.
Q: What were some of the highlights of the agenda?
PE: We had an excellent program of interesting presentations by Zurich Lab alumni, ranging from start-ups to the IT and banking sectors to academia.
This year, we tried something new: a kind of speed networking. We set it up as roundtable discussions with 6 participants each, who were given a topic to discuss for 15 minutes. For example, one topic was “Compare and contrast industrial and academic research”. Another was “Patents: What are they good for?” The response was very positive! The delegates obviously enjoyed it and participated enthusiastically. It was a great way to get to know people a bit better. The whole point was to be grouped with people you didn’t already know, and it worked out well.
Then we treated our alumni delegates to a tour of the noise-free lab in the new Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center [link: http://www.zurich.ibm.com/nanocenter/]. The feedback was extremely positive. For example, one alumnus told us “I was very impressed by this new facility. The new building was the first thing I noticed when I arrived.”
To round off the event, we held the convention dinner at Felsenegg restaurant with its scenic terrace overlooking Zurich. We had arranged for fondue to be served of course! It was a great opportunity for lots of continued discussions—the atmosphere was very collegial and communicative, with delegates exchanging business cards, etc.
Q: How can alumni stay connected?
PE: After the previous ZAC in 2008, a LinkedIn [http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=104971] account was set up for this community. That’s the easiest way for participants to stay connected.
Q: What are the next steps?
PE: Well, the next ZAC will take place in 2016, and I certainly hope to be an alumnus by then! But seriously, four years is a good interval. It makes the convention more of a special event than if it took place, say, every year.
Q: Many thanks for this interview, and all the best on your dissertation.
PE: Thank you very much.