Attending a conference for the first time

First time conference attendance can be a daunting experience – here two PhD students are interviewed by Kate Sang about their first conferences.

For the first time I was able to take my own PhD students to conferences. Kenny Olowookere and Rafal Sitko are both in their first year of study and were able to present their proposed theoretical frameworks. Thank you to Heriot Watt for supporting our trips. Below Kenny and Rafal discuss their first academic conference experiences.

1. Can you tell me about the first conference you attended – what was it called, where was it and why did you decide to go?

Kenny: The first conference I attended was the EDI (Equality Diversity and Inclusion) Conference in Munich. My major reason for attending was in order to obtain some useful feedback on my work. I also attended in order to meet and network with colleagues in my field.

Rafal: I was lucky to attend the Gender, Work and Organisation 2014 conference, which was hosted at Keele University. It is an international and interdisciplinary forum on problems of gender inequality at work. The idea to attend GWO came from my supervisors. Knowing the rank of the GWO conference in my research area they suggested I should apply.

2. What did you present at the conference?

Kenny: I presented a conceptual paper titled: ‘The Linguistic Construction of Difference within Normative Organizational Contexts’.

Rafal: As a first year PhD student I did not have any empirical findings to share with the audience but it was a chance for me to present the theoretical framework behind my thesis. I discussed at the conference my adaptation of the intersectionality theory.

3. What did you enjoy most about the conference?

Kenny: The streams addressed issues that were relevant to my research area and I enjoyed engaging in discussion with like-minded research oriented colleagues.

Rafal: I was impressed with both the friendly atmosphere and the high level of academic debate. Everyone was approachable and easy to talk to. The atmosphere was relaxed. At the same time there were many excellent presentations. It was a pleasure to take part in different debates.

4. What were the main benefits of attending the conference?

Kenny: I was able to obtain useful and constructive feedback in a relaxed environment; and I made several good contacts.

Rafal: It was an opportunity for me to defend but also challenge my ideas. I had to expose my work to a broader audience, which seemed scary in the beginning but turned out to be an excellent practice and experience.

Attending other presentations was also very educational. I learned many new concepts or new perspectives on topics which I was already familiar with. The presentations significantly broadened my scope of interests. I could also learn from them how to present conference papers in the future.

Last but not least attending the conference was an excellent opportunity to meet experts in my field. It was amazing to talk to and exchange emails with authors of my favourite articles.

5. What advice would you give someone attending their first academic conference?

Kenny: Engage as much as possible with the whole process; it is a valuable experience, worth the work you put into it.

Rafal: Try to attend the conference with someone else. Find out if anyone from your institution is going or encourage your friends who are also doing a PhD to apply for the same conference. Going in a bigger group can be a lot of fun!

6. How has attending the conference affected your PhD study?

Kenny: It has had a positive effect on my PhD as it helped develop some insight into future publications that could come out of the research.

Rafal: At the conference I received a lot of feedback on my thesis. It significantly changed my perception of the theoretical framework which I wanted to adopt. I realised that some of the concepts which I originally planned to use are unnecessary and that I should improve my understanding of the main theory. Overall, attending the conference was a great educating experience.

The next EDI conference will be in Tel-Aviv in July 2015, the journal can be found here

More detail on the Gender, Work and Organization conference and journal can be found here


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