A multi-day conference for graduate students and postdocs

People holding signs with symbols for skill development

This multi-day conference, held over March and April 2021, is designed to better prepare graduate students and postdocs for careers outside of academia by focusing on key skill areas sought after by employers. Not ready to think about your next step yet? Don’t worry. This conference emphasizes skills that will help you succeed now, while you’re doing research at Waterloo, and later, in your future career.

Conference participants will have the opportunity to engage in sessions covering each of the four Professional Skills Foundations (Foundations) core categories: Career Preparation; Communication; Leadership; and, Personal Effectiveness. 

Continue below for the following event details:

Please note: Separate registration is required for each session. Graduate students and postdocs are welcome to register for and attend all conference sessions, or only those that meet their current needs or schedule. 

April 15-16 conference schedule

April 15, 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET Lightning talks*
April 15, 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET Beyond procrastination: Reclaiming your time and life
April 15, 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET Gender pronouns and cultures of respect*
April 16, 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. ET The power of 1%*
April 16, 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET Financial wellness: Ordinary people, extraordinary wealth*
Postponed - date TBD Social activity: Flower kit plant and decorate session Note: This event has been postponed due to the recent provincial lockdown. Stay tuned for an alternative date.
April 16 Canadian nature escape room - launch! 

Sessions indicated with an asterisk (*) will be recorded and made available to those unable to join us live. Sessions will be made available to University of Waterloo graduate students and postdocs through our secure conference recording request web form. Please check back here approximately one week after the live sessions for a link to the web form.

April 15-16 session descriptions and registration

Lightning talks

Join us as we begin the April sessions of the GRADventure Professional Skills Conference! At this session, you’ll hear several short lightning talks from four different University of Waterloo staff members presenting on relevant topics from their areas of expertise. After the lightning talks, you’ll have an opportunity to join a breakout room with one of our lightning talk facilitators to learn more about the topic and ask questions.

Lightning talks: 

  • Managing your research data; presented by Kathy Szigeti and Sandra Keys, Liaison Librarians and Research Data Management Specialists
    • Whether you are collecting your own research data or are part of a research team, managing your research data is of prime importance. And with the recent finalization of the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy, any grant applications to CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC will need to include a data management plan (DMP). This lightning talk will introduce the new Policy and the DMP Assistant, a tool designed to assist you in writing a solid DMP.
  • Identifying and strengthening your writing habits; presented by Nadine Fladd, Writing and Multimodal Communication Specialist, Graduate, Postdoctoral and Faculty Support
    • In this talk you’ll learn how to use a quick online assessment tool to reflect on your writing habits and identify where you have room to grow as a writer. We will then review some strategies to adopt based on what areas of your writing practice have room for growth.
  • Zoom fatigue; presented by Cheri Bilitz, Director, Counselling Services
    • The pandemic has changed the way we meet with one another—most of us spend a good portion of our day in front of our computer screen in virtual meetings.  “Zoom fatigue”  is now a recognized condition.  In this talk you’ll learn about the effects of Zoom fatigue and helpful strategies to minimize these effects on you and those in meetings with you. 
  • Navigating a new work place culture; presented by Kira Bruschke, Graduate Career Advisor, Centre for Career Action
    • In this talk, we will explore how to understand work place expectations, and how to navigate a new workplace while also considering staying authentic to your true self.

Registration required through Eventbrite

Beyond procrastination: Reclaiming your time and life

Procrastination is a common enough experience, but it can cause significant stress, difficulties in planning and deprive you of a feeling of accomplishment and calm as you work. If you find yourself identifying with some of these struggles, this workshop is for you. 

Most pop psychology ideas about procrastination are based on the (erroneous) idea that it is primarily a time management issue or about a characterological shortcoming like laziness. The reality is that most people’s procrastination struggles have little to do with time management, and even less to do with lazing about.

Shifting out of a procrastination habit takes knowledge and the right strategies. In this session, you will learn both: We will take a deep dive into the psychology of procrastination and the workshop introduces a radically different framework for you to understand your own procrastination struggles in a new and empowering way. From there, you will create your own procrastination profile so you can identify quickly what is happening when you get stuck. And you will learn a variety of effective, proven strategies to work within your own profile to help you shift out of avoidance and passivity into an action-oriented mode.

Registration required through Eventbrite

Presenter bio: Alex Abdel-Malek, MSW, RCC, is a McGill trained psychotherapist and professional educator devoted to the question of how meaningful choices affect our health and wellbeing. A passionate clinician and speaker with over 25 years of experience in the field, Alex has been an instructor at many leading educational institutions, including SFU, UBC Robson Square, BCIT, City University, Vancouver Community College, and Mount Royal University. 

He has conducted training sessions for organizations throughout Western Canada on topics relating to mental health, trauma, and employee well-being, including extensive work with the Canadian Coast Guard, the RCMP and other first-responder groups, health-care and front-line social service agencies. He has also worked extensively with UBC and other organizations for many years; his specialized workshops on procrastination and perfectionism have been attended by well over 2000 workshop attendees.

Alex lives and works in Port Moody, Greater Vancouver, where he runs a full-time clinical practice.

Gender pronouns and cultures of respect

We’ve all done it. Said the wrong pronoun, used the wrong name, and/or otherwise referred to someone in some sexed/gendered way and immediately wished we could take it back. (And, guess what? We are all going to do it – we’re all human; we all make mistakes.) So, how can we as professionals forestall these mistakes in our practices and activate in ourselves an inclusive ideology for gender and sexed identities in our work? In this session, we’ll start with some grammar and linguistic history to identify where these words come from in our language and how they work (and don’t work), and then we’ll discuss impacts and impasses of privilege and inclusivity to get us into some strategies for positive engagement with gender pronouns. We’ll wrap up with highlighting pronoun awareness and cultures of respect to ultimately reflect on whiteness, marginalization, trauma, and continued struggle.

Registration required through Eventbrite

Presenter bio: Tommy Mayberry (he/she/they) is the Manager of Outreach and Recruitment at St. Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo, and they are currently finishing their PhD in English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo. As an academic drag queen, Tommy works and researches from an embodied standpoint to explore, both individually and intersectionally, gender, pedagogy, performance, language, social media, and reality TV (to name but a few) and has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants, the most recent of which is the University of Guelph’s Learning Enhancement Fund (LEF) for “The Science Library Project/Le projet de bibliothèque scientifique” (2019-2020). Tommy is also co-editor of the forthcoming book, RuPedagogies of Realness: Essays on RuPaul’s Drag Race and Teaching and Learning (McFarland, 2021) and has presented academic work and research across Canada and internationally in Oxford, Tokyo, Washington DC, and Honolulu.

The power of 1%

This presentation will be filled with strategies for increasing your physical activity levels.  We will debunk the idea of motivation while discussing the importance of finding your why. We will walk through actionable steps to help you develop sustainable habits over time.

You will learn a how using the concept or mantra of 1% better can change all of your habits, including those directly related to physical activity.

Registration required through Eventbrite

Presenter bio: Stacey Majaury is the Conditioning Coordinator at the University of Waterloo.  She graduated with a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education from Laurentian University with a specialty in Health Promotion.  Her work experiences are vast and include Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Waterloo, where she coached varsity athletes in a variety of sports.  Health Promotion Director for the Canadian Forces where she facilitated courses on a variety of topics including those on social wellness, nutritional wellness, addiction free and active living.  Most recently she acts as an assistant coach for Precision Nutrition.

She has spent countless hours furthering her education and knowledge base.  As such, she holds the following accreditation:

  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA)
  • Certified Exercise Physiologist (CSEP)
  • Precision Nutrition Coach - Level 2
  • Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion Post Graduate Certificate (Centennial College)

She is a fairly new mom with two small girls under the age of 4.  When she does have some spare time you can find her in the weight room, on the golf course or cooking!

Financial wellness: Ordinary people, extraordinary wealth

In this hands-on, interactive session, we’ll discuss how to most effectively spend and save your income, while understanding something called, opportunity cost. It might not sound sexy, but it’s actually really cool! 

After the session, Andrew will be available to take questions for the last 20-30 minutes.  

Registration required through Eventbrite

Presenter bio: Andrew Hallam is one of the world's most prolific personal finance speakers.  The former high school personal finance and English teacher wrote the international bestseller, Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules Of Wealth You Should Have Learned In School.  He has spoken in more than 30 countries espousing research on financial wellness, sound investing and life satisfaction. 

As a financial journalist, Andrew has written for numerous international publications, including investment columns for The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business magazine, MoneySense magazine, Internaxx and AssetBuilder,  a U.S.-based financial services firm.  He has been quoted by Forbes and The Wall Street Journal and has been a guest on numerous podcasts, radio shows and television networks, including CNBC.

Andrew uses humour, an engaging speaking style and reams of academic evidence to help you to make better, more informed choices.  To find out more about Andrew, visit his website: andrewhallam.com

Social activity: Flower kit plant and decorate session 

This event has been postponed due to the recent provincial lockdown. Stay tuned for an alternate date. 

Join us for our Spring-themed social event, offered jointly by the Graduate Student Association (GSA-UW) and Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA), to wrap up the GRADventure Professional Skills Conference!

Ashley Ryan, GSA’s Student Wellness Coordinator, will lead participants through a virtual, fun, family-friendly painting and planting class, where you’ll have the chance to paint a flower pot, and fill it with soil so you can plant flowers or plants of your choosing.

This activity is offered free of charge to all graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and their families. A limited number of supply kits will be made available to registrants for pick-up on campus, at no additional charge.

Canadian nature escape room

Unable to join our flower kit plant and decorate session? You can still join in the spring fun by participating in our Canadian nature escape room! 

Interested in learning about the animals and plants you might come across in the forest? Take a swing at our virtual Canadian Nature Escape Room, presented by the Graduate Student Association (GSA-UW) and Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA). Solve puzzles and riddles with friends to find your way through the forest. Those who make it to the end of the challenge will have the opportunity to win a prize!

Register through Eventbrite. Registered students will be sent a link when the escape room launches on April 16.

Professional Skills Foundations participants

Interested in having session attendance count towards progress in the Professional Skills Foundations program? Follow these steps: 

New Foundations participants: Hearing about Foundations for the first time? Here are the steps you need to take to have Professional Skills Conference sessions count towards your Foundations progress: 

  • Register for the online Introductory Foundations workshop
  • Once you've received access to the online workshop in LEARN, complete all five modules 
  • Prepare your Individual Development Plan (IDP), as described in the modules, ensuring to include the conference sessions you wish to count towards your Foundations progress
  • Book a one-on-one IDP review meeting to have your IDP approved before the conference begins

Current Foundations participants: Complete the following steps, depending on your current progress through the Foundations program: 

  • Introductory workshop completed, but Individual Development Plan (IDP) not yet approved:
    • Complete your IDP, including the sessions from the conference you wish to count towards your Foundations progress
    • Book an IDP review meeting to have it approved before the conference begins
  • Individual Development Plan (IDP) approved:
    • If you wish to count a session from the conference instead of a workshop on your approved IDP, email GRADventure@uwaterloo.ca with the name(s) of the workshop(s) you wish to replace, the name(s) of the session(s) you wish to count towards Foundations progress, and a brief rationale for the requested change. Please note, changes must be approved prior to the conference sessions

March 15-16 conference schedule

March 15, 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET Lightning talks*
March 15, 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET Working for a startup*
March 15, 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET Building connections for career exploration, decision-making, and community*
March 16, 9:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET Get stuff done with meetings*
March 16, 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET The art of connection: Fueling the power of emotional & social intelligence*
March 16, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET Shape your narrative: Storytelling for professional success

Sessions indicated with an asterisk (*) will be recorded and made available to those unable to join us live.

March session recordings

Recordings from the March conference sessions are now available for University of Waterloo graduate students and postdocs!

Please fill out the March session recording webform to receive a link to the session recordings. Please note, the webform and recording links will only remain active until April 30, 2021.

March 15-16 session descriptions and registration

Lightning talks

To start off the GRADventure Professional Skills Conference, you’ll hear lightning talks from four different University of Waterloo staff members presenting on relevant topics from their areas of expertise. After the lightning talks, you’ll have an opportunity to join a breakout room with one of our lightning talk facilitators to learn more about the topic and ask questions.

Lightning talks:

  • Creating a tailored résumé; presented by Kira Bruschke, Career Advisor, Centre for Career Action
    • This lightning talk will focus on analyzing and interpreting job postings in order to create a tailored résumé.
  • Communicating in context: Assessing the rhetorical situation; presented by Nadine Fladd, Writing and Multimodal Communication Specialist, Writing and Communication Centre
    • The concept of the rhetorical situation is the foundation of effective communication. In this talk you’ll learn what a “rhetorical situation” is and how you can use this concept to help you make effective choices in your communication tasks, whether you’re drafting a journal article, presenting at a conference, applying for research funding, or making jokes on Twitter.
  • Leadership and mentorship in grad school; presented by Sadaf Mollaei, Team Lead, Student Leadership Program, Student Success Office (SSO) & Tamara DeSouza, Team Lead, Foundational Training Program for Peer Leaders, SSO
    • Hear from two current graduate students, who are also working as Team Leads in the Student Success Office, about their experiences with leadership and mentorship in grad school. Sadaf will also talk about how to get involved with the Student Leadership Program and Tamara will explain the benefits of the Foundational Training Program for peer leaders.
  • Conducting informational interviews; presented by Justine Salam, Graduate Professional Skills Program Specialist, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs
    • In this lightning talk, you’ll learn about the value of informational interviews as a tool for career exploration and networking. You’ll also hear tips on how to make your informational interviews successful.

Register for Lightning talks (Eventbrite)

Working for a startup

Canada's Waterloo Region solidly ranks among the top 25 startup ecosystems in the world, boasting approximately 1,100 startups for a population of about half a million people—the second-highest startup density in the world after the global leader, Silicon Valley.

Want to learn more about career possibilities in this startup ecosystem after grad school?  Attend this panel discussion to hear from former grad students who work (or have worked) in the startup space. This session will be relevant to you as someone seeking a potential career in a startup company, or as a potential founder.

Register for Working for a startup (Eventbrite)

Panellist bios

  • Eric Blondeel cofounded the medical diagnostic company Kenota Health in 2014, and received his PhD in 2018 from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He is currently working on a new startup in fintech. 
  • Lichen Zhang is a product designer at Faire and previously worked for Smile.io. While she was in graduate school she founded PriveHealth, a gamified cybersecurity training platform designed for healthcare professionals. She earned her BASc and MASc in Civil Engineering from UWaterloo.
  • Gordon Hall has been developing instrumentation for lab-on-chip devices for the past decade; starting at the University of Waterloo during the tail end of his undergraduate degree in Nanotechnology engineering and continuing through his PhD specializing in low-cost, scalable microfluidic instrumentation. Following graduation, Gordon joined Nicoya where he designed the OpenSPR microfluidics system and kicked off Nicoya’s digital microfluidics (DMF) platform. Gordon is currently the lead technical architect and project manager for Alto, the world’s first DMF-based surface plasmon resonance (SPR). Alto automates routine tasks and reduces instrument downtime so that scientists can focus on their next big discovery.

Building connections for career exploration, decision-making, and community

In this workshop, we will discuss the value of making connections throughout your graduate and postdoctoral studies that can positively contribute to career exploration, decision-making, and creating a community of support in your career. We will discuss a variety of online networking strategies, such as social media, finding online events, and informational interviews; identify an action plan that best suits your preferred approaches to networking; integrate self-care practices that promotes well-being throughout your work search; and, learn how networking can open up career paths and give you an opportunity to explore these paths. This workshop will offer various options for participation and interaction, so that if you choose to participate there can be an option for you to do so comfortably.

Register for Building connections (Eventbrite)

Presenter bioPhil Miletic (he/him) is fascinated by the everyday personal storytelling everyone does in their day-to-day life, whether it be on various social media platforms, autobiographical stories in books & games, or, in career documents and networking conversations. Phil is currently a Career Advisor for Graduate Students and Postdocs in the Centre for Career Action at the University of Waterloo where he supports individuals through opaque systems, complex processes, and barriers to pursue and achieve their career goals. An alumnus of UW, Phil did his PhD in English, specializing in Digital Life Writing, Media History, & American literature where he cultivated his interest in his career as an advisor. In his spare time, he snuggles with his doggo & child and loves listening to sad music.

Get stuff done with meetings

As a grad student or postdoc, you already frequently attend or organize meetings. In your future career, you will most certainly continue to be responsible for participating in and running effective meetings. But what makes a meeting effective? In this workshop, you’ll learn how the meeting is a tool with great potential to help you get the resources you need and get projects completed. You’ll also learn why this tool is so often misused or misapplied, and how to avoid common mistakes in meeting planning, so your meetings can be well organized and meet deliverables.

Register for Get stuff done with meetings (Eventbrite). 

Presenter bio: Jonathan Woodcock, (PMI-ACP, PMP) is Project Manager with Information & Systems Technology at the University of Waterloo, where he is accountable for the delivery of large, complex projects and programs. Jonathan’s area of expertise includes recovery of challenged or delayed projects. He has certifications as a Project Management Professional, and Agile Certified Practitioner from the Project Management Institute (PMI). He also holds a Master’s Degree in Management Sciences, from the University of Waterloo.

The art of connection: Fueling the power of emotional & social intelligence

Leadership starts with you! As you move from interaction to interaction, how you show up matters and creates a ripple effect. As the pace of change and demands increase in our work and personal lives, our ability to lead from within and demonstrate strong personal leadership becomes more important. Emotional intelligence and social intelligence have been linked to leadership and managerial success in the workplace.

Humanicity’s interactive The Art of Connection workshop, empowers individuals to learn more about the key elements of emotional and social intelligence and how to increase the effectiveness of their day-to-day leadership. Participants will learn how to leverage the core EQ competencies and how to apply current emotional and social intelligence tools and techniques to enhance workplace relationships, communication, performance and productivity.

This session will be recorded and made available to University of Waterloo graduate students and postdocs through our secure conference recording request form. Please check the conference web page approximately one week after the live session.

Register for The art of connection (Eventbrite).

Presenter bio: Sandra Corelli is a leadership & culture strategist, keynote speaker, consultant, mediator, and coach. As Founder & CEO of Humanicity Consulting Group, she brings global experience and a multi-disciplinary approach to her work drawing on neuroscience, human behaviour, positive psychology, and emotional intelligence. Sandra consults with clients in the areas of leadership development, inclusion, culture and well-being in the workplace.

Shape your narrative: Storytelling for professional success

Participants will be guided through the process of identifying unique stories from their personal and professional experiences that make them unique and create a compelling professional narrative that will enable them to stand out during networking, informational interviewing and job interview processes.

By the end of this workshop participants will learn:

  • How to identify impactful stories from their experiences
  • How to craft a compelling narrative
  • Differentiate storytelling for networking vs. interviewing

Register for Shape your narrative (Eventbrite).

Presenter bio: Dr. Shalini Nag, president and people strategist at EvidaSolve, brings ~20 years of experience in business management consulting, scientific research and evidence-based teaching and learning methods, to a range of topics on business management, leadership, teamwork, and organizational culture.

Her experience in curriculum and training design, group facilitation, individual mentoring and coaching has delivered measurable results at global clients across industries, ranging from Start-Ups to Fortune 500 companies. Creator of The Success DeltaTM Shalini is a #1 International

Bestselling author, a PI-certified talent optimization expert and SHRM recertification provider. An advocate for S.T.E.M., equity and justice, she is committed to equipping individuals with the power skill that will boost their performance and success in their lives and careers.