By: Christopher Smith, PhD,OBI Intern with the Industry Relations team

As a recent PhD graduate people always ask me ‘what’s next?’ I believe this is possibly the most common question asked to new graduates, but it is also the most difficult to answer. 

Well, I now have a better idea about what could be next and how I can take the next step to get there. On November 27th 2013, the OBI hosted a celebration and training event for interns and entrepreneurs. This full day event, divided into a morning and evening session, was held at the Ivey ING direct leadership centre. Thankfully, delicious meals and refreshments were provided throughout the day. As a current intern at the OBI, I found the event both enjoyable and informative.

In the morning, OBI interns and entrepreneurs had the opportunity to attend an interactive workshop delivered by Lucy Keating from Commexus Inc., an organization which specializes in professional communication and organizational change. Lucy addressed real world professional challenges. How can I loop key people into my network? How do I initiate conversations with new people at a conference? And, how do I maintain professional relationships over time? I found the small-group, interactive sessions to be particularly enlightening. For example, Lucy challenged my group to stick to  open-ended questions in conversation. Everyone in my group realized how easy it was to build rapport with a complete stranger using this approach.

Dr. Stuss, President and Scientific Director of the OBI, who spoke on behalf of the board chair Mr. Joseph Rotman, began the evening by highlighting the entrepreneurs accomplishments. In 2012, the seven OBI funded entrepreneurs— three of which were co-funded by the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE)—built 14 prototypes, received an additional $1M in funding, and created 133 months of employment. Furthermore, true to the OBI model of engaging with partners from around the province, the entrepreneurs developed partnerships with 21 other organizations, integrating these new companies into the Ontario neuroscience cluster. “This inaugural class has made tremendous strides with their work and creates a standard of excellence for all future classes to strive to achieve. For the class of 2013, we challenge you to follow the example set by the 2012 class and add to these numbers. No small feat but we have every confidence in your ideas, and your abilities,” said Dr. Stuss.

Dr. Stuss went on to speak about the internship program, which was co-funded through FedDev Ontario’s Graduate Enterprise Internship program (GEI). As of November 27th, the OBI has placed 10 interns at 10 different organizations who are “equally committed to the success of these individuals.” To conclude, Dr. Stuss spoke to the successes of OBI internal internship program noting that the OBI also practices what it preaches: “Since the OBI began, we have maintained a steady stream of interns flowing through our various teams and into different career paths. Nearly half of these interns have secured permanent opportunities with the OBI, but this doesn’t mean that we don’t share. As you can see for the others, there is life outside OBI which has served as a stepping stone to other opportunities. All eight 2012 OBI interns have secured full time positions in Ontario”.

After the opening remarks, Mr. David Bogart, Vice President of OBI Research Programs and Industry Relations, read a letter from the Honourable Gary Goodyear, congratulating the OBI on the success of its training programs. The letter stressed the importance of these programs in creating opportunities for economic prosperity and increasing competitiveness in the global economy. The letter also emphasized that brain research is an area of key importance to the Government of Canada, and that understanding brain illnesses and injuries is essential to improving the quality of life of Canadian’s affected by these conditions and diseases.

The day concluded with a networking event, where the interns and entrepreneurs had a chance to mingle with other OBI guests. The evening was such a success that the networking continued in the lobby of the exchange tower after the Ivey Centre closed. Everyone, left feeling motivated, and ready to seize new opportunities. At the event, I had the opportunity to meet people who I would not have otherwise met, and learn about the sought after skills in careers of interest. Along with my colleagues, I am looking forward to future events hosted by the Ontario Brain Institute.

To learn about the EEI program, click here.


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