- On 2. December 2016
Debriefing: Wid Talal has completed the AlfaNordic Academy boot camp. Here she talks about her experience with the 4-day boot camp in Vingsted. The candidates where pushed to the edge of their self perception.
Wid has started working with Novo Nordisk in Kalundborg where she will be handling an operation support function. For the first 2 years, she will be following a programme consisting of 8 modules that cover different areas within the pharma industry. At the end of the 2 years, she will write her thesis, and a decision is then made as to whether she continues for another 2 years, possibly with a view to permanent employment later on.
Wid has been through an extended application round, and following that, she went through a 2-week intensive introduction process with AlfaNordic, covering activities like lectures, mentor meetings, tests and an outdoor boot camp with physical and mental challenges. She is part of a hand-picked team of newly educated candidates, given a kickstart in the industry by AlfaNordic in cooperation with selected pharmaceutical companies.
When Wid was younger, she wanted to be a dentist, but somewhere along the way she became interested in the pharmaceutical industry. She has always been good at biology, has always been interested in how the treatment of patients can be optimised. Wid has a candidate degree in biology and biotechnology from the University of Copenhagen. She also has a background as a biomedical laboratory technician plus a bit of experience with odontology. After her bachelor, she worked for about 4 years at the University of Copenhagen in a group, as a researcher within the area of angiogenesis (formation of blood vessels) before she finished her candidate degree. Concurrently with her research, she worked in the Molecular genetics department at Rigshospitalet (Copenhagen University Hospital) and for Kræftens Bekæmpelse (The Danish Cancer Society), so she has quite a lot of industry experience to draw from.
Where you are at right now – would it be safe to call it a trial period of 4 years?
Yes, that would be safe because things take time. You have to learn a great number of things. You have to reach a certain level of both theoretical and practical knowledge. Four years may seem like a long time to some people, but the four years are actually well-founded. The work that you do within the pharma industry requires you to be very accurate with your work, it demands that you are thorough and have good knowledge of quality and other important aspects of the industry. I get a lot out of this training process. I can feel already that during the few weeks since I started I have gained knowledge equivalent of several months. We are trained and instructed in speciality issues in a way that brings us up-to-date quickly. We acquire the competencies that are needed for us to continue working within the industry afterwards. Be it in the specific company or elsewhere.
What attracted you to AlfaNordic Academy?
You can combine knowledge and traineeship. You acquire hands-on experience at the same time as you acquire all the related theoretical knowledge. Very often, when you start working in a new place, you lack the exact theoretical knowledge within certain areas. It is not always possible for the employer to supplement with courses when you have just started work. With this programme, the courses are available at the same time as you are performing your work. It has been planned in such a way that you will be 100% good at what you are doing. I have the theoretical background and I quickly acquire the practical knowledge. It clearly makes the position very attractive.
How much did you know before the boot camp?
By and large, nothing. I knew that it was going to be a boot camp with some special forces soldiers for 4 days and that activities would take place outdoors, so we were given a list of things we were to bring. For example warm clothes, sleeping bag, hiking boots and other articles. And that was it.
What made a special impression on you during the 4 days?
The fact that we were able to solve the tasks we were faced with. The group was given some tasks we were to solve based on the knowledge we have acquired and what we learned along the way. At first glance, some of the tasks seemed to be impossible, but because we are all competitive persons who do not give up, we got through it. I am surprised at how much I myself can do and how much we can actually do together. I am now convinced that a person is capable of doing 10 times more than he or she thinks. One of the tasks demanded that we worked continuously for 24 hours straight without getting any sleep. If you had asked me in advance whether I could do that I would probably have answered ”no”, but when I was in the middle of it, I actually did it. It demanded quite an effort from me, but I was able to do it. It has made me consider what I am actually capable of doing in relation to what I think I can do. It gives me courage and a positive energy that I have experienced that I can do more than I think I can do when I am facing a task that may seem to be impossible. This is when you have to grab hold of your inner fighterr and your positive way of thinking.
Did you bring back any tools that you can use in the future?
Yes, many. I can clearly apply them, and I also do use them. Sometimes consciously and other times unknowingly. My way of thinking has changed, but in a good way.
What tools are you talking about for example?
It may be finding your fighter mentality when it is relevant. To be proactive and to learn from what you are accomplishing. Being proactive is for example having foresight, being on one’s toes so that you can at all times be ahead of the course of events. To acquire learning is also an important tool, for example via analysing the tasks and the mistakes you make. How can you do it better and avoid the things that should not happen? What went well and what did not go so well? And you must remember the praise for the good things.
What would you say has changed from before and after the boot camp?
The good sides and the not-so-good sides of my personality have been pointed out to me and this has and made me see what I can work with. Both sides can be improved. The good sides can be improved and I can start working on and with the not-so-good sides on a long-term basis as targets for improvement.
When I finished boot camp, I was very proud. Proud of what I had achieved and what I had learned. Before we started, I did have an inkling that I was a fighter, but now I know this to be true. Now I dare believe it.
How has it been becoming a part of a selected team?
I feel honoured to be part of such a carefully thought out programme, the purpose of which is to build a bridge between the universities and the pharma industry. The team was put together based on personalities. When I first met the other graduates at the boot camp, I was positively surprised at how well I functioned together with these people. During the boot camp, we built up an extremely good solidarity. We were good at praising each other, so our team spirit was extraordinary. We all agreed that focus must be on solving the tasks and on achieving top performance. Focus must always be on solving the task, so if the team spirit does not work, then the entire task will fail. Success applies to the entire team. We win together and we lose together.
I normally don’t have problems trusting people. We, as a group, trusted each other and accomplished our tasks. Nobody failed. I think we reinforced that trust by having a very positive verbal communication. If you tell people: ”You do this now” and ”you can do it”, then they are motivated by the trust.
The memories that we now share have made us feel very close. We also shared what the good and the not-so-good sides of our personalities were. We shared stories that have impacted our lives and the direction our lives have taken. We experienced many things together under different conditions, and that created good solidarity. I have gained good knowledge of some people that I hope to have a relationship with and work with in the future. Our thoughts actually follow very identical tracks and that has contributed to us getting close to each other quickly.
What do you think primarily sets AlfaNordic Academy apart from a traditional employment?
I think that the way AlfaNordic did this has possibly saved us 2 years. Normally, when you start at a work place, you focus a lot on the technical and not so much on the social aspects, but in this case – based on a personality test – AlfaNordic succeeded in getting together a group of ambitious and goal-oriented graduates with common personality traits which I believe will have a positive impact on a successful cooperation in the future. The process of getting to know each other has been intensified. I am highly and positively surprised at how well things turned out and how well we know each other now.
Were you tired when you got home?
Well yes, but we also learned that that is just your body talking. My feet, neck and shoulders were sore, but that quickly passed after a couple of hours’ sleep.