The Next Steps for a Circular Plastics Professional: Career Development

Here are a few insights from me - Priyanka Main (ESR 1) regarding the career development talks we heard during NTE2.

NTE 2 virtual workshop could be described as equal parts an eye-opener as well as inspirational in nature. The focus of the workshop this time around was on our career development and getting to interact with people in different fields be it in academia, industry, and social entrepreneurship as well as to discuss their career progression.

On the first day the career development guidance was given to us by Dr. Dunja Mohr. Among the many factors Dr. Dunja told us about which are integral to our career, the most interesting factor was Relations and Networks. I think one of her statements that research taking only 1/3rd of our time really shocked me because the obvious question was what takes up the rest?!


At the end of 3.5 hours it became clear what exactly takes up the rest. When Dr. Dunja asked us to fill out a questionnaire to find out where precisely we stand on our awareness of all the concepts that she had covered with respect to our career, the thing she repeatedly told us was that there will be some things which you will have to leave blank because you won’t know it at this time. That’s exactly what happened but filling that questionnaire made me realize that she had basically given us a helpful guide, something which we can come back to and improve over the years. A starting point if you will. The next day when we had our half-hour discussion among ourselves (ESRs), split into groups of 3, it was clear that we were all in the same boat and everybody was still figuring it out and that it was ok. What’s more it was something we could even help each other and encourage in.


Our first talk given by Prof. Edward Kosior really showed us what a circular plastics professional could really be. He started with academia going on to become Adjunct Professor, after which he worked in Visy Industries and then went on to start his own company Nextek Limited–a consultancy company specializing in the recycling of plastics packaging. I think what I took away from his talk was the passion he has for the field which has led him to either spearhead or be a contributing part of current and relevant topics in the world of recycling.


On the second day there were two talks given by Prof. Dietmar Drummer (FAU) and Prof. Brigitte Voit (IPF) respectively. They outlined their careers and the way they balance their research as well as the organizational aspects of their work. was truly impressive. In the exchange which followed among the ESRs, supervisors and the Professors a lot of questions regarding the opportunities and challenges they faced along the way were discussed. A lot of pro tips were dispensed to us and a couple of burning questions were answered too.


Prof. Eckhard Weidner (Fraunhofer Umsicht) was one of the invited speakers for the third day. As he was the project leader in the previous Marie Curie Group he had a lot of insights to share with us about how the ESR group functioned. A very interesting fact he noted was that only two were still in research and all the rest were placed in industry.


Ms. Dana Mosora (Founder of Asase Foundation) was a speaker who proved to be extremely motivating to all present in the workshop. The work being carried out by her foundation and even the way she came about to start such an initiative and to persevere in spite of all the challenges she and Ms. Hildah Addah faced was truly exceptional.


There were many more speakers and innovators who also spoke about their experiences and I think the main point all of them conveyed through their words and more importantly their actions were that if you are self-motivated, do not be afraid to dream big because there are a number of paths you can walk upon.


We cannot predict the future but preparing a strong foundation now will be immensely helpful later on no matter which path we decide to take. So start preparing now with your future in mind and things will fall into place!


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!