Part 1: Dissecting a human brain
The magnificence of our neural system struck me when I was in the last year of my Masters. I had a neuroanatomy class and I held a brain, an actual human brain, in the palm of my hands. Now some of you may think: “Holding a brain of a dead person is not magnificent, it’s disgusting and slightly disturbing”. But to me it wasn’t, it was an eye-opener; the idea that such a compact mass, consisting mostly of water, could do such extraordinary things, like making us walk, talk, swim,...; letting us see the world in 3D colour vision; allowing us to express and interpret emotions; enabling us to link short-term actions to long term plans; and so much more. Right there and then I decided to make it my quest to try and unravel this highly advanced structure.
In the following years I spent hours and hours looking at brains. I started a PhD on brain aging for which I used MRI-scans to visualize brain regions active during motor control. I vividly remember the first subject I scanned, the first scan that popped up on the monitor as the scanner made its horrible noise. As time moved on, I became an even bigger admirer of the human brain, amazed by its sheer complexity.
By the end of my PhD I had not only gained a lot of knowledge on brain imaging, I had come to realize what I wanted in a career. Managing these MRI-experiments wasn’t the only think I liked. I guess you could say I liked the diversity of the work; scanning patients, analysing data, coaching students, teaching courses…
Part 2: Managing a company called Grey Matter
Being such an amateur of Neuroscience, people often wonder how on earth I ended up in Project Management consulting. It’s not that straightforward I admit, and I took a small detour in the pharmaceutical industry, but looking back the difference is smaller than you would think. My PhD consisted of four clinical studies in which I tried to find the answer to a unique question, keeping in mind time (PhD scholarships usually only last 4 years) and budget (taking MRI-scans is ridiculously expensive) and trying to keep my sponsor, aka my promotor, happy; this sounds like Project Management to me. Only, my projects weren’t focussed on bringing benefits to some company. They were focussed on unveiling the largest, most successful, most perfectly organised company: the human brain.
Imagine for a moment that your brain is a company. It’s located right in the centre of its customer base: you. Its customer can never, ever switch to the competition (I bet most companies would kill for such a deal). This company is not a small or medium sized enterprise; it has billions and billions of employees, called neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes... These employees basically work 24/7, yet in a highly agile way. They are located in self-organizing networks that show so-called Small Worldness characteristics. To function in such an organisation all employees of course need to be excited about it. In case of the brain’s neurons, they literally are. Small potentials are transmitted across their cell membranes in response to sensory, cognitive or motor stimuli. In this way communications are spread across the entire organization in split seconds.
So when people ask me why I moved from neuroscience to Project Management. I guess because I had been doing it all along. Academia was nice, but doing fundamental research I somehow got the feeling that the real world was passing by while I was standing in the lab. I wanted to bring treatments to real patients. That’s how I ended up in the pharmaceutical industry, where I spend a couple of years as a Regulatory Affairs Manager. A turn of events, let’s call it life, led me to Threon. But, why Threon?
Part 3: Learning more on Project Management
I wanted to grow, learn more on Project Management and also see other industry segments. Threon offered me just that. At Threon we help organizations tackle Project, Program and Portfolio Management. But as a Threon Consultant my work stretches beyond consultancy. As a more senior profile you get the opportunity to take on additional roles such as Account Manager, Trainer for workshops or Coach to more junior colleagues. Taking on an internal role keeps you closely aligned to the company and the strategic direction it is heading in. I’m also the Project Manager of an internal project at Threon, which allows me to gain expertise in a certain business domain and maintain a close collaboration with my fellow consultants. The focus of my project is organizational agility; my personal mission: making companies as efficient and agile as the human brain!
Interested in a job as Project Management Consultant? Feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you just want to talk neuroscience don’t hesitate to contact me!
Bye for now,