Speaker at the 12th UTAS Annual Graduate Research Conference 2018 – Risk, Uncertainty, Innovation & PHDs

In a moving and personal talk, Marisol Miró Quesada, our head designer and strategist, makes the case for a Tasmanian PHD culture that teaches how to take calculated risks, and deal with uncertainty, to prepere PHD candidates for a future that includes innovation.

This talk was presented at University of Tasmania’s 12th Annual Graduate Research Conference as part of the panel discussion: ‘Innovation: What does the future mean for me if my job has not jet been created?’.  Marisol shared the panel with guest panelists Bianca Deans, Clare Rutherford, and Jon Manning.

Here is Marisol’s talk transcript:

“Half way through my thirties I lost my memory. It was a gradual degenerative process triggered by electromagnetic radiation and environmental chemicals. (pause) Well that’s it… thta’s all I have for you, because that’s all I can remember …. (laughs…)

I was told I had very little chances of recovering the basic cognitive abilities, like speaking, learning or remembering.
And yet here I am…. By the way, electromagnetic radiation is another name for wireless technology, so if you could all please turn off your phones to help me stay healthy, my brain would be most grateful…thank you.

How I was equipped to face uncertainty and to manage life risks, and how these abilities were the foundations for me recovering my memory, and later on redesigning a career and a life that had not been invented yet for someone with EHS (or electro-hypersensitivity), is what I want to talk to you about.

I didn’t learn this working as a building designer or a strategist; I learned this from my father. I was born in Peru. My birth was triggered by my mother frantically jumping on the house’s roof protesting against a dictator that had taken over the government. I grew up in a political and economic rollercoaster, a violent place that taught me to deal with uncertainty and to take calculated risks.

My father is a courageous man. I remember when I was about 10 years old and we got this late call. The supermarket chain he managed was the target of a terrorist attack. One shop after the other were burning. He got in the car and left. I will never forget it. Half way through the night he figured out that the attacks were following a pattern, so instead of being a witness of the destruction, he drove ahead, to the shops he thought would be next. With no means to open the doors, he drove through the windows, crashed the car and stopped the burnings.

After that event do you think he got intimidated? Quite the opposite! He went on to become a serial entrepreneur and an innovator; loosing and rebuilding everything not once, twice, but 3 times! He thought that, if creating products and doing business meant risking his life, he might as well enjoy the process and do it for all of us.

Facing an unknown future (like how am I going to have a career if I suffer from EHS and have to avoid 7 billion emitting cell phones), or facing a life changing problem (like how do I recover my memory if I can’t even remember I have lost it!), is not daunting for me anymore, I have done it so many times that it has become just ‘another one of those’ … Well that’s not entirely true, my husband says I do freak out, for about 30 minutes, and then I go into “how might we fix this and make this better” mode until I crack it!

So, as I found out interviewing some innovators, there is a reason I work in innovation. As it happens, you need to be a risk taker and thrive with uncertainty.

And as I found out interviewing some PhD students, there is a reason most of you chose to do a PHD: you want a long term job that gives you security and certainty. Let’s face it, PhD students or graduates are not naturally risks-takers. On top of that, the culture of doing a PhD (……) doesn’t encourage you to become one. As you can see from the theme of this session, what used to be a career path of safety and certainty is becoming harder to find and the reality of the post PhD career is becoming more and more one of risk and uncertainty.

I am not going to give you a recipe to be innovative. What I can do is give you a tool to help you come up with innovative solutions to problems and risks on your journey through your career. HMW (google it) uses open ended questions that imply possibility and tacking things as a team as a way to brainstorm ideas.

My question for you is: HMW equip PhDs (ourselves) to deal with uncertainty in the workforce after graduation?”

(Images courtesy of Ella Horton, UTAS.)

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By | 2018-10-03T10:00:32+00:00 September 25th, 2018|Events, Talk|