Meet the EMBL Events Team: Raili Pall

In the middle of 2020, Raili Pall joined the Course and Conference Office (CCO) team. She was the first member to start working with us remotely and it was quite a journey to get everything in place. Despite all this, she was a total hero, learned everything so quickly and started talking the CCO “language” (yeah, we kind of talk in codes for our events) within a few weeks!

Check out her interview to the end, you might want to read her favourite book🙂.

Railli Pall PHOTO: Railli Pall

At EMBL since: June 2020
Number of organised conferences/courses: 4

Favourite place in Heidelberg: 
Altstadt (Old Town). I find it really cute, full of nice cafés and restaurants.

Old Town Heidelberg Marktplatz (2017). PHOTO Achim Mende/Heidelberg Marketing GmbH

First thing you do before a conference/course starts and first thing you do after it finishes:
Before the conference/course starts I’ll go through my checklist to be sure I didn’t forget anything. After a conference/course finishes I say a big thank you to the scientific organisers, speakers and the participants for making it all possible.

What are the challenges/differences of organising a virtual conference or course?
The most challenging is probably the social aspect – working out how to increase the audience interaction and keep them engaged during the virtual event.

What do you miss most about life before the pandemic?
Travelling. I love travelling and discovering new cultures, food and people. I can’t wait to start planning some trips & travel as soon as it’s safe again.

If you weren’t an event organiser, what would you be?
I’d love to be an interior designer. I can spend hours in design shops and reading design & décor magazines. I find it incredible how simple elements can change the look and feel of a space.

If you were a superhero, what power would you like to have?
I would like my superpower to be able to speak all the languages in the world. I find languages fascinating and it would be amazing to be able to communicate with anyone in their language.

Favourite:
Recipe: I love Indian food, so I’d probably choose butter chicken. I recently learned how to cook it myself and am very proud of it😊 .

Book: „On nagu pole“ (“It is like it isn’t”) by Estonian author Alan Adojaan. I read it quite long time ago, but it’s one of the most funny and inspiring travel-books I’ve ever read.

Film: I love to watch movies, so it’s difficult to choose one. I like Paolo Sorrentino (‘La Grande Bellezza’, ‘Youth’, ‘Loro’) and Quentin Tarantino movies. One of the recent highlights was ‘Parasite’ by Bong Joon-ho that I finally managed to watch.

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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Marina

PHOTO: Marina Pujol
PHOTO: Marina Pujol

Today’s interview is with EMBL-EBI’s Marina Pujol. Marina is one of the event organisers in the team, with a focus on the on-site and virtual training courses as well as assisting with the delivery of events for the CABANA project.

At EMBL since: June 2018
Number of organised courses: 21

Favourite place in Hinxton area?
Audley End House. This is a gorgeous Victorian country house surrounded by beautiful gardens. They host many activities throughout the year, which my family and I love to go to, for example during Christmas they have their gardens decorated with lights and it looks magical.

Audley End miniature railway at Christmas
PHOTO: Audley End miniature railway at Christmas

What is the first thing you do before a course starts and first thing you do after a course finishes?
First thing, getting a large coffee and checking calls and emails. Last thing: take a deep breath, smile and relax.

What are the challenges/differences of organising a virtual course?
In my opinion, before the course starts everything is similar to an onsite course. The moment of truth arrives when everybody logs in the call. If any of the organisers or the speakers have technical issues at that moment… time stops! I am always crossing fingers wishing that everybody’s connections work fine! 

You’ve been working from home for nine months now; how have you adapted your role during this time?
To me, the positive part of working from home is that you don’t have interruptions usually, and can concentrate more. However, I have to make sure that I still have that “human” contact with my colleagues. Breaking for a chat it’s always nice and much needed!

If you weren’t a course officer what would you be?
Anything to do with animals, but especially with dogs. I always had dogs around me and I love to spend time with them. Going for long walks together or cuddling them is priceless.

What is the strangest/funniest thing that has ever happened in a course?
In the middle of a keynote lecture, a delegate’s phone went off and Siri said ‘Sorry, I don’t understand’. Everybody laughed!

If you were a superhero what power would you like to have?
Flying. Just last night I dreamt that I was flying above a kind of a Disney lookalike castle.

Favourite book?
El psicoanalista by John Katzenbach

Upcoming events Marina is organising:
Managing a bioinformatics core facility 2021 – Virtual
Applications open shortly – sign up for alerts now.

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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Rianne

We are very happy to welcome Rianne Moes to the Course and Conference Office marketing team! Rianne, her husband and her son just arrived to Heidelberg from Utrecht, in the Netherlands, a couple of months ago. New job, new house, new house again, taking care of a baby boy, all of this in the middle of a pandemic — you go girl!

At her previous job, she was a Communications Officer at the public library in Utrecht, with the responsibility to promote about 150 cultural events a month at the 13 library buildings scattered around the city.

Rianne Moes PHOTO: Rianne Moes

You just arrived in Heidelberg and settling down is certainly hectic. Do you already have a favourite place in Heidelberg where you go to relax?
I live near the Rohrbach area right now, and I really like the Rathausstrasse. It’s like a little village, with the town hall and some nice restaurants, bars and a bakery. It is nice to sit down on the Rorbach terrace with a drink or grab an ice cream at Illegally Tasty (they have great pasta too!).

What are the challenges of starting a new job in times of a pandemic?
First of all, I had my job interview virtually and I had never been to Heidelberg before. So, I didn’t really know what to expect. But I like a bit of an adventure!

And now, working mostly from home, it is a different vibe. Especially in the first weeks, you have so many questions that you just want to quickly ask your colleagues, instead of sending them emails or putting meetings in their calendar. But luckily, I get to go to the office quite a lot and have now also met most of my colleagues!

If you weren’t a Marketing Officer, what would you be?
A teacher probably. Maybe I will become a teacher one day, who knows! It has some similarities to marketing, because you really need to be able to place yourself into someone else’s shoes (or head, actually) and see their view on things. Also, I believe in simple, straightforward and appealing content, and explaining things to students should also be simple, straightforward and appealing.

If you were a superhero what power would you like to have?
The ability to read minds. I would love to know what everyone is thinking.

What’s your favourite:
Recipe: Melanzane alla parmigiana, that’s an Italian dish with fried eggplant, tomatoes and lots of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Wouldn’t mind eating this every day.

Book: I actually worked in a library (as a marketing officer though), so I should be able to answer this. Maybe I should promote the first Dutch writer that (just) won the Booker prize: Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (1991) with their (Marieke identifies as both male and female) book the Discomfort of Evening.

TV Series: The Wire. I think everyone should watch this. And really, keep watching, it took me a few episodes to get into the slang and the story, but this is really the best series I have ever watched.

 

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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Charlotte

This week we meet Charlotte Pearton, Events Lead at EMBL-EBI. Charlotte manages a team of eight events, marketing and administrative staff who work on the EMBL-EBI training programme.

This is a picture of Charlotte Pearton, Events Lead at EMBL-EBI
Charlotte Pearton, Events Lead at EMBL-EBI

At EMBL-EBI since: 2015
Number of events organised:
39

Favourite place in the Hinxton area?
The campus is beautiful. The woodland paths are great to walk through in all seasons, but especially autumn.  In summer, the flowerbeds are a real burst of colour.

Across EMBL, the events teams have been facing the challenge of virtualising their work and events. 

What are the differences in organising a virtual course compared to the usual face-to-face format?
Firstly there was the timeframe! We had to put a structure together very quickly. Also how to adjust the content to make it workable and engaging, and how to maintain good comms and networking. Our first virtual course was a great success and we will continue to build on this experience; we are embracing the challenge.

How have you adapted your role during lockdown?
I have maintained a daily structure and routine.  I am in almost constant contact with the team via Slack, Zoom etc. We have all become increasingly proficient in the art of the on-line meeting over the last few months!

What is the first thing you do before a course starts:
I’ll run through my checklist of preparatory tasks, make a note of anything I need to remember, take a deep breath, a sip of coffee, and also some comfort in the fact that our events are a real team effort and I’m not in this alone!

And how about the first thing you’ll do after a course finishes?
At the end of each course, I enjoy the sense of job satisfaction. I love the cyclical nature of events, at our face-to-face events I love waving people off knowing they have had a great experience.  You really build a rapport with your speakers and delegates – it starts months before they arrive, then really develops during the week they are actually with you on campus.  By the time they leave you can really feel the sense of warmth and genuine appreciation.  It’s a great indicator of our success.

That is something we are still finding with the virtual courses I am pleased to say. Even if the wave goodbye at the end of the course is now through Zoom!

If you weren’t a course organiser what would you be?
A world-famous author of fiction… probably something dark like crime or horror, and writing under a pseudonym to keep an air of mystery! In reality, I’ve always veered towards events in an educational field.

What is the strangest/funniest thing that has ever happened in a course?
We organised a ‘sabrage’ to celebrate 10 years of training – seeing Cath (Brooksbank, Head of Training) wielding a sword to slice the top off a bottle of champagne outside the training rooms isn’t something you see every day. It was great fun.

Cath Brooksbank wields a sword to cut the top off a bottle of champagne at an event to celebrate 10 years of the EMBL-EBI Training programme
Cath Brooksbank at the ‘sabrage’

If you were a superhero, what power would you like to have?
Teleportation! An early morning walk on the beach in the Seychelles, fine dining and shopping in Paris in the afternoon, party all night in New York.  Green travel!

And finally what is your favourite book or film?
I couldn’t choose a favourite book or film very easily, but I did revisit a 2008 documentary recently which always has me gripping the sofa – ‘Man on a Wire’. The story of Phillippe Petit, who tight-roped across the US twin towers in 1974. Just a fascinating story on many levels – watch if you dare!

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Meet the EMBL Events Team: Rebecca

This week we meet Rebecca Nicholl, Events and Marketing Officer at EMBL-EBI. Rebecca is responsible for the marketing of the EMBL-EBI Training programme as well as running some of the on-site (and now virtual!) training courses. She also attends exhibitions to represent EMBL-EBI Training.

Rebecca on Rebecca Street in Hamilton, Canada
Rebecca on Rebecca Street in Hamilton, Canada

At EMBL since: April 2019
Number of organised conferences/courses: 11-ish! Some of these I had started but sadly had to cancel as they were due to run during the early stages of lockdown.

Favourite place in Hinxton: It’s got to be the Red Lion pub just outside the campus gates. Especially the beer garden in May/June when the wisteria is in full blossom. We usually have one dinner at each course here, and the delegates love the history of the traditional 16th-century British pub.

This picture shows an english pub garden with wisteria plants in full purple bloom
The wisteria in bloom PHOTO: Red Lion, Hinxton

Since lockdown began. EMBL has had to change the way we offer events. What are the challenges/differences of organising a virtual conference?
For me, it’s the constant video calls that are involved in preparation, tests and meetings involved in virtualising a course. I never really paid much attention to the way my face looks or my mannerisms in face-to-face meetings, but now I am going over the top to show I am enthusiastic and engaged in the content, which felt very unnatural at first.

How have you adapted your role during lockdown?
I am lucky to have a split role, and so during this time, I have focussed more on my marketing skills rather than my events role (especially when my first few events got cancelled during the early part of lockdown in the UK). I ended up joining a cross-EMBL comms channel to help support each site during the #EMBLatHome social campaign, and met some colleagues (virtually of course) I hadn’t previously worked with.

Rebecca celebrates World Chocolate Day during her virtual course
Rebecca celebrates World Chocolate Day during her virtual course

And the other challenge of working from home I am sure we have all found, is the endless eating, snacking and grazing!

I couldn’t help tucking into this chocolate box selection to celebrate #WorldChocolateDay during our Cancer genomics course tea breaks! (Don’t tell my husband, these were part of his birthday present!)

 

 

Back in the time before virtual courses were the norm, what was the first thing you did before a course started and the first thing you did after it finished? 
First thing I did is fill up my water bottle and put on my Fitbit – with such long hours it’s important to stay healthy. No longer can I survive on coffee and carbs alone! Although since lockdown, those have been my diet staples… Last thing – catch up on the all-important sleep I missed out on.

If you weren’t an event and marketing officer what would you be?
At school I wanted to train to become a town council planner; I guess I always wanted to organise something!

What is the strangest/funniest thing that has ever happened in a course?
I did have a phone call from someone asking for a refund for an upcoming course her mum had signed her up for without her knowing as a surprise birthday present. The girl was still studying for her A-levels rather than the masters’ students audience we are advertising at.

If you were a superhero what power would you like to have?
The ability to be in two places at once; so I can be in the room making sure my speakers are keeping to time, as well as being at the event desk or checking catering, coaches and so on.

Favourite TV show?
The Great British Bake Off, and I do try to bake along with the show. But in the 2019 series, I bowed out at the quarter-finals, who wants a savoury Tarte Tatin anyway!

Upcoming virtual events in 2020 Rebecca is organising:
Cancer genomics
6-10 July

Mathematics of life: Modelling molecular mechanisms
28 Sep – 02 Oct 2020
Applications now open

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