A few days ago, I was asked to participate in nominating my graduate supervisor at the University of Waterloo for an award on excellence in graduate supervision. This event, together with a few conversations with some of my colleagues, lead me to reflect on my graduate school years. Particularly, I have been contemplating about how graduate school has contributed to my professional career development.
If I had to summarize my findings I would say that the most valuable skill acquired during that experience is that of working independently. What I mean by that is given some very high level objectives, it’s the ability to define concrete steps and deliver on them to successfully complete the objectives . More importantly, working independently also requires the ability to be self-driven and self-motivated over longer period of times despite the ups and downs along the journey. In the corporate world, individuals who have this skill require very little management and build a very trustful relationship with their manager. Over time, they will attract more and more challenging tasks that will further accelerate their development.