This year’s 11th ITS European Congress featured a dedicated “Young Professionals Day” on Tuesday, 7 June with dedicated sessions for students and young professionals in the field of ITS. The day featured two stakeholder workshops and rounded off with a special networking event in the evening.
Jennie Martin, Secretary General, ITS UK, gives an overview of the Stakeholder Workshop “SW2 – Next Generation ITS Professionals” in the report available here as well as the Liferaft debate organised in the evening below.
Young Professionals’ Transport Liferaft Debate in Glasgow, 7 June 2016
The Liferaft Debate evening idea originated with Mara Makoni of Mouchel, who is the Chair of the ITS (UK) Young Professionals group.
We had wanted to do something “non-boring” for the YPs, British and others, at the Congress. We knew that anything that would appeal to the standard, older Congress delegates would not be the right offer for our target group. So we knew that a soul-less meeting room at a Convention Centre, enormously expensive warm white wine, slightly past-it canapés and speeches about how important international cooperation is and how the time for large-scale implementation of ITS has surely come, were not on our menu this time. For some of us, whose natural habitat is exactly like that, this required professional courage and lots of encouragement and support from younger colleagues. “Reverse mentoring” is a real concept and that is exactly what happened here – middle aged professional nurtured and encouraged into a less predictable direction by younger colleagues.
First of all, the non-standard ITS get-together venue was Glasgow’s oldest public house, the Sloane Bar in the centre of the commercial district. This is a lovely rambling venue with lots of nooks and we had our own wood panelled room and bar on one of the upper floors. A far cry from conference centre nylon carpet and vinyl wallpaper but the YPs seemed to thrive in the environment, or maybe this was because of the free bar thoughtfully provided by IBI Group to encourage them.
Secondly, instead of the great and the good we had a mixed and even borderline representative group of people at the front of the room. The great and the good were there, notably Professor Eric Sampson and senior researchers such as Professor John Nelson and Dr Robin North. But we also had a spokeswoman for diversity in Eur Ing Sharon Kindleysides of Kapsch, the policy perspective provided by two young and female officials in Stephanie Leonard of the European Commission and Ruth Kennedy of the UK Department for Transport, the world of consultancy represented by Graeme Scott of IBI who came with a whole entourage of younger staff to support him (or not), and the ITS media was, unusually, represented on the panel and took the form of Kevin Borras of H3B Media.
The format was highly competitive with a scenario whereby the world is flooding and there is only one place left on the transport professionals’ life raft for the whole ITS community to fight over. Each panellist had to make the cause for why they should be given this place and their seven colleagues left to drown. Everybody argued persuasively why long experience, academic expertise, communications skills, strategic thinking, collaborative working etc was the most important attribute that ITS should contribute to the future of transport once the floods receded. The consultant jumped overboard when he found out that there would be nobody to bill, and there was some disagreement over whether a female ITS expert could qualify on grounds of diversity only. The audience listened to the pitches and the odd personal attack by one panellist on another, insulted their colleagues vying for places, and asked pointed questions. It is fair to say that it took only about five minutes before the whole room was fully engaged in arranging for the drowning of others.
There was a last-minute intervention by the Devil’s Advocate, Mara herself, suggesting that no ITS expert would be as valuable to the life raft as a box of non-perishable food. Then the audience voted that more useful than extra food or the other ITS experts would be the policy perspective in the form of Ruth Leonard, who was duly awarded the life raft place and won the evening.
Participants thoroughly enjoyed themselves and requests were made for a re-run in Strasbourg in 2017. The organising team believe that the evening was worthwhile on the strength of the networking opportunity and the fun alone, but some of the interventions were well worth hearing and remembering as well.
It seems that it is not only speakers in suits at lecterns with powerpoint who can advance one’s professional knowledge. It should not need spelling out, but being young and being insightful are not mutually exclusive either.