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What is CamAWiSE all about?

by Jenny Koenig

I was guest speaker at a Springboard course yesterday and as part of my talk I wanted to articulate what CamAWISE was about and where it came from, what you can get out of CamAWISE that is hard to find elsewhere.

First off I guess I should explain what Springboard is.

Springboard is a personal development programme for all women staff/graduate students. It will give you the opportunity to take stock and consider your personal and professional goals. …Key areas covered include communication skills, assertiveness, self confidence, improving your work/life balance and developing positive skills and attitude. If you want to progress and develop, then this programme is for you.

This quote is from the University of Cambridge website but other organisations run it too. There are four days, one per month, with a group of around 20 people broken up into smaller discussion groups led by two trained facilitators.

I did the Springboard course myself nearly ten years ago at a time when I was having to make a lot of changes and I found it incredibly useful. I also met a lot of wonderful people and Springboard really was a springboard for the re-founding of Cambridge AWISE. A few of us got together with Joan Mason around her kitchen table in 2003 and the rest is history as they say.

I think what CamAWISE and courses like Springboard do is give women the chance to talk with other women about their careers, for example how they balance their personal life with their career, how they overcome stereotypes. In a CamAWISE meeting, as in a Springboard course, you can give voice to concerns and hear how others have dealt with them, not so that you can copy, but so that you can hear a wide range of views and then make up your own mind.

An example recently was a CamAWISE meeting where one woman recalled how she’d had a career break of a year, not really through choice, and was desperate to return to work. Another piped up and explained how she’d had a five year career break and was now gingerly considering how she might return. Neither approach is the only way to do it, it’s about working out what is best for you. Hearing about how others approached something can help you to come up with a solution. Because the atmosphere is positive and constructive, people feel able to talk about the good and bad aspects of their choices and that is really helpful for others.

The important thing is though, that many of these views are rarely voiced in the public domain, they are sparked off at CamAWISE meetings by open discussion in a positive environment. Many of the areas covered in the Springboard course are also covered in CamAWISE meetings, for example networking skills, raising your profile, confidence. Then CamAWISE covers a lot of other topics too such as negotiation, mentoring, starting out in enterprise, leadership, how to get your ideas adopted and many more.

If you get the chance to go on a Springboard course I would thoroughly recommend it, especially if you are having to or wanting to make changes or perhaps thinking that you should.

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