Milan to Host Young Pros

A career-building tool for young professionals that is a proven success at AAPG annual conventions is about to have its European premiere.

AAPG’s Young Professionals Committee will be the hosts for the “Meet and Greet” event at the upcoming AAPG International Conference and Exhibition in Milan.

It will be the first time that the event has been held on European soil; the initial international “Meet and Greet” debuted at the 2010 ICE in Calgary, Canada.

The event itself, which pairs young professionals with more experienced professionals, has been an increasingly popular addition to AAPG annual convention opening sessions since 2009, when it was first offered as a program designed specifically for early-career geoscientists.

Sonya Punch
Sonya Punch

“The Meet and Greet starts out with students being paired up with willing professionals, who then take an informal tour of the convention and exhibition floor,” says Sonya Punch, YP committee member and chair of the Milan YP experience.

“The mentors or experienced professionals are also encouraged to introduce the students to their colleagues,” Punch continued, “as well as attend the opening ceremony with the students.”

And after the opening ceremony, more bonding opportunities emerge at the traditional icebreaker reception in the exhibition hall.

The Milan “Meet and Greet” will begin at the Milano Convention Centre on Sunday, Oct. 23, one hour before the start of the opening ceremony.

It promises to be bigger, better and more successful than those before it, Punch said – in addition to having the chance to meet and network with experienced professionals, the “Meet and Greet” will include a “Network Challenge” competition, which will result in cash prizes.

But mainly, it’s about the connections.

“This (event) is the ultimate glue that links the present and the past to the future generations of geoscientists,” Punch said. “It benefits all that choose to attend and participate for the simple reason that it expands one’s professional network.”

The Set-Up

The Young Professionals specifically designed this event to combat what could be a very intimidating environment. Placing the shy student or young professional in small groups with more experienced convention-goers allows the professional to lead discussion – as well as introduce the new geoscientist to those with more experience.

Punch is in a good position to organize and lead the plans for the event – she has seven years industry experience in the United States and currently is based in Milan. Helping with the plans were a team of veteran M&G organizers – Nick Lagrilliere, current chair of the Global YP Committee, past Global YP chair Natasha Rigg, Florentina Enea, chair of the European YP Committee, and Andrei Panaiotu, YP Committee member.

As always, participation in the “Meet and Greet” is free and open to all ICE registered attendees.

And an international meet and greet is particularly special, she said, as it brings geologists from all over the world who are faced with similar technical challenges together under one roof.

“Diversity is the essence of creativity,” Punch said.

Past participants have praised it as a great way for first timers to learn how to navigate the convention, meet professionals and widen their social and professional networks.

And, really, it’s not just for young professionals.

“The mentors or experienced professionals are also encouraged to introduce the students to their colleagues,” she said, “as well as attend the opening ceremony with the students.”

Also, the event is intended to provide a setting for the exchange of ideas between those all over the world, young and old.

Although the professional is set up to lead, Punch recommends the students to be curious and ask questions, like:

  • What are you currently working on?
  • Where are you from?
  • Which company are you working for?
  • Why did you choose to work for this company?

Other tips she has for those new to conventions are to walk around with business cards, relax, be positive and listen to everything.

However, her most important advice is to realize that everyone in attendance, students and professionals alike, are passionate about geosciences.

“When all else fails,” Punch said, “speak about what you know and love – your research, your project, your career hopes, your hobbies or your family.”

Industry Continuity

This year’s event is particularly important to the future of the industry in general, as it faces the looming challenge of losing a large number of the work force to retirement in the near future.

The “Great Crew Change” is about to occur.

“The ‘Meet and Greet’ can serve to connect the old guard with the new,” is the way Lagrilliere and Rigg have characterized the event, “helping to ensure that valuable knowledge is maintained, resulting in a smoother transition.”

Ultimately, Punch said, the Young Professionals hope that the event provides each participant, young or experienced, the chance to meet at least five new professionals, learn something new in doing so, and thus, create a larger professional network for themselves and the larger geosciences’ community on an international level.

“It will be difficult for the first timers,” Punch admits, “but as the conference continues, new faces will become familiar faces – some might even become friends or colleagues.”

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