BFF | Growing pains


Without batting an eyelid, my art teacher Mr. M. said: “When you draw a picture, please write down what you have drawn”. These were painful words. Earlier that morning I spent hours drawing with great pleasure and diligence. Despite that I walked out of the classroom with a measly C. Mr. M, a popular teacher, had no difficulty sharing his thoughts with delicate 12-year-old souls like me. But to me it was crystal clear, I did not have the skillset of Van Gogh.

Many years later I walked through the corridors of Maastricht University. I was heading towards my promotor for the review of my first draft paper. Satisfied and delighted with my work, I slid it under his nose. He read my piece carefully and didn't say a word. Then he took a pen and a piece of paper and began to rewrite the introduction, to my big surprise. Slowly but surely I realized that maybe my draft article wasn't written so well after all. After this embarrassing encounter, I crawled back to my workspace. Instead of the expected praise, I left his office with a bleeding heart.

In the years that followed, he taught me how to look critically at my own work, to let go of what I had originally written and to start over. Very valuable! On many occasions my supervisor saw that I was having a hard time with his red pen. I can still hear him say: “Monique, I pay a lot of attention to this because I think you and your work are important.” Now I can really appreciate his tough love.

After my PhD trajectory, I started at the beautiful company Johnson & Johnson (J&J). My first job within this company was very close to a research environment, as I knew it. It felt very familiar. My next role revolved around supporting the manufacturing department. Getting your message across on paper in this environment, that's a whole new ball game.

They were not waiting for scientific prose and beautiful sentences there. Short and to the point formulations of your findings on paper, that's what it was all about. The faster a problem with a marketed product was resolved, the less money the company lost. Long story short, I had forgotten to look at the needs of the target group I had to write for. I had learned another painful lesson and gained important insights.

Feedback - solicited and unsolicited - is often difficult to hear. I think it's important to listen to what someone else is saying about your work, before deciding how to deal with it. I am still learning from comments from people around me. Keeping an open attitude and listening to what is being said can result in serious eye openers. Use this to your advantage, even if it hurts a little.

BFF | Bald, Frizzy or Flowing is a joint initiative of Willem Mulder (Bald), Monique Bruining (Frizzy) and Luc Brunsveld (Flowing), that they started at the beginning of 2023 on the site of Cursor.

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