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Maria Givony, project manager at Firendo

Ludovic Fery

With her dynamic and creative personality, Maria Givony decided to give a turn in her professional goals by embracing a career in science communication, after her thesis in immunology in 2013. She is now project manager at Firendo, which aims at raising awareness of endocrine rare diseases in France. Her job entails science popularization and graphic design for the patients suffering from those diseases.

Why did you choose to opt for science communication after your PhD?

Maria Givony (MG): I did a PhD in genetic immunology until 2013 at Hôpital Necker in the unit “immune system development”. I decided to embark on science communication right after my thesis defense: the key factor for my decision was during my third year, when I had to present my research project in 5 minutes with only 3 slides, in front of an interdisciplinary audience. Until that moment, I have always paid attention to the design of my presentations in front of my colleagues and the graphic design was already part of my hobbies. But it is really at that moment that I got constructive feedback and many encouraged me to disseminate my presentation on social media!

In the meantime, you participated in the career workshop by ABG, “Postdoctoriales” (1).

MG: I heard about ABG during a career fair, Rencontres Universités Entreprises in 2014. On its exhibition booth, I discovered its training sessions and among them, “Postdoctoriales”. What makes this workshop appealing to me was the opportunity to have many information on job market and career options after a PhD, which is difficult to get in laboratories or from our PIs. The second asset was the opportunity to discuss with professionals from different fields. What struck me the most was the impact of network and I learned how important it is to develop and maintain it. I also enjoyed the exercises and more specifically the simulation of job interviews. We are told that the more we get invited for interviews, the better we are. That’s why it was really interesting to be in the shoes of a candidate, then of a recruiter and of an observer, to help us to analyse the body language of participants. Another impact for me was the design of a poster that should present who we are, where we come from, what we like and dislike… It was an insightful exercise because the ABG trainers made me aware that the graphic design was not particularly highlighted on my CV. A pity because it could be an asset for my job search. I applied in September 2014 for the position I have now at Firendo.


What is Firendo?

MG: It is a French network of stakeholders involved in endocrine rare diseases. We gather all the professionals dealing with endocrine rare diseases: researchers, MDs, representatives of patients associations.

Let’s talk about your job: what do you do exactly?

: As project manager at Firendo, I am under the responsibility of Pr. Jérôme Bertherat, chief of the division of endocrinology at Institut Cochin. My job entails three main activities:
  • event management: I am in charge of organizing board meetings and an annual general assembly
  • communication: raising awareness of our missions by participating as exhibitor in medical congresses or during the meeting of patients associations
  • coordination of 7 clinical research associates located in different regions of France, in order to collect medical data on patients suffering from endocrine rare diseases. The objective is to know more precisely how many people are concerned by those diseases.

Among those three activities, which is the most fulfilling for you?


MG: Communication is the field where the tasks are the most diversified: digital communication (website, newsletter, social media like Twitter). It also includes the promotion of events in which Firendo takes part, like the international day for rare diseases, for which we have to mobilize researchers, prepare the communication kit to promote Firendo… Using graphic design as a daily tool is very fulfilling. I also enjoy very much monitoring information to forward them to the right people who may be interested in them.

At Firendo, I finally have the opportunity to get positive feedback from patients: when we were preparing the launch of the website, we had to collect all the practices used by the members of Firendo and once we put them online, some patients told us they have discovered by using our website they could benefit from services not so far away from their home. This is very precious!


On a professional level, what impact had the workshop “Postdoctoriales” for you?

MG: Especially with the poster activity, I increased my self-confidence on my abilities for graphic design, which I use now in my job as project manager at Firendo by designing infographics for the website. The second crucial point to find this job was network: someone I knew forwarded my CV to my current manager who invited me for an interview. The third factor was the opportunity to keep exchanging with the “alumni” of this workshop. We kept meeting after the workshop, exchanging job advertisements and tips by mail. We still keep doing it today in smaller groups and some of them are now colleagues of mine!


By taking some distance now from your doctoral experience, how is it an asset for your current job?

MG: My doctoral experience is an asset in many aspects. We have many results to present within the network of Firendo. This written and oral reporting wouldn’t be as easy as it is without the experience I gained during the PhD. My doctoral experience is also an asset when it comes to monitoring information, finding relevant sources, validating data.


(1) The next session of Postdoctoriales will be in Luxembourg from November 6 to 9. Participants are doctorate holders who are working in public research institutes with temporary work contracts. Are also eligible for the programme doctorate holders who are currently unemployed, preparing their return mobility in one of the three countries or are following their spouse in case of dual career. More info at kimpe@dfh-ufa.org

ABG is a French non-profit organization. Our missions are :
  • To facilitate the transition of PhDs (whatever their field and seniority) from academia to the private sector;
  • To help companies recruit PhDs.

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