June 7, 2017

Do you want to know what is like to organize an event at CSCS? We spent a day with Raluca Hodoroaba, administration supporter at CSCS since July 2016:

Briefly introduce yourself 

My name is Raluca Hodoroaba and I’m currently engaged in the Staff Unit team where I assist the Event Manager in the organization of scientific conferences and other workshops and events organized or hosted by CSCS. Before starting to work for CSCS, I got my Master’s Degree in Business Administration with Major in Innovation Management at SUPSI.

What was the most complex event in which you have been involved so far?

Since July 2016, when I became a CSCS employee, I’ve had the chance to be involved in the organization of several courses, seminars and events where my main duties were related to the logistic arrangements (site-visits, venue bookings, hotel room blocks, room set-ups, floor plans, technical requirements, catering, social evening event proposals, questions from participants, content publication on the event website, etc.). If I had to identify my first big scientific event at CSCS, I would say that this was the SOS21 Workshop, which was held in March 2017 at the Congress Centre Davos, located in Davos, Switzerland. The workshop counted more than 80 participants mostly from Sandia National Laboratories, Oak Ridge National Laboratories and the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre and offered three immersive days of technical sessions.

What was the task you liked most?

Conference organization is often not active until one year before the event, but still there are some important items to be completed at least 13-15 months in advance. When I was introduced into the project in September 2016, the “base of the structure” in the organizational process (contract negotiations for the venue, hotel room block, decision of important themes and topics to be covered during the event, etc) had already been done by our Event Manager in collaboration with the SOS21 Workshop Steering Committee.

My very first task, which was also the one that I liked the most, was related to the search of an appealing activity and venue for the social evening event. Since I had never visited Davos before and didn’t know anything about its restaurants, for me this was a challenge. In order to understand which are the most popular places, I did an intensive research through several channels and then made a selection of 3 possible locations: one with a charming and historic ambience, one with a modern design and finally one with a warm, cozy and welcoming atmosphere. In December 2016, my colleague and I did a site-visit in Davos and our final decision for the night out event was a picturesque ride by horse carriage through the beautiful village of Davos followed by a tasty dinner in a rustic wooden restaurant. I personally think that we made a good choice and people had a very good time while enjoying the company of their fellow colleagues.

Which were the main challenges faced during the organization and during the event?

Planning an event requires an iterative and dynamic process: each item is related to the others. A very time-consuming task is related to the continuous updating of the list of participants.

According to the terms and conditions of a contract, at least 5 working days before the workshop you need to provide the social evening event venue, the catering company and, in this specific case, the horse carriage service with the final number of participants…but this might change right up until the day before the event, or even once the event has already started. In fact, there are always unexpected changes which bring to continuous edits in the list of participants and once these numbers change, it is important to inform as soon as possible the catering service and the night out venue (especially when there are special dietary requirements), as well as the hotel reception and other service providers that might be involved. Of course, these changes have observable effects also on the program, the badges and the registration list, that must be printed at the very last moment…but not too late because you never know when the printer might stop working.

A funny memory (not so funny in that moment though) was when on Friday morning (we were supposed to go to Davos on Sunday) we decided to finally print all the material, even if there were still changes in the number of participants going on. We decided to start with the program but suddenly realized that none of our printers was compatible with the glossy laser photo paper and, as if this was not enough, the printers were not working properly anymore. Anyhow, thanks to the IT Systems support and to the reception ladies we managed to solve the problem and now we can laugh when we recall that episode.

I would like to point out that the organization of an event is a teamwork and all people involved into it are extremely important. During the workshop, we didn’t face any particular problem thanks to the amazing support from the Congress Centre Davos supervisor and its team. They were very professional and caring and it was a great pleasure for us working with them.

Which is the best memory you have of the event?

As I reflect on the SOS21 Workshop, my first big event at CSCS, there are so many moments that run across my mind. For sure the excitement and anxiety during the registration when suddenly lots of participants gathered in front of the reception desk waiting for their badges, the breaks during the sessions when I had the chance to exchange some thoughts with prominent researchers and industry leaders  from other organizations, the time spent with my colleagues outside the work hours, the social evening event in a wonderful location and the horse ride through the village, the moment when my colleague and I were publicly thanked for our contribution, etc.

If I had to choose my favorite moment in the event that would definitely be the quality time spent with my colleague Tatjana and the supervisor of the Congress Centre Davos. He gave us a tour of the Congress Centre, which every year hosts the World Economic Forum and won the Prix Lumière award for its outstanding lighting, and shared with us many anecdotes from his lengthy career.

To me is very important putting faces to names and getting to know in person, or at least by phone, the people with whom I am in contact for the event organization.  I strongly believe in emotional intelligence, human contact and face-to-face meetings, especially in a digital age where everything is fast and you can get alienated by virtual communication.