From Germany to South Africa to CERN: meet Sabrina, VI Trainee & project analyst on the CERN HL-LHC Project.

CERN is also place of rich diversity where I have the opportunity to collaborate with people from all corners of the world.

Meet Sabrina, who takes part in the CERN "Volontaires Internationaux" (VI) trainee programme, as a Project Control Analyst in the Project Management Office of the High-Luminosity LHC project (HL-LHC project).

Hi Sabrina, tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to CERN? 

The first time I heard about CERN, I was 11 years old doing a science project for school, and my mom read me a news article about the launch of the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator constructed at an organization called CERN that was working to uncover what the universe is made of. I never forgot the name since then. From that day onward, I knew that in whatever capacity I could, I wanted to work there! I have always been inspired by the work and research done at CERN, and the impact that CERN has on our society. The idea of being part of a team contributing each in our own capacities to advancing the frontiers of science and technology was invigorating.

I am 23 years old, German by nationality, but lived in South Africa for 20 years - I grew up there. After finishing my bachelor’s degree in Cape Town, I moved to France to study a master’s degree in Management of Technology - Information Systems. In 2019, I began looking for a job and had signed up to a number of recruitment platforms. This is where I saw the VI Programme at CERN. After speaking with a recruiter on the platform, I started my application and that’s where my journey began.

What do you do at CERN today?

I work as a Project Control Analyst in the Project Management Office of the High-Luminosity LHC project (HL-LHC project). My job entails structuring and analysing data to aid the overall goals of the project by tracking project budgets, forecasting financial needs, identifying and resolving financial and schedule discrepancies or variances, and monitoring and reporting outcome data of project activities. I translate technical activities into a structured Performance Measurement Baseline and monitor workflows to determine if processes could use better strategies.

What is working at CERN like for you?

Working at CERN is challenging but also very stimulating and rewarding. For me, CERN cultivates an environment of learning. I am constantly encouraged to push my boundaries, gain new knowledge, and develop new skills, even if it’s about topics that I have little or no knowledge on today. I am constantly surrounded by people who are immensely passionate about what they do; working in an environment where everyone is so committed to the expansion of society’s knowledge in science and technology creates a unique work culture that I find inspiring to encounter each day at the office. CERN is also place of rich diversity where I have the opportunity to collaborate with people from all corners of the world. The culturally rich environment has taught me to constantly challenge my own ideas and has allowed me to develop skills which aid successful collaboration with a wide range of diverse people.

What have been the main hurdles or challenges you encountered along the way?

The constantly changing environment definitely presents a challenge. I have had to adapt to unexpected events time and time again, while not losing motivation. Like many other young professionals, I faced many challenges during my studies, I questioned my choices many times, I had to gain courage to move away from my home country to follow my dreams, and I had to make tough choices to be where I am today. I have constantly had to challenge myself and my ideas and I had to realize that sometimes I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. Just when I thought I’d figured everything out, a new hurdle would appear and I had to go back to the drawing board. I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone more times than I can count, so that I could grow and learn and begin developing into the person I aspire to be one day. I have had to learn to laugh at myself and had to realize that sometimes I will have to be the one who looks silly in a situation, but that’s okay! In my experience this is particularly true if you move to a new country or begin learning a new language for example. I realize that by no means have I mastered these challenges and I know that there will still be many that will appear on my path. However, all this taught me that through perseverance and believing in myself, while still remaining humble, I will overcome whatever lies ahead of me.

What advice would you give potential applicants?

Be courageous and determined in the pursuit of what you want; don’t give up. Believe in yourself and your capabilities. Be honest and humble in your application to CERN, but don’t be shy to show off what you have accomplished. The people at CERN are very nice, and they are also only human like the rest of us, so there’s nothing to be afraid of!

Photo taken pre-pandemic

Sabrina 2