Teamwork makes the dream work at CERN - part 1

CERN knows all about the power of teamwork. With 17500 people from all around the world of 110 nationalities, they run the largest experiment in the world to uncover what the universe is made of and how it works.

Technicians are often very strong team members because of the nature of their role. They can often be found building strong relationships with a variety of different people to solve problems and find solutions.

We spoke to technicians at CERN to learn more about what good teamwork looks like. First up is Ellen Milne, 25, Electro-mechanical Technician.

Hi Ellen! What do you do as an Electro-mechanical Technician?

I work on different machines, all focused on radio frequency power. They are used to make the particles in the tunnels go faster. A bit like a wave carrying a surfer along. My job is to work these machines and fix them if they break. I work a lot with electricity and electronics, working out where the problem is and then finding a way to solve it.

Why are technicians like you important to your industry?

Without technicians, all of the machines would eventually stop or worse, break without repair. We are one of the many building blocks that go into operating such large and complex machines.

What couldn’t happen without you?

The machines could not operate in a safe way. Also, no one in my team would laugh as much without me.

What led you to choose this job role?

When I left school, I knew that I liked to be challenged physically, mentally and work with my hands. That is what attracted me to being a technician, the hands-on aspect of the work.

What’s the best bit about your job?

Sometimes figuring out a fault can last a few days, so it's rewarding when you finally discover the problem and can provide a working solution.

What skills/ attributes do you normally need to do your job?

Awareness of your surroundings and sharp senses. When working with electricity, it is extremely important to be aware of your surroundings. This is also important for working with machines. One day you could hear or smell something different, which could mean there is a serious problem.

What is your current daily routine like?

My day revolves around my dog if I’m honest. I wake up and take my dog for a walk, have breakfast, and leave for work. I then come home from work and take her for another walk and have lunch. Sometimes my partner is also home and so we have lunch together. In the evenings I try to catch up with university work, which I am doing part-time via The Open University. After that, I will have a nice dinner and watch some Netflix, just like everyone else!

What’s your daily routine in our pandemic 'new normal'?

Now, we are restarting operations so most of my time is spent making sure the machines are working correctly. I am also spending some time as an Outreach Coordinator for Women in Technology at CERN. This has been great as I have always been passionate about this topic and am encouraged to participate in this as well as my normal job role.

What would you say to either a young person thinking about a technical career or a fellow technician?

Go for it! It’s very rewarding watching your skills develop in a technical environment. Initially, your hand skills will most likely be terrible, but that’s fine! Don’t be embarrassed or shy about it, everyone has been through the same experience. It’s a skill just like any other that needs practice. Always ask questions; even if you can’t ask at the time, take a note and ask later.


Who’s in your team?

I have one main colleague that I work with every day called Gino. After that, there are 2 other teams of electro-mechanical background: Jamie and Charles, James and Christophe. We then have mechanical colleagues of which there is 1 other woman!

What makes you a good team?

We are quite a diverse team, so all have different interpretations of situations. Everyone is listened to and encouraged to share their opinion. We also have coffee breaks together which means we bond on a more social level, which is key to a healthy team.

What skills/ attributes have you developed so that you work well with others?

Patience and listening are the two most important skills I’ve learned and worked on to cooperate well in a team. I always try to treat people how I would want to be treated in the situation, especially for team members as we have to spend a lot of time together.

What do you achieve together that you couldn’t achieve alone?

Together, we ensure the equipment is brought back to a working condition on time and correctly. Alone, it would take longer.

What’s the best part of your team/ part of being a part of a team?

All of the little cultural quirks that we share with each other.

To learn more about building the skill of teamwork, click here



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