While the Secretary General has overall responsibility for the administration, operation and day-to-day running of euRobotics, much of the detailed delivery is carried out by the association’s three other employees. A further group includes several independent, contracted external service delivery partners who provide additional resource and expertise to support the efforts of the Secretary General and the Office team. Here we meet Marco, Marta and Marie, the ‘3Ms’, who outline their work, the high points and the challenges, for euRobotics.  

MARCO ROSA: Senior Project Manager, the team’s longest serving member after joining euRobotics in 2015, whose role is mostly dedicated to the implementation of EU projects funded by the European Commission (EC) under the Horizon 2020 (and in future Horizon Europe) programme. 

What’s the essence of your role? 

The first part is to make sure all EU projects are conducted in a consistent way. The second part is to coordinate the involvement of experts coming from outside the project, supported by us.  I’m currently working on the RODIN project. This is a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) under Horizon 2020. There are several Working Groups covering different aspects of the project, such as FSTP, dissemination, Covid resilience, etc. It’s important that projects have clarity, are coherent and work to common definitions.  I have regular and frequent calls with the consortium partners and the various project teams. Coordination is key – and that’s my role. We also take part in events like the RODIN ‘summer camp’ which is focused on post-project sustainability so the projects can thrive once the EC funding ends. Then there are also workshops and administrative tasks, time sheets, information to be prepared and supplied to the accountant, technical and financial records to the commission. 

We are selective in the project calls we respond to – we do not compete against our own members so we are unable to respond to a lot of opportunities. RODIN will end next year and the association is now looking for another CSA like RODIN that we can apply for under Horizon Europe. 

What are the other aspects of your role? What’s most satisfying – and challenging? 

I handle Human Resource administration for the Office team and interact with our Social Secretariat. This includes payroll, the holiday ledger, the organisation of new employment contracts for euRobotics which cover remote working, and the bonus scheme. In the past I have also played a role in the preparation of the General Assembly.  

However, the majority of my time goes on projects, where I try to ensure a sound strategic, administrative and financial coordination. I would welcome a long-term plan, the Office team’s place within it and a sense of what the future holds after RODIN. 

The most satisfying part is in dealing with partners from all over Europe, with different cultures and perspectives – that’s really positive and it enriches the mind. The challenges we handle as they arise. 

MARTA PALAU FRANCO: Project Officer, whose role has been mainly focused on two EC projects – DIHNET and RODIN, with some time devoted to other euRobotics activities, including communication, especially the Newsletter. Marta joined euRobotics in mid-2019. 

What’s the essence of your role? 

I was in charge of communication on DIHNET, mainly dissemination, news bulletins, interviews with different digital innovation hubs (DIHs), communication campaigns, digests and other materials around DIHs and also taking care of social media. DIHNET has now been successfully completed and was praised by the European Commission for its excellence. Now I spend most of my time on RODIN, providing communication support and ideas, and producing a series of articles for an international audience to give visibility to the project outside Europe. I also contribute to the work of the Pegasus improvement team, notably with the member newsletter. I’ve also supported the preparation of Board meetings in the past. 

What’s most satisfying – and what’s challenging? 

The most satisfying thing is having a project consortium and the EC happy with the work and the recognition that comes with that. With the Newsletter it’s being able to link information that otherwise was hidden and make it known to the euRobotics member community. I enjoy the networking – I’m always learning new things, and it’s always interesting to talk to members of the Topic Groups. Of course there are frustrations and challenges in any job and we overcome them. I prefer to focus on the positives. 

MARIE FORTEMS: Management and Operations Officer, the team’s newest member, who joined euRobotics in March 2021.  Until last month she had never met her colleagues in person. 

What’s the essence of your role? 

Currently, 80% of my time is spent updating the membership database – I consider it an absolute priority. That includes obtaining accurate, up-to-date addresses, calling people, creating and sending invoices, credit notes, handling withdrawals, filling in special forms, making registrations on invoicing platforms, updating various documents and chasing payments. But my role is broader than that.  Data management, cost control, cost-effectiveness, office management – these are all important for the efficient running of the association. And last but not least, helping to create and maintain a good team spirit is absolutely essential.  

What are the other aspects of your role? 

The main objective is to make an association that creates added value for members, and to be positively responsive. For example, today I had a request for a certificate for someone who is applying for a salary increase and being a member of a professional association is seen as a positive thing. Members always ask, what is the added value of being a member? That’s our challenge.  

I asked to be part of the ERF planning team. I was an executive assistant for CEOs and CFOs at various multinational companies and in that capacity I also handled events. I consider it part of my role to take some of the other burdens from Reinhard’s shoulders by updating statutes, contacting lawyers, helping to set up the General Assembly and I then plan to work more on the ERF and ERW. 

One of the priorities has been reducing the association’s debt levels – money owed to euRobotics by other people. After a dedicated push, a large percentage has been successfully recouped. The membership database is now nearly accurate – addresses, contacts, billing information, preferred platforms, etc. Our aim is that in future, members and anyone else who has given us their permission to hold their details on our database will be able to update those details themselves. 

What’s most satisfying – and what’s challenging? 

The main source of satisfaction is the contact I have with members – finding out what they need, and what we can do better. I like everything linked to relationships and communication. I can use my languages (English, German, French, Dutch, some Spanish). People are touched when I speak in their language – we try to be as close as possible.  I’ve already learned a lot during my time at euRobotics and that’s great as expanding my knowledge to better serve is important to me. I enjoy a very high level of collaboration with Reinhard. From a human point of view it’s a really positive aspect.  

For me, sticking to deadlines is absolutely important. I enjoy working on solutions with a positive mindset. There is always a solution. Whenever possible, act now. Don’t postpone, build to have a stronger team. Good planning and organisation are key. 

Remote but connected 

The Office team’s socially distant experience  

How have the Office team fared during the pandemic? We asked them… 

Marco: “During the last two years of the pandemic I’ve enjoyed working from home. I’ve also had more quality time with my family in Italy and been able to spend longer with them than in the past when it used to be a couple of weeks a year. Working from home gives me the opportunity to save time commuting 1-1.5 hours every day. That’s time I can spend answering emails, thinking about work stuff and not exclusively during office hours. I work more productively now. The difference is that if I have to go for a medical appointment during office hours, I can recover that time in the evening. It isn’t about working more, but about working flexibly.”  

Marta: “There are good and bad aspects to remote working. I miss going into the office, seeing my colleagues and moving around, but working from home gives you a state of mind where you are not so worried and there’s a lower probability of catching the virus. Dealing with Brussels public transport during peak times is also something I don’t miss!” 

Marie: “The most positive aspect is working from home. There’s no waste of time in traffic jams, less stress and an improved work/life balance. It saves money on fuel and parking. It also helps that there is no-one who is stressed sitting next to me yelling on the phone, and no interruptions from colleagues. I’m particularly sensitive to noise so it’s better to have a quiet environment. There’s generally greater flexibility. The disadvantage is that there’s no time limit and meetings online are tiring. Zoom and Teams were extremely difficult at first. My personal working environment is quiet but wifi is unpredictable. The team ‘dynamic’ is of course not the same when working remotely. I like warm, dynamic team meetings and so I miss the energy, the ‘glue’ between team members. Finally meeting the team last week has also significantly increased the sense of belonging. I have a positive feeling that we can create a great team!”