What kind of a PhD are you?

real phd

I’m a PhD researcher (PhD).

I don’t like to brand or classify myself, but if I need to, I would say I am a ‘social science PhD’. What does it actually mean? In short, social science PhDs are doing research in education, psychology, antrolopogy, sociology, political science etc., basically all the sciences that are concerned with the society, its dynamics, processes, human behaviour and its interconnectedness. My research is in education; but it is the intersection of arts and business. In short.

Why am I interested to know what kind of PhDs are out there? Well, often I come across many assumptions about PhD – the way people think about them, from what they wear, eat or do, to the way they behave. Generally, people think that PhDs are some boring nerds sitting in their labs or reading book all day long, not knowing anything about the ‘real world’. Well, I don’t blame them, as I also know many who seem to fit perfectly to this description. But, not all of us are like that.

In social science, people are usually working individually on their own project, without being part of any ‘lab’ or group. As many students there are – as many different topics and approaches they use. No white uniforms or fancy instruments. Just a laptop and a book. Or online journals, for us who fancy writing from a coffee shop or a beach.

Who am I?

  • I am a real geek for new gadgets, technological innovation and all the tech and business things, although having academic background in music and social science
  • I am also an educator, real fan of Dr Ken Robinson and his theories
  • I’m an advocate for arts education, and bringing much more arts and creativity in life generally
  • I’m a mother of a baby girl
  • I am a youth leader in my community
  • I love startups and entrepreneurship
  • I am an active musician
  • I like leisure time and I always find time for it – walking, gym, reading a book (novel, not an academic book), going out for dinners, cooking for friends and family

I also know many other PhDs, across various disciplines, who are outgoing, fun to be with, very down-to-earth and party-lovers. Still, they are genius in their research.

What kind of a PhD are you?

Let us allow the world to know us better – the real life PhD – use the #reallifePhD and share your thoughts.

That’s my spot!

In one of my all-time-favourite sitcoms – Big Bang Theory – the main character Sheldon Cooper is extremely sensitive about ‘his spot’ – the place on the sofa where only he is allowed to sit. Only he. Literally. Whoever else tries to sit there (usually Penny), Sheldon sees it as offence, a catastrophe, they start the argument, and Sheldon needs to explain what is so special about that seat. So, here we go: “In the winter that seat is close enough to the radiator to remain warm, and yet not so close as to cause perspiration. In the summer, it’s directly in the path of a cross-breeze created by opening windows there and there. It faces the television at an angle that is neither direct, thus discouraging conversation, nor so far wide as to create a parallax distortion. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.” Yes – it’s bizarre. Nothing special about it for normal mortal people like you and me, but extremely important for Sheldon.  But repeating these reasons over and over again at least makes Sheldon so irresistibly funny. Well, I can still laugh every time I see that.


Also, hearing that so many times made me think about my favourite spot regarding the work – place where I can work, read, explore, be creative and literally, get the work done. Do I have that spot? Where is it and what is so good about it? After all, why to think about the place? Isn’t a laptop and Wi-Fi all I need?

It made me think about the importance of creating and retaining my ‘favourite spot’. It is well known that, in order for creativity to happen, we need to create environment for it. But that environment is not only ‘an atmosphere’ where we can take risk, explore and allow new things or thoughts to emerge and creativity to happen. I definitely believe the physical place is as important as social environment. Not only for creativity but also for tasks that perhaps don’t require much exploration but simply peaceful time to complete them. I wouldn’t go into theorising about the importance of creative spaces but will just describe my places. It is not one single place, as it also depends on the nature of task, time of the day, and also my mood.

  1. Home office – I am fortunate enough to have a home office – one room designated only for work, containing many bookshelves and seemingly, lots of hands on information. I know that my academic hero, Pat Thomson, also writes from home and there are many places where she is talking about the writing space particularly (if you haven’t discovered her yet, please see her blog http://patthomson.wordpress.com). It works for her and many other academics. For me – it works partially. From my office window I see my neighbour’s beautiful garden full of flowers, plants, vegetables and other products of nature. But I also see my garden – big green ‘space for further development’. Very often I loose myself into thoughts about what can I do in the garden, when will I mow the grass, water it, etc. And the time passes by – I’m lost in thoughts, haven’t started writing, and haven’t even done the garden. Not good. However, at the evening I don’t see anything outside the windows and I can always embark in exploring or writing till the late hours. That room provides the oasis of peace I need to do more challenging tasks, as thesis writing and get things done, usually at the evening.
  1. Library spot – Whenever I come to my Faculty library, I choose the same place (if available) for reading and writing. The library is actually beautiful, designed in wood and glass, providing lot of natural sunlight and the warm atmosphere. The desks are placed just in front the glass wall, allowing me a view on beautiful grounds. Yes, the view is really beautiful and using only one desk can provide an atmosphere of freedom and openness in space – perfect for allowing the openness of the mind in exploring new ideas. The most important about this spot is the quietness of the library. No talks. Perfect. That’s just what I need when skipping through the pale of academic books in search for citations and references. Daunting work in the great atmosphere. Not so shabby after all, I guess.

my spot library

  1. Costa coffee – No, this is not an advertisement (although I wouldn’ mind if Costa Coffee would support my PhD project in turn for advertising it :). But I really like that place. Firstly, they serve my favourite “SmallSkinnyGingerbreadLatte” – the taste I cannot get anywhere else. They also use nice colours for design and furniture. Some of the stores are designed as modern urban places (especially some in London), whereas others remind a bit of a home lounge with sofas and chairs. They offer free Wi-Fi as well – what else would I need then? There is something special about working from the coffee shop. Is it the noise of plates and cups, roasted coffee, the smell, or just the noise from people chatting, I don’t know, but it works for me. Maybe not in doing the challenging writing as developing complex arguments or deriving the theory, but it works pretty well for writing email, doing PhD administration, and editing texts. There is something in the sound of a coffee shop that there is even a company that provides coffee shop sound on your device – coffitivity (check the website www.coffitivity.com). I’m just sitting in my local Costa coffee now, in my favourite spot near the window and writing this blog post. Works great for me!


These three places combined work just good for my PhD journey currently. Each has something special and is a perfect match for some tasks. I’m open for new suggestions and trying new places. What is your favourite spot?

“Not enough” syndrome or “more than enough” reality?

good enough

Imagine that while doing your PhD, you are invited to give a talk or a presentation in a business organization. Obviously, the topic is connected with your area of study, however, you are only in the early stage of the research, and you don’t feel that you know ‘enough’ to actually deliver the task to the highest standard. Does it ring a bell?


I call it “not enough syndrome’ – our inner thoughts and speculations whether we still need to learn something more to present our work. Do we need to have ‘better, or more specific findings’ in order to share our wisdom to the outer world, do we need to read more, talk about the research more, prepare more, remember more,……….and the list continues?


Even before starting my PhD, I often thought that I already know a lot and that I’m ready for the opportunity to arise where I could share my insights with someone else – especially, in the professional context. On the contrary, since I started my PhD, I have realised that there is so much more to be learnt, read or done that I cannot ever be ‘now’ to share what I know. At least not with the professionals who are more experienced then me and have much more practical knowledge. Just recently I’ve been getting the opportunity I used to wait for – chances to actually collaborate with experienced business people – and share my insight or expertise on the topic.


Now, this is interesting – an expert. Am I an ‘expert’? I am aware that, by the end of a PhD journey, I should be expert in particular area of my research. However, I’m only a 1st year PhD – does it still count as an ‘expert’? I am sure that I am not alone in these thoughts. Given that the first year is mostly focused on literature and methodology of the field, it is obvious that we all can feel as ‘imposters’ in the field. We discover how much stuff is going on there, how many debates/discussions we could discover and take part in, and how we actually don’t know much comparing to the ‘established experts’ in the field.


Conclusion One: from our perspective, we are only ‘newcomers’ in the field who don’t know much. But does it matter?


Now, let’ see how people in the ‘outer’, or ‘real’ world might perceive us, PhD students. Firstly, PhD is by definition the highest academic achievement. As we have already started our journey, that proves that we have the skills, abilities, intelligence and perseverance to accomplish the highest level of education. Actually, that is per se admirable and I came across many people who really have a great deal of respect towards people pursuing their PhD. More interestingly, these people really think we are some kind of very smart people who need to know ‘everything’. It seems that we might be perceived as “good enough”, or even “more than enough” experts to tackle some interesting business issues. Hmmmm…….


Next, many business experts didn’t have a chance to pursue higher education qualification. Although they are successful in their work and they know the industry well inside-out, they could absolutely benefit from some ‘theoretical’ insights and perhaps a different perspective of their work. Would they like to collaborate with you – a PhD researcher? Well, why wouldn’t they? They would respect your desire to explore theoretically and empirically what they actually do in practice. The results could always provide another significant insight into their work and perhaps suggest better ways of doing it.


I still wonder how can we recognize ourselves at the point of being ready to tackle the industrial challenges. When do we cross our imaginary line between “not enough” and “more than enough”?


Share your thoughts with me and let’s prepare ourselves for the real world, out of the academic ivory tower, and apply our knowledge and expertise.



Don’t get pregnant. If you can help it…

Haha… Nice read. Luckily, I’m already married, so now I just shouldn’t get pregnant while doing PhD?
Let’s see – PhD is not life in itself…

The Thesis Whisperer

This post is by Walter Reinhardt, a PhD student at ANU’s Fenner school where he is investigating demand management policy for residential water and electricity use. Walter is now at the pointy end of his degree, but he took time out to play with the stats and tell you what the likelihood is of you encountering a major life event during your PhD.

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with my PhD supervisors. Gave them draft chapters, chapter outlines and results enough for a couple more. I asked them, in their experience, if they thought it could be submitted by mid next year and what advice they’d give me if I went for it. Straight off the bat, one of them remarked: “Don’t get pregnant.”

We laughed.

It’s kind of hard for me to do that. I’m a dude with an unappealing mo’ for a start. But…

View original post 1,404 more words

I Hate Networking. I Love People.


As a legendary Smurf character Grouchy would always say:”I Hate….(something)”, the same way I would like to say: “I hate Networking!” OK, perhaps “hate” is too strong word, but definitely, I dislike Networking. Sincerely.

Or, should I rather say that I really don’t like networking gatherings – the whole idea of artificially organised events where people come, have some drinks and finger food, and then try to find a “victim” for the evening – a person whom they “need” to meet in order to accomplish their goals, whether it is further connections, research interest, or something else.

Most of networking events I have been to were organised by the university or various companies in order for people to find opportunities and new connections. However good the idea is, I wouldn’t say that I benefited from these gatherings. Going around and having a small “chat” with people – the proper “I don’t care about you” chat, but “I’m trying to hear where you work and on what position are you in”. It is just odd. And then, you see people following proper school examples of “good networking”, and looking what their “victim” is drinking so they can be extremely nice and put another drink into the glass, thinking that’s the way to do it. The whole situation looks more like cattle in the market. So fake.

My question is: What do you see in a person you are approaching? What is your first association on someone’s name? Perhaps, the name of the expert in your field, or successful business manager, CEO, entrepreneur,….etc. Do you see the money, connections, power, and opportunity associated with the name? Or, do you see a potential friend – a smiley face willing to answer your question, direct you to other people, and be your mentor?

My idea of networking is different. I love people. Seriously. I enjoy the company of people around me. i enjoy sharing honest relationships and surroundings where you can mingle around, talk, listen with interest and understanding, not only for the sake of it. I just love talking with seniors and listening their experiences, absorbing every good advice they can give. Also, I totally love speaking with my peers and listening about their creative ideas, successes and challenges. I love it all.

I don’t care about their position or their names (not literally – I respect people and want to know their names but I often forget them after two seconds…). I care about the way I feel around these people – based on the way they talk, they look and behave. Somehow the whole idea of emotions following the conversation is more important than the proper content.

Networking in small groups is my option. That is the environment where you can actually be listened to, respond to and be advices. Honestly. Not because someone will prosper of listening what you’re saying, but someone is actually enjoying your company and your personality. Someone cares about you because of what you are, and not because of your position. That is what matters for me. I matter. Not my position, that can change according to the market or hiring manager’s mood in the morning. I matter as a person, not as a job description. I am human.

I am the first one always to promote networking and its benefits and challenges. However, the whole idea of networking is changing, luckily, and there are some smart business people that recognised the potential of small-scale (small groups) networking events. That is the real thing, with real people trying to meet other real people. Not only their titles.

People matter.


The example of this kind of networking is the initiative of networking groups for women. I can recommend the concept – i myself had several female groups throughout my education and it is the best supportive group every women can have. I definitely recommend it!

For more information about the women networking concept, visit the link Network Circles Changing Business.