“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Isaac Newton.
The first edition of the African Scholars Forum’s series of webinars that held on the 31st of July 2020 was exactly what a new doctoral student like me needed. The panellists were not only open and down to earth in their explanations but were also able to unpack some of the most pressing issues facing doctoral scholars in clear and relatable terms. The webinar titled “ how to write an excellent thesis” did not only address the issues around thesis writing but went beyond to discuss other practical matters that affect up and coming scholars like me.
I left the workshop with myriads of valuable lessons, and I will try to capture some of them in this short reflection. To start with, the story of Dr Amos Fatokun, one of the panellists was highly inspirational. His academic career journey exemplified resilience and determination to succeed in the face of many challenges. His PhD journey taught me to learn how to maximize every little opportunity I have been given and to also prove myself worthy of such opportunities. The height of his experiences for me was when mentioned that he maximized a two years funded fellowship to complete a PhD in three years by working extra hard in the laboratory. I believe that many young and early career researchers in the workshop also took away the lesson he gave us on knowing how to present ourselves and our projects with correct and convincing writing. He emphasized good writing as a skill that every doctoral student must practise and learn. If the workshop were to be in a real place, my applause would have the loudest in the room for Dr Amos Fatokun; nevertheless, I clapped for him right on my couch as I stared intently at my computer screen.
Dr Debo’ Owoseni started his presentation with a mind-blowing career journey mapping that had three major components; thus, (Purpose – People – Preparedness). He emphasized that these three aforementioned “Ps” helped him in his career journey, and it was a big take away for me. Dr Owoseni’s story also resonated with me as his decision to do a PhD was the same as mine. He noted that he found role models in academia, and this led him to do a PhD. In life, we all want to be in that space where we have shoulders to stand upon so that we can see further. We want a career that makes us thrive much. His motivation fired him up to combine a professionally demanding job in the banking industry with a doctoral degree program, a tedious journey that many would never have attempted. My biggest take away from him is that my career journey is my own decision, and I am responsible for what I make of it. He was unequivocal on the need to put passion into whatever we have chosen to do. His story encouraged me so much that I had the consolation that someone had experienced what I am currently experiencing. It was a soothing relief.
In her remarks, Dr Natasha Nwila reiterated that it is important for doctoral students to prove themselves worthy when they are awarded a fully-funded program. She clarified that in her observations, most fully funded students tend to be too relaxed and unserious with their studies when compared to self-funded students. Her remarks challenged me to appreciate my funders with my unwavering commitment and excellent performance.
In summary, the following are my takeaways from the workshop;
- I am responsible for my career journey as what I make of it largely depends on me.
- There is no bargaining out of mature and convincing writing skills as a doctoral student.
- I must have a growth mindset in accepting feedback from my supervisors.
- A PhD is not necessarily for the most brilliant bur for the most committed academics.
- Having a PhD is not an automatic sentence to work in academia; the industries also need my knowledge.
I look forward to more valuable conversations from the ASF and I cannot wait to benefit immensely from the networks of mentors available to me for being part of the forum. With unhindered access to these mentors, I am unabatedly confident that my doctoral journey will be excellent.
Seun Adepoju is a doctoral researcher in Creative Technologies at the Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, Newzealand where he is re-imagining electronic government initiatives in Nigeria, especially e-voting. Prior to starting his doctoral studies, he founded TECHmIT Africa, a technology and innovation ecosystem advocacy organisation in Ibadan Nigeria where he led many technology advocacy projects in digital inclusion and technology entrepreneurship. He currently holds a faculty position in Global Challenges at the African Leadership University in Kigali, Rwanda