I thought I’d share my own views on the iConference doctoral colloquium, so here it goes…
This year the iConference doctoral colloquium was held at the beginning of the conference, unlike previous years. Also, unlike previous years, I was in attendance and presented my work to fellow students and academic mentors. As you can see from my previous blog post and a blog post from my Director of Studies that this conference doctoral colloquium is quite competitive and it is a privilege to be chosen as part of the iConfernce doctoral crew. You can find a list of doctoral colloquium participants here and you will see that students have travelled far and wide to benefit from the gathering that took place.
We had two main Chairs/organisers for the day, and I am thankful for their work on this. Our doctoral colloquium chairs were:
We also had seven mentors within our group, who I thank for their time and advice. Our mentors were:
We started off the day with the usual introductions and followed this with a ‘one minute introduction’ of ourselves. At my university, and across Scotland, we know this as a ‘one minute madness’ but I must say that the doctoral colloquium session was a little less mad and a little more informative. I was the first student to introduce myself (immediately after one of the doctoral colloquium Chairs, Kevin Crowston) so I was quite nervous for that. However, after nearly three years of introducing myself a hundred and fifty million and one times, I think I may have done okay.
We had a quick ice breaker activity to start off with – this was easier said than done. We had to piece together a ‘thesis puzzle’ and use six elements of research practice to help us identify a suitable project… and then explain this to the group. Our six information pieces were: (1) the PhD concept(s); (2) the setting; (3) the sample; (4) the design; (5) the methods used in the design and; (6) the analysis. Using lots of post-it note we had to meet other students and seek advice and information on what their post-it notes meant. By doing this we were then able to attempt to put together a research project, something I did not succeed in doing fully I must admit! We heard back examples of the thesis projects that some of the group had developed, critiqued these and decided if the project was a starter or something to bin here and now. It was a good to see how pieces of paper can help develop a research project, especially when we did not know what some of the information on the notes meant, and often had to make it up as we saw fit. It was also beneficial to see the main considerations to developing a research project (numbers 1-6 above) and being able to answer these can help give a summary of your doctoral research overall.
We then started splitting off into groups with a ‘mentor’. We took turns to discuss our work and got feedback from other students and staff on our work so far. In my group we talked about everything from justification of the project and main concepts to methods used. Our mentor helped us iron out any concerns we had. For my work, I talked about my main concepts (workplace learning and innovative work behaviour) and we discussed the use of a specific definition of learning (not workplace learning, just learning). It was advised that I can apply my own definition of learning to both individual and collective entities as my own definition of learning fits with both. I also talked about my use of innovative work behaviour over innovation and why this may relate to processes of learning. One of my supervisors found a wonderful article last week which helped me explain this relationship in more detail to my group. Employee-led innovation (including innovative work behaviour) has a unique relationship with learning but it did take me a while to figure this out and digest why – it also took a while for me to articulate this to my group! In the end I think I managed, just. We also talked about the amount of data I have collected and how this is going to be used in my PhD. I explained the rationale behind my three case studies and how they were specifically designed to target a certain organisational group – and a PhD does look so much better (in my opinion) with data collected from three different countries around the World (Scotland, England and Finland).
One thing that I did discover in the later discussions was that I am absolutely terrible at my own ‘elevator pitch’. It was good to be able to sit down with someone and work out what my PhD could mean to other people – both in the academic sense and practice. From this, I was able to come up with my introductory statements as to how I will draw people in, and apparently this will be effective in future interviews when I explain my work.
Our afternoon comprised more group discussions (a lot on career related stuff and what I plan to do after the PhD), coffee and chat, then a panel session of academic staff. The panel comprised:
We talked about thesis expectations and feelings, publications and publishing in the PhD and finally job/career moves. In terms of feelings, we were quite honestly informed that you will at some point grow to hate your thesis. This is apparently a common feeling amongst academic staff who have gone on to research other things (related and unrelated to their PhD topic). However, we also discussed that the process of a PhD is very rewarding and that embracing the knowledge and learnings you gain from the process is something you will never forget.
Our panel discussed the purpose of publications, when to publish and when not to publish too. They highlighted the cultural differences between where thesis are developed and written (location wise – these differ in Canada, USA, across Europe and the UK) and sometimes it is the doctoral programme you are on and its requirements that dictate whether and how you publish. I have learned that the USA doctoral system is much much different to ours, and some of the candidates were surprised that we (in the UK) are not required to submit publications as part of our PhDs. I explained the general structure to my group earlier in the day and they seemed surprised that we have no requirements to have to submit publications. I did tell them, however, we have a very sensible research group director who supports us to submit articles to journals and conference papers/posters throughout… because you know, she knows the benefit of doing so herself! I also explained the amount of publications, presentations, posters and other dissemination techniques I have used over the last three years and pointed them in the direction of my list here. We also talked more about career relate stuff and the cultural differences in this too. In the UK we do not have the concepts of tenure anymore as this was abolished yet this is still prominent within the USA. We still do, however, have systems for promotion and working your way up the ladder but this is quite different to other systems in place and it is often individual to each institution. We talked about making ourselves fit (or see where we fit best) within certain departments and schools, and if you cannot see yourself working there and fitting in, then it must be questioned as to whether you would really work out in the first place.
We explored the use of social media (with a specific example of a ‘fancy website’) in the application and interview process for a job. Media was deemed useful if it explained you and your research in a professional, appropriate way. Employers look for publications and dissemination techniques (oh yeah, and a submitted thesis!) rather than ‘fancy websites’ so focusing on things that will make you more employable is a preference. There were varied views on this, and it’s a note I will leave here seeing as though I am writing this comment on my own media outlet… my own views on the use of websites and media in your own promotion remain under wraps for now.
As a final note we were encouraged to get support from people around us, in our school and departments, when looking for jobs. We were encouraged to network and go to conferences to make it known that we are ‘on the market’ and seeking the next steps in our careers. It was also noted that more successful candidates often seek out these opportunities themselves, but at the same time tell others (e.g. their supervisors, colleagues, other staff) that they are looking for work. The student needs to connect with as many people as possible, tell everyone they are available and looking for work and then finally promote themselves, their abilities, their unique qualities and skills.
A very final note is a thank you to our conference organisers and mentors who worked tirelessly to make the day a beneficial experience. I would especially like to thank J. Stephen Downie (our group mentor) for his wisdom, advice and humour during our group sessions.
You can find out more about the goings on of the doctoral colloquium and the iConference itself on twitter. Search for the hashtag #iconf18 and follow the iConference twitter site for further information. I must admit I spent more time liking and retweeting tweets than actually tweeting myself but the event was highly covered.
Some pictures I took during my visit to Sheffield are in the slideshow below.