We started the Aspiring Professionals Hub to be an information hub for aspiring professionals to share their experiences – achievements, mistakes, successes, lessons learnt - with like-minded individuals. As aspiring professionals ourselves, we are aware of the challenges faced by other aspiring professionals in their career journey. Our aim is to provide a forum where we can engage with our readers and have discussions about Careers & Employability, Education, Entrepreneurship and Skills – related issues.
Recently the APH met up with two vibrant individuals Brian and Belinda, recent graduates from a higher education institution in the UK. They are both passionate about supporting issues around global health and about Africa. In their two part opinion piece, they share their experiences as African students as well as of interning in Africa (Part II). Enjoy reading and do share your opinions in the comments section.
Many Africans can only “dream” of the opportunity to pursue quality training overseas at Ivy league and Russel Group Universities of this world. Institutions to which the local education system that has nurtured our knowledge and skills through years of learning, contribute to the almost blind belief that there is no better source for top quality education and I dare say, developed intellect. It doesn’t help that our African education systems have hardly changed for decades, left behind by colonial masters whose teachings of everything from the alphabet to our understanding of African borders in geography and scientific discoveries of Alexander Fleming we still cling to. An archaic system that still equates learning with memory and teaches the partition of Africa, the prairies of Canada, and for some of us, a grid by grid map of New York City.
It’s Monday morning and rather than being excited about the start of a new work week, your heart drops because you wonder what is in store for you from a passive-aggressive colleague. Will it be a snarky email, sulking, unreasonable behaviour, not responding to emails or full on aggressive behaviour? In this article, Grace shares some ways to deal with difficult colleagues while keeping your sanity.
Thud! I looked up to see the retreating figure of my colleague as she walked out of the office slamming the door behind her. She had just thrown a pile of paperwork on my desk. Ten minutes later I received an email informing me what she would like me to do with the documents.
This was not the first time she had acted aggressively towards me and I knew it wouldn’t be the last. However, this incident proved that things were escalating and and it was time to do something about it. The strategies I share in this article are based on my personal experience, particularly from the mistakes I made. I hope these steps can help someone else going through a similar experience.
It’s September and the beginning of a new academic year. Whether you’re just starting out or preparing for your final year at University, we can guess that your smart devices (phone or tablet) play an important role in your daily activities. Apps should not be left out of University life either and can be used as learning tools, to increase productivity as well as staying healthy. In this article, Amara shares a list of great apps* to kick start your studies this year. All apps mentioned are available on both iOS and Android platforms with price plans from free!
*This is not a sponsored article. Neither the author nor APH has received any direct or indirect compensation for any products discussed.
Your University’s app – I would always recommend starting here first. As Higher Education continues to embrace technology in facilitating teaching and learning, almost every Higher Education Institution delivers their teaching using an online platform such as Blackboard™ which have associated apps. Apart from giving you access to all the teaching material, you can check your assessment deadlines, get feedback on your coursework, and communicate with other students in your class. Some University apps have more enhanced functionality providing students with information and services anytime, anywhere.
Evernote/Penultimate for Evernote – Have you ever written something important on a piece of paper just to lose it when it really mattered? With Evernote, you can have all your important information not only in one place but well organized for instant access. Every smartphone usually has an app for notetaking but with Evernote, you can attach images, embed voice files, scan documents, prepare to-do lists and set reminders. If you find typing your notes in class too difficult, Penultimate for Evernote is a great ‘type to text’ app that can convert your written notes to text and save into Evernote. The app also syncs your notes across devices so you can write a note on your iPhone and read it on your Samsung tablet. Another important advantage is that there is a website behind it so if you ever lose your device, your notes are still available.
Dropbox – My biggest fear at University was leaving my floppy disk in the library’s computer! Yes, there were storage devices before the advent of the memory stick! No more excuses of your dog eating your homework! With Dropbox, you have cloud storage of all your very important work which you can access from your phone/tablet. Ensure you always back up your files so the least you can lose is your latest draft and not all your work from 2010! It is also a good place to store and organize your holiday snaps and other memorable photos. We could all use some more gigabytes!
A flash card app for revision – We are so sure that if you are reading this, you are one of the conscientious students who prepares for revision early on in the semester by making their own notes. If you are, keep it up. If not, what are you waiting for? Flashcards are a great way of summarizing your taught material using your own words. You can note areas you need to conduct more research in or keywords that need to be more clearly defined. If you use flashcards already why not try an electronic version? These are less susceptible to loss and can be synced across your devices. Some allow you to embed pictures and audio into your flash card. What’s not to love about that? Examples include Evernote peek, StudyBlue, Quizlet and Chegg (available for iOS devices, please check for Android).
“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.“
Creativity and innovation are key tools integral in growth of any business which has a long term strategy. In my consultancy roles for small, medium enterprises (SMEs) I quickly learned how cut-throat the business world is and how much creativity and innovation is needed for the businesses to thrive or even survive. The ability to create and innovate whilst integral to business is at the core of science and informs the everyday research and scientific developments we have observed through time.
In the UK, the government has identified innovation as an important factor in growth and sustainability and as a result has created several schemes to encourage creativity and innovation. These schemes are meant to link businesses with each other or with academic institutions to harness ideas and turn them into marketable products. Examples include the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP), Invention for Innovation (i4i) and from a global perspective, the Global Innovation Fund aimed at providing grants to transform the lives of people living in poverty. For anyone looking for innovative projects, I often recommend the KTP as it is a superb route to innovative funded postgraduate degrees which also gives experience working with an industrial partner.
What I find particularly odd and often worrying however, is that in the sciences we are always expected to create or innovate (in the eyes of the external “real” world) but more often than not, innovation or enterprise is not a core part of the curriculum. Even more mind boggling is the expectation that PhD candidates are expected to create something novel from their research or add something new to the body of existing knowledge. Going with the quote from ol’boy Einstein above, they are expected to be innovative without giving them the tools to be able to enrich or harness that creativity.
Why do we love stories so much? Could it be because of that powerful space it creates where our personal experiences connects with someone else? We love stories in The Hub and in today’s article, Dr Yewande Pearse shares her triumps and challenges enroute to the qualification called a PhD! Amara got to learn about Yewande through her campaign and was (and remains) inspired by her journey. Enjoy!
APH: Please can you share your academic and professional background?
YP: I completed my BSc in Human Sciences at King’s College London in 2006. I then returned to King’s in 2009 to complete a Masters in Neuroscience with a Distinction. After my Masters, I worked as a Research Assistant for two years before taking up a PhD studentship at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. I have just completed my PhD in Neuroscience, which aimed to explore the potential for gene therapy in multiple forms of Batten Disease, a childhood brain disorder.
In layman’s terms, can you share what your research study/area is about?
Batten Disease is a group of inherited disorders that cause profound neurodegeneration and predominantly affect children. The symptoms are progressively debilitating and include blindness, seizures, intellectual decline and disability, dementia, loss of speech and motor impairment, with many children eventually becoming wheelchair-bound. Currently, there are no effective treatments available for any form of Batten Disease. My research is about finding innovative ways to treat this group of diseases with a focus on gene therapy.
So what is your PhD story? When did you realise that you wanted to undertake a PhD and how did you get into one? Why did you choose your topic?
We do not often get to hear about the experiences and challenges of undergraduate students and new graduates. In #GraduateStories, we share the ‘behind the scenes’ stories of recent graduates and hoping their journeys and experiences are beneficial and to motivational to current students. In the first of our #GraduateStories, Robert Sampays, recent graduate (class of 2016) from the UWE Bristol, UK shares the motivations and journey to success. Enjoy reading!
Since a young age I have always been fascinated with products and the way they work, it was this inquisitiveness that stemmed my passion for design. I find inspiration in the work I produce knowing I have the chance to help people and make their lives easier. It was the notion of being able to make this a reality that made me study Product Design and is still the reason behind my work ethic today.
I was taught to draw by my aunt during family visits to her house in South Wales; being an artist she had both the patience and the skill to teach me various techniques that would later serve as one of my main attributes as a designer. I furthered my interests at school where I studied art alongside graphic design and resistant materials. Product design at A-Level allowed me to bring all 3 of these disciplines together, I was sold in an instant and made this one of my main subjects to study at college.
Completing college with 4 A-Levels dawned the start of my university degree of which I chose to study a BSc in Creative Product Design at UWE Bristol. I chose to study at UWE due to the nature of the course and the freedom students seemed to have of which was evident of design projects from first to final year. This in conjunction with the quality of teaching, engaging modules and friends made along the way made for an enjoyable learning experience from start to finish.
During my degree, I embarked on a placement year; six months spent at Steele & Stovell in Herefordshire, UK, where I worked with designers on a diverse range of projects consisting of branding, layout for print, web design and marketing. This placement developed my graphical skills enhancing my knowledge and understanding of what makes good design; something I can apply on a multidisciplinary level throughout my career. The second placement was for another six months at Simbars; a design engineering company specialising in street furniture in Bristol. In this role, I worked both in the studio and the workshop understanding key fundamentals of design for manufacture. Having close contact with the manufacturers gave me a great insight into the design process where I could learn directly from staff in the workshop; particularly how certain manufacturing techniques directly implemented the scope for design opportunity.
PhD candidates may have a lot in common but are by no means a homogenous group. In today’s #PhDChat, we share the ‘behind the scenes’ stories of our successful PhD candidates and graduates. We hope that their honesty and openness will encourage and motivate you as you proceed on your journey. In today’s article, Amina, a final year PhD candidate shares her experience of combining parental responsibilities with studying full time as an international student.
The pursuit of a PhD is a huge investment in your career and yourself. I had applied for a scholarship for Nigerian based academics to finance a PhD program that I had my sights on in the United Kingdom. When I learned I was successful, I was overjoyed yet pleasantly surprised, as it was keenly competitive. After the initial euphoria wore off, the enormity of what I was embarking on became apparent. This article is meant to share my experiences and offer some advice to mature students with similar plans.
Strain on Familial and Social Ties
A PhD will test your relationships, it is important to find balance. Working towards a PhD abroad will be even more exacting. Leaving my parents and other relationships for 4 long years; adjusting to a new culture and environment; the strain on my husband, our marriage and on our 3 kids as he travelled back and forth between both countries was going to be hard. I tried to minimize these challenges by relying on modern telephony.
Settling into the Program
Do a lot of research. Carefully examine details of the campus and community you will study and live in. I consulted widely before commencing the program, weighed the pros and cons with my husband, and we tried to mitigate all challenges. However, every PhD experience is different so we couldn’t foresee the peculiarities of my own PhD, particularly the severe and persistent economic crises that would make it almost unbearable. I didn’t realise my campus was not even in the same county as the main campus of the University. This is where a little research could have made things easier. I was to be located in a beautiful rural campus a 30 minute shuttle away from the main campus which itself was 45 minutes from the inexpensive home I secured prior to arrival. Relocating closer to my campus wasn’t an option, as it was expensive (yes, rural living costs a lot in the UK) and too isolated for my children.