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PhD: persistence and support pay off

By Syed Hassan Naveed - Posted on 5 June 2024

Hassan Naveed is a PhD student at the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship who successfully defended his PhD thesis recently. Here, he describes how persistent hard work and a good support network helped him achieve his PhD.

On 20th May 2024 I successfully defended my PhD thesis with minor revisions: this date will stay with me forever. Since I was a kid, I wanted to achieve difficult and distinct things in my life. Hence why I pursued the lesser trodden path of PhD studies.

However, this path was punctuated with intricate challenges, and really tested my mettle. The past three years gave me enough reasons to either take long breaks or give up on my PhD. Yet, I defied the challenges and didn’t give up so that I could honour the work ethic of my parents who worked 16 hours a day 24/7, to raise all of their four kids.

In the second year of my PhD, my health got completely out of order. I struggled to leave bed, and everything ranging from home chores to PhD studies and other jobs became an uphill task. Medical tests revealed an issue that required being put on strong anti-inflammatories and I was prescribed complete bed rest. Unsurprisingly, I was lured by the thought of taking a long break from my PhD, but the temptation faded when I thought of the adversities and challenges that were encountered by my extremely hard-working parents, who worked in way more difficult circumstances.

Mum had to leave India after her marriage and relocated to Pakistan. Her unabated work and the fact she could barely visit her family, due to the never-ending tensions between the two countries, became my motivation to continue to study and work far from family as an international student in the UK (especially during the times of my ailing health and Covid). Dad also kept on working hard despite his diminished mobility due to Parkinsons. Every time I thought of taking a long break or giving up on my PhD, I would close my eyes, and picture my mother who worked incessantly, and my father who worked persistently amidst his Parkinson. My parents sacrificed every fabric of their soul so that I could achieve all of my dreams.

My PhD journey was a fraught one with the intricacies of my health, challenges related to the data collection amidst Covid, and the daunting fact that I had to manage the colossal task of finishing my PhD while simultaneously working on multiple jobs. I replicated the work ethic of my parents, and successfully defended my PhD thesis in 3.5 years. I was glad to have the support of my three siblings (especially my elder sister for constantly instilling faith in my abilities), and my adorable niece.

Supervision was a very important part of my PhD. I had the fantastic opportunity to work on my PhD on a full scholarship with a stipend and all of my three supervisors provided me with ample support throughout the journey of my PhD. Their constructive and timely feedback helped me in improving the quality of my thesis and assisted me in submitting and defending my thesis.

The strategy I adopted for my PhD was to set short goals. I made sure that I wrote at least 500 words a day and I used to regularly share my drafts with my supervisors. Based upon their feedback I would then improve my writeup and send it to them again, until the writeup met the required expectations. Frequent and regular engagement with the supervisors (both online and in-person) is pivotal in finishing PhD on time.

Versatility is also a key part of the PhD journey. Throughout the duration of my studies, I taught and marked various courses. At the beginning, it was hard and stressful to manage multiple jobs with my PhD studies but as time marched on, I became better at managing my PhD studies with these jobs. Eventually, I became more efficient and punctual with my PhD drafts, so that I could effectively manage time for lecturing and marking.

I also published two papers out of my PhD thesis, at three esteemed conferences: Academy of Management (AOM), European Academy of management (EURAM), and British Academy of management (BAM). Presenting and answering questions in these conferences boosted my confidence in my research and helped me in improving my PhD thesis further.

Most significantly, I can’t emphasize the importance of taking care of your health and enjoying your time during your PhD studies. Working out at the gym and going out for regular runs helped me immensely with my health recovery.

My advice is finding what helps you: a PhD is a marathon, not a sprint. So, take exercise, have fun and - if you’re an international student - travel across Scotland; there are so many exquisite places all over Scotland and further afield which can easily be reached from Glasgow.

Times flies, folks. That’s my message to every PhD student: yes, you will all finish your PhDs soon. The title of ‘Dr’ and the person you will become in the process of acquiring this title, will soothe any pain you encounter in your PhD journey. Onwards and upwards - good luck!

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