All 6 entries tagged Tomi
No other Warwick Blogs use the tag Tomi on entries | View entries tagged Tomi at Technorati | There are no images tagged Tomi on this blog
August 06, 2013
I have been on the field, Nigeria, for the past couple of months. As is Warwick tradition (and in other universities I would expect), your supervisor would prep you for life on the field. I was kitted with all relevant information and training, from code of conduct as a “Warwick Researcher”, to ethics, security, health etc. I have an awesome supervisor! However, in addition to the key tips he gave me, I have learnt a few extra lessons of my own that I thought would be nice to share on the blog.
It pays to be nice
Nobody should tell you this really – however, just in case you are not a naturally nice person, FAKE IT!
By being nice, I mean being genuinely interested in others, greeting them with a smile (I promise that doesn’t hurt), and being conscious about not taking others for granted just because they really want to help. Being nice has given me access to information and people I would have spent a decade and a half trying to reach. I have missed my way many-a-time to locations for interviews and gotten help just because I asked nicely, really nicely. The average man next door does not give a hoot if you find your way or not (just like London), especially where Naira (Nigerian currency) is NOT changing hands. I have to be grateful for the 5 seconds the guy took out of his busy dayto give an almost confusing description. When you ask for directions to a place, for instance, Washington Street, the response goes something like this:
“Go straight, keep going straight. When you get to the junction, turn right; then turn left. Go straight small, you will see a turning on your left. Don't turn. Keep going. At the SECOND turning, enter, you will see the Washington street.”
Woe betides he who asks for a repeat of the instruction.
In other instances I have negotiated really cheap taxi fares, just because I was nice to the taxi driver. Perhaps a puppy-eyed-pout or two helped the situation as well (shrugs). Hey, a girl’s gotta do what she gotta do. If you have a nice smile and a pout that shames Rihanna, use it girl!
Amp your personal planning & project/data management skills
I have met many people who throw this line around often, “I work best under pressure” – not on the field, it doesn't work there. The need to improve on one's project management skills is a point that is best experienced not explained. When you lose an audio file or two (recorded interviews), forget to send an email or misplace some crucial phone number, you will realise that water no dey pass garri.
*Water no dey pass garriis a Nigerian-pidgin proverb that figuratively means “a mess resulting from poor planning or lack of it.”
Keep a notebook on hand (even in the toilet)
A few days ago, a taxi driver told me he wants the military government back in power, because being under civilian rule in Nigeria was doing nothing for him. This was unsolicited information, other than the fact that a soldier walked up to us in the middle of the road; that was was sparked up the conversation. This insight from the taxi driver was relevant and interesting to my research for different reasons, so I immediately snapped my iPhone on and noted it on my notes app.
You never know where ideas would strike you – one’s eureka moment may be over a shared yahuza suya(grilled beef by Yahuza - yummylicious) and a can of Malta Guinness with a mate. You have to note that shizzledown! By shizzle,I mean any new information, insight or whatever. My friends are used to me now, when mid-conversation my eyes brighten up and I am slamming away at my keyboard or punching my touch-screen mercilessly. They shake their heads knowingly and carry on the conversation.
That little demon which whispers to your very smart brain that you would remember it all is LYING – don’t neglect the notepad.
Being on field, gathering data (via interviews in my case), and meeting new people, is an exciting experience. Although I can’t wait to get back to the comforts of the University of Warwick Library...don’t look at me like that, I am very happy to be immersed in the society I am going to write my thesis on.
I am experiencing first hand some of the society-challengesI am going to discuss in my thesis. The tone and quality of my work will be better for it; I can feel that coming on already. If I were embarking on the same task from the “ivory tower” without connecting with the society where the policies I am going to critique and recommend will be affected, my work would have lost an important touch.
Do you have any lessons you are learning or learnt while on field that you didn’t glean from your supervisor? Please share.
June 22, 2013
I have missed the PhD Life Blog and my Warwick PG Life. It mostly comprised sitting long hours in the library's Research Exchange, visiting the sports centre for a few bouts of volleyball, coffee with my home-girl at Costa (till they chase us out at close of work) and loads more activities that add value to my life.
As I write this post, I am in far away Nigeria, to conduct research interviews as part of the data gathering process for my thesis. It's been roughly two weeks and I am happy to mention I have made substantial progress on my work. However, this is not without gleaning a few lessons along the way from experience and from interacting with people.
Identify people who "know the ground":
Nigeria is my home country, but I have had to admit that I am a novice when it comes to being "street smart". From immediate family, to friends on my Whatsapp and so on, I have sapped knowledge on how best to navigate the terrain at the most minimal cost.
I will give you an example. When I arrived with my unlocked iPhone and needed to get Internet data bundle (long story) on my phone, and the codes formally advertised didn't work. I called an old classmate, who had a friend working in the telecoms company I was subscribed to. This friend finally gave me the correct code, and instantly my top-up (a substantial amount) was zapped from my phone and replaced with 1.5gb internet data for the month. All I had to do was introduce myself to the person as xxx's friend, and magic. Simple street-smartness.
Other examples would be advice I have received on the best time to set out and return to base in order to beat mad traffic. On majority of my interviews I have arrived hours earlier than scheduled in order to maintain my mantra "Tomi is always punctual".
Be as concise as much as possible in explaining your research - Master your "pitch":
This is useful in the situation where you need to access to someone for an interview but need to go through this 3rd party. In order to convince them to help you meet the person you are after, you gotta have a good "pitch". Rule of thumb, keep the details of your theoretical framework out and just go for the meat of what your research is after.
Evernote is the next best thing since sliced-bread:
A friend saw me milking my Evernote at an event and marvelled at how organised I was. to be honest, Evernote does the organising for me. I sincerely don't know how I would cope with the data I have now (which is not yet up to half of what I am after), if all I had to lean on was Microsoft Word. The complexity of the web of information amassed would drive one to the brink of madness. Shout-out to the Evernote team: thanks for the Reminder function on the notes.
Reminder App is the next-next best thing:
I have never appreciated my iPhone Reminder app as much as I do now. It's never been easier to be forgetful as it is while one is on the field. You are having this interview, and the person tells you,"hey I have a document to back that up that I can share with you. Just pop me an email to remind me". What do you do? Make a note, and electronically input into your Reminder app - otherwise, you would forget.
I also use the Reminder App to remember to say THANK YOU for taking time out to speak with me. I may be filled with all the thanksgiving in my heart that could power Heaven to rain down Manna on earth one last time, but if I don't communicate it to the intended party, it's useless.
The Reminder app has also been useful in helping me recall when to contact someone who wants to reschedule an interview and much more.
As I approach Week 3 of many more weeks ahead, I reckon I would have more lessons to share on the blog. Being on field (especially outside the country) is exciting, but I do miss Warwick PG Life.
Have you gone past the "field" stage? Please share the lessons learned in comments. I don't need to reinvent the wheel :)
I'll be back here soon with more tales.
June 10, 2013
May 14, 2013
I just found this write-up on Inside HigherEd, So You Want to Blog (Academic Edition) by Liana Silva. I will summarise the points the author made in bullet-points, and include my personal reflections on the topic:
Academic blogging develops your writing because it helps you connect more with your audience/readers
Academic blogging does not require an airtight argument, simply exploring questions is not a taboo.
Language can be casual even if it's an academic topic
Think about length (word count)
February 18, 2013
I really had this post on lock-down for Valentines Day... this was supposedly when I wanted it published; but as you would agree, on this research journey, man proposes and the PhD disposes (of your plans). For the first time for me, Valentine's Day was as bland as oats without a grain of sugar. I did get gifted with a lovely brooch and a bag of Kenkey & soup (Ghanian Delicacy) by two wonderful friends of mine, heavily PLATONIC gifts I must add. However, I really shouldn't complain about a bland valentine after all... it's the thought that counts right?
- They can't feel your pain, no matter how hard they try to empathise
- You are always busy, ALWAYS - they don't get it
- Their expectations of your level of smartnesswill have you scurrying to safety - I'm a PhD student not a walking-talking encyclopedia
- You can actually have a life outside the PhD
- You would have a shot at starting a family (if you want that) after the PhD ceteris paribus (people who get married during the process, I doff my hat)
- You would have someone to test how publicly engaging your research could be, on - Yes, I mean he/she could be your lab-rat for those Impact Measurements
- Lastly, what can I say, variety is the spice of life
Dear Me, also don't wait too long to start a family. Life doesn't get any easier, slower, more secure, less stressful when you're established.
February 04, 2013
I am a voracious reader of Harvard Business Review (the free edition online), and I recently came across this short brilliant piece on Dividing Your Writing Project in Manageable Tasks. Although the author seemed to be referring to the business environment where you write loads of emails, proposals and work on pitches, I could see exactly how this simple 4-step-process fit the PhD Life too.
Photo Credit: @Dudu_Duttie (Twitter)