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Change the world

School of Management Sciences

24/04/2017

Do you know what PhD actually stands for? "Patiently hoping for a Degree" or then "Professional Hamburger Dispenser". I can truly say that I have experienced both of these the past three years since embarking on my PhD studies at the end of 2014 at the mature age of 53 years.

I HAVE patiently hoped for the awarding of the degree and have in actual fact become a professional hamburger dispenser...gaining a whopping seven kilograms of weight in the process! Having a family to take care of while embarking on PhD research was a big challenge.

How many times have I asked myself, "Why am I doing a PhD? Why have I embarked on this journey of constant challenges? Why did I ever apply for sabbatical leave? Why have I allowed MS Word and printed papers to become such a big part of my life?" I was thinking a lot about the answers to these questions and my answers to these questions were simpler than I thought. It dawned on me during the graduation ceremony...to be happy!!! Do you remember that feeling of happiness when you learnt that you passed matric or when you were accepted as a student for a Master's degree? I felt elated and grateful at the graduation ceremony. I felt grateful towards my family, the Department of Business Management and the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences for their support and even more grateful towards my supervisor, Prof Sandra Perks.

How I maintained my sanity during my PhD studies

I was often reminded of the following during my research journey:

  • Stay positive, work hard and make it happen!
  • Just know, when you truly want success, you will never give up on it. No matter how bad the situation may get.
  • Good things come to those who wait...greater things come to those who get of their ass and do anything to make it happen.
  • In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.

Remember, there is always a bigger picture behind your small limited world and the responsibility lies with you to take all opportunities and make decisions, to do your best and give the best to your department and colleagues. A PhD is a learning process, and we are allowed to make mistakes. The main thing is to reflect on your experience and try to improve it.

I had essentially two reasons why I relentlessly pushed through and perservered: First, I did not want to have regrets years later. I did not want to think about those, "what ifs..." and "what could have beens...." I did not want to regret not completing my PhD studies when I was surrounded by opportunities that require a PhD. Secondly, was constantly battling the thoughts of how I would advise my colleagues and students when they have difficult times in future. Would I tell them to quit and move on or would I tell them to hang in there, that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I want to be a model and a reference point for them.

 

Above: Dr Nadine Oosthuizen with her promoter Prof Sandra Perks

 

Core lessons my PhD taught me

Time management - it has always been a big problem for me. I have always wanted to do so many things, and there was never enough time for everything. They say that doing your PhD is the time when you can totally and completely devote yourself to the study of one particular area, becoming a real expert in the field. I wonder how many PhD students actually devote 100 % of their time to their research project. I certainly did not, but I still learned a lot in the process and graduated on the 5th of April 2017 with my PhD in Business Management.

Completing your PhD research can be compared to a swimming duck. Appearing smooth and settled on the water, but paddling furiously under the water. Nobody sees the stressful paddle, but everyone gleefully admires its graceful glide on the water. Nobody sees the many sleepless nights, and times you almost quit the race...all that matters is how you finish! And I finished....

My Thesis

In my thesis, entitled: "Online mentoring as a transformative tool for career and business development" a body of knowledge was developed on the use of online mentoring for the career advancement of female employed individuals and small business entrepreneurs. The under-representation of females at management level due to the glass ceiling effect can be attributed to females' lack of access to a mentor in senior management. The revolution in technology has led to online mentoring, which combines conventional mentoring with new technology, and provides access to a wider pool of mentors. The primary objective of this study was to establish the enabling conditions necessary for effective online mentoring in South Africa, and show how it can be used to develop the careers of females (both corporate employees and small business entrepreneurs).

The study followed a mixed-method research approach with a sequential exploratory design. For the first two phases of the qualitative enquiry, data was collected by interviewing mentors and mentees involved in online mentoring, as well as online mentoring specialists, using a semi-structured inverview schedule. For phase three, an online survey was conducted with the aid of a structured questionnaire amongst conventional mentors and mentees of their perceptions on online mentoring. The qualitative results informed the content of the structured questionnaire.

The qualitative study established that females regarded online mentoring challenges to include matching preferences, technology impediments, cultural fit problems, language differences, lack of mutual trust, scheduling and frequency and duration of meetings, the impersonal nature of line mentoring, and specific mentee- and mentor-related challenges. It is thus important to overcome these challenges to create an enabling online mentoring environment in South Africa. It is acknowledged that there are real online mentoring challenges, not just in South Africa, but globally, and that it may not all be gender specific. Further to this, many challenges are perceived and can easily be negated through communication openness, setting meeting objectives and establishing relationship boundaries. The quantitative study confirmed six necessary conditions for effective online mentoring in South Africa viz. infrastructure readiness, demographic matching preferences, mentor characteristics, the communication process, mentoring pair- perceptions and relationship. The study further identified that all of these online mentoring conditions except mentoring pair perceptions, can influence the achievements of mentees.

This study contributed to the under-researched field of online mentoring. It provided evidence on how online mentoring can be utilised for the career advancement of female- corporate employees and small business entrepreneurs. It also identified several strategies to create a conducive online mentoring environment in South Africa.