PhD Chronicles: Part III

“Hello there! The angel from my nightmare”

It’s been a while since my last post. One has been busy with science and life – I sincerely apologise for this sojourn. Although, I am happy to say that whilst away, I made huge steps in my PhD program with interesting data.

I have also been opportune to present these data at a number of conferences as well however my first presentation is the one that sticks out for me. It was last year, to the MSc Biomedical Science cohort. One of the students asked me afterwards, Why did you decide to do a PhD? and what are your plans after the program?

These questions got me thinking about different things at the same time. Although I have always had a concrete plan about my life goals since I was 20, it took the preaching of a lecturer to convince me PhD was worth my time when I was at their stage as I’ve never seen myself going down the Professor route (but hey! never say never).

So when I was asked these questions, I was filled with some doubts about the whole process and I had to break my reverie to remind myself the reason(s) why I decided to plough this spiked road. These reasons are myriad that I can’t put them in words here.

However, if your aim of wanting a PhD is for family pride/honour, societal respect and gratification, and status symbol, I am here to tell you that it isn’t worth it. I must admit that in the “third world” like Africa, a PhD degree can propel you to greater heights and open doors for you especially if your aim is to be a powerhouse in politics or your chosen field. However, I believe that you can achieve great things without it.

This is not me trying to discourage anyone from getting a doctorate but letting you know that it will test you in different ways. For example, I am (naturally) an impatient person. I dream about things, plan them and hope everything goes according to any of the plans I’ve set in motion. However, things rarely go according to plan in the lab and life in general, and this can lead to frustration and depression.

As a result, this journey is not necessarily about intelligence nor hard work but patience, persistence and flexibility. It teaches you that patience is a virtue and impatience is not a vice but can be harnessed in the right way.

PhD equips you with a lot of transferable skills that can help you in any sector you decide to go into. A colleague once said, “the good thing about science is that a scientist can work in any field.” I am getting to that stage where I have to repeatedly ask myself what I want to do next – politics, business, academia, industry, research?

Whatever I decide to do next, this phd journey has tremendously helped me to learn, re-learn and unlearn a lot of things about myself and life in general. Prior to now, I liked to tell people negative stories about myself than positive stories and this was for a reason. Sometimes, I even act dumb and naive.

The reason why I do these things is because being a naturally observant person, I found out at a young age that we are all narcissistic to some extent. People feel better when they think they are better than you so I found it easier to read and understand them this way. However, doing this phd exposed me to a lot of experiences that made me realise this was more detrimental to my mental health and sense of self.

Our minds are our gateway to success, happiness and sense of accomplishment. The way you see yourself regardless of external opinions, perceptions about problems or undesirable circumstances and reactions to things beyond your control have an ample effect on our end products.

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Life is All About Relationships


Last year was a huge lesson for me both personally and professionally. In my bid to create a better future for my unborn kids, I had to make a lot of round trips to different cities. Luckily, I was never lonely even for a day despite all these trips. I always had a friend whose family was willing to take me in and make me feel right at home. I also had to make phone calls to people in different time zones to get things done for me and they all delivered.

Then it hit me, life is all about relationships. Infact, relationship is the only important thing in life. Normally, whenever relationship is mentioned, many think about the partnership between two lovers but relationships is larger than that. It encompasses your relationship with your God (if you believe in any), lover/s (I heard some are inclined to polygamy so I had to factor that in), family, friends, customers, readership, co-workers, teachers etc. 

Think about it, would you go into business with someone you don’t have a relationship with? Would you refer someone for a job if you haven’t built a relationship with the said person to vouch for his or her capabilities? 

Naturally, human beings are tribal; we try to form a tribe with the people we like and are comfortable with. This is because biologically and psychologically, from childhood, we depend on others from survival and growth. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, our brains are wired to connect whenever we engage with others. 

As a result, relationships are an essential source of learning. Everyone has something to teach you; everyone has a lot to learn from you as well. It is through relationships that we get to understand our true self. Through series of interactions, ideas and connections, we develop into who we really are. 

The quality of our relationships has a great influence on our perception of the world – bursting with curiosity, openness to new experience and ability to see the inter-relatedness of things around us. Without others pushing us to the limit or providing assistance in one way or another, our creative muscle atrophy and we lose our critical thinking hats.

Therefore, it is safe to say that a lot depends on how we handle our relationships with others. It determines how far we’d go in life. Nearly everything in life is made possible because of someone else, from the tools to the skills that make them useful.  

The connections we form with others create options and opportunities that are hard to come by. If you take a trip down memory lane, you’d notice that some of the best opportunities you’ve had in life were somewhat created by those you had formed a relationship with. 

No wonder Keith Ferrazzi described success in his book, Never Eat Alone, as the sum of the people you meet and what you create together. Ferrazzi believes success has nothing to do with class but about access, which some gain through birth or money. 

I couldn’t agree more. Every career you can think of is about managing relationships. How well we manage these relationships determine how far we would go. A reference is only as good as the referee’s word and is dependent on the relationship between the refereee and the ‘refered’. We project and deal with people we know and trust hence every business deal or transaction is a human enterprise. 

However to achieve this, one must be willing to give something in return. You can’t separate giving from a relationship. You can’t be a leech who has three daughters, all named “Give Me” and expect your relationships to be genuine. There must be some of form giving interms of time, attention, money, advice, a smile, a handshake or any other form of help. This way we make a lasting impact on others. 

When you are consistently reliable, offer some reflective feedbacks, have an interesting conversations with others, genuinely help others or connect them with ideas or people that can help them achieve their goals, you are making a huge deposit into your social account. This is because people tend to help those who help them.

 In the long run, social capital is the most valuable currency. It is worth more than money, education and/or credentials. Have you ever seen anyone who’s faced with death that thinks about money, success, career achievement or titles? 

Make deposits into your social account everyday by building, maintaining and valuing the relationships you have with your God (if you believe in any), family, friends and others because at the end of the day, that’s all you have.

P.S. I am sincerely grateful for all the reliable people in my life and also hope that they find me reliable.