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Helen Shiels

Career Path: Lecturer, Ulster University
Location: Derry City, UK

Many years ago I was accepted to undertake a full-time PhD programme. However two months before I was due to start I was successful in securing a full-time academic post. Having worked as an academic for a number of years, the idea of pursuing my Doctoral Studies never left me. However most Doctoral level qualifications take approximately five years to complete on a part-time basis. This DBA at Northumbria was really appealing as it offers a three year route to completion.

What are you doing now?Helen Shiels

I have continued as a full-time academic member of staff at Ulster University. However, my doctoral research continues to complement my career.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

The three-year doctoral programme on a part-time basis was the initial attraction. The reputation of Northumbria Business School is internationally recognised, which was also really important. The ease of commuting from Northern Ireland to Northumbria and the ability to study at a distance, using technology to maintain regular and invaluable contact with my supervisor, were crucial. However, in the first "teaching block", I made four lifelong friends, who had embarked on the same programme as me.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

The doctoral programme differs from more traditional undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, in its structure and delivery. However, the two-taught teaching block offer a mixture of lectures, tutorials and presentations. Throughout my time at Northumbria, I was exceptionally well supported by my supervisor, Professor Diane Sloan. There was a great deal of mutual understanding and respect to travel the doctoral journey together.

What was the best thing about your course?

Completion! There was an extensive amount of personal satisfaction and pride in challenging myself to complete my doctoral studies, especially against the backdrop of significant personal difficulties.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

This doctoral qualification offers me more credibility.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Research skills which can be deployed into my working practices. Ability to appreciate the difficulties and uncertainties with research, especially for my students, a range of analytical skills and the need to look at aspects of work from many different angles.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

The lifelong friends which I made in the first week and how we carried each other through our doctoral studies.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

Go for it. Do not hesitate. Whilst I didn't attend regularly, the campus facilities are world class, the staff are really supportive and enthusiastic and their reputation is internationally recognised.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Plenty hard work!

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