My postgraduate study: Noel Connors (PhD, Waterford Institute of Technology)

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EducationBachelor of Business Studies (WIT 2012), Masters of Business Studies in Management (WIT 2013)
Current PhD, Waterford Institute of Technology; Self-identified Leaders and their Autodidact Practices (expected 2017)

Give us some background on your third
level education and what you sought
to achieve by pursuing postgraduate
study?

Like many other students, there was
quite a bit of anxiety and uncertainty
when I started my undergraduate
studies in 2008. We could see the
beginning of the financial crisis and the
effects it was having on businesses and
communities, it was a very challenging
time. Since I wasn’t sure exactly what
aspect of business I wanted to become
involved in, I wanted to take a broad
approach to my education, seeking to
gain a holistic insight into all aspects of
business. It helped take the edge off my
indecisiveness! As a consequence of my
broad interest, I became particularly
interested in concepts of management,
and from this the particular traits which
constitute leadership. It became a very
appealing area for me to pursue. When I
completed my undergraduate degree
and a subsequent Masters in business I
took some time out to travel in Southeast
Asia and Australia. This gave me
time to reflect on my next step, which
turned out to be a good move. I’m now
pursuing PhD research, combining two areas that I am very passionate about,
leadership and the gAA. The latter has
contributed significantly to my personal
development and I’m currently a proud
member of the Waterford Senior Hurling
panel. My research aims to understand
how leadership operates within gAA
clubs; how people obtain positions of
leadership and power and how issues
are approached and dealt with, and how
we can further espouse the benefits of
becoming involved with the Association.

Why did you choose Waterford IT and
how does pursuing a PhD differ from
your other studies?

Of course, there is a considerable
difference between a PhD and either
an Undergraduate degree or a Masters.
As a doctoral student, the research is
essentially in your own hands.
Ultimately you are your own boss, at
times that can mean a lot of solitary
work and you can feel very isolated as
it’s very seldom that someone else
would be undertaking research similar
to your own. This can be compounded
by the dead ends that research can
sometimes lead you along. It’s also very
rewarding and stimulating, but I would
say that resilience and self-discipline
are hugely important; in that regard
my sporting background can be of
benefit. Currently I’m researching from
8am to 6pm and focusing on the team
and training after that.

What advice would you have for
potential PhD students?

The topic is obviously key, you need to
have real passion for it as it’s
something you’re going to be
immersed in for quite some time.
Secondly, your relationship with your
supervisor is vital; he or she is your
main support mechanism who you will
frequently turn to in times of need. It’s
so important, as a PhD is a four year
process and I’m fortunate to have a
fantastic relationship with my
supervisor, Dr Ray Griffin.

What’s the plan for your next step
after the PhD?

Ideally it would be to obtain a post
within an institution that allows for
further teaching and research. It’s very
important for me to be practical in my
work, so I can assist the GAA in
developing and enhancing our games.

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