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

Noel Connors
You need to have real passion for it as it’s something you’re going to be immersed in for quite some time

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.