Do you remember your first conference? This year, Oyinkansola Ige, a second year doctoral student at the Centre for Business, Organisations and Society, presented her first conference paper at the IABS conference in San Diego. Here she provides a very personal reflection on her experiences.
There is always that one event that alters your thinking (either positively or negatively), introduces newer perspectives to your path, and makes you commit to new decisions. For me, attending the IABS (International Association of Business and Society) conference was one such event. It wasn’t just my first international conference; it gave me the opportunity to see the world in a different way and was a source of positive reinforcement regarding my decision to pursue a doctorate.
It felt so surreal to me when I landed at San Diego airport, because it was my first time in America. It was a reminder to be grateful for the opportunity given to be a part of the conference, and to see the world as well. I remember looking out the windows while the cab drove me to my hotel. I was in awe of how beautiful San Diego was. I became more open from that point to travelling as much as I could, and as much as my budget could allow.
I was also struck by San Diego’s multiculturality - America really is a "melting pot", but in a good way. The world is such a large place, and there are diverse opportunities everywhere for everyone. It also made me reflect deeply on how I could carve a niche that would be of positive relevance to the world. Fortunately, it was one of the issues raised during the doctoral consortium: the issue of a theoretical contribution.
One of the major highlights of the trip was the opportunity to meet with other doctoral students from different parts of the world, via the writing camp and the doctoral consortium. One of the major takeaways for me, especially from the writing camp, was the importance of being intentional about writing: it is so easy to put it off for other activities that are important, but not as important as writing.
From the doctoral consortium, I learnt the importance of understanding the conversation within my research area/sphere. The meaning and importance of theoretical contributions became clearer to me, and the consortium gave me the opportunity to reflect deeply on my research and think of pathways through which I could add to the ongoing conversations in the CSR field.
I was struck by the presenter’s (Jared Harris) emphasis on importance of “ONE THING”. According to him, good research papers focus on ONE THING and it will be to my peril (or to the peril of any academic) to try to do too much within a research paper. Jared was also emphatic on the importance of joining and moving a conversation forward as opposed to attacking the conversation. I could relate to that because in the preliminary months of being a doctoral student, I thought that good practice within research meant being a critic. Now, I see that good practice involves critical thinking and constructive criticism- which focuses on how a conversation can be enhanced.
My supervisors had encouraged me to submit a proposal of our research to the conference, which I did (it got accepted!). On the day of the presentation, I was a bit nervous, but seeing supportive and familiar faces was a major booster. I told myself that this was something I have grown passionate about, and I had to ensure that I passed the “ONE THING” of my research across to the audience in a clear and succinct way. It went well, and I got positive feedback. It was encouraging to see older and more accomplished academics give constructive feedback within a warm and friendly environment.
I took with me a lot of memories:
- The mentor-mentee session: the IABS delegates attached newbies to mentors. Mine was Karen Paul. I had sent her a breakdown of my research before the conference, and we then had an in-depth discussion, where she suggested more creative ways to approach my research, and encouraged me to keep her posted on my doctoral journey. This conversation further reinforced my desire to be an academic who helps others become better.
- The arrival of the CBOS team: I had no idea of how much CBOS had become a family to me until the first day of the conference when I saw Andy, Sarah, Vivek and Annie. I could barely hide my excitement.
- Meeting Mette Morsing: I have ALWAYS admired her work on CSR communication and I had mentioned to my supervisor that I would like to meet her. Meeting her and discussing my research was one of the highlights of being in IABS. It felt like meeting a pen-pal after years of writing to each other, and I remain grateful for the opportunity.
- Getting to see the faces behind the authors of management research articles and lending my voice when I had the chance to. I was tempted to be self-conscious, but I knew that being self-conscious wouldn’t allow me to get the best from the conference.
I learnt a lot about community, conversations and networking. Management research is not just an academic career but consists of a community of people passionate about moving the world forward in a positive and progressive way. I realised that “the little things count”, and I should never discount any idea that comes to mind – irrespective of how “micro” it might seem. I got to understand that conversations are the building blocks of all that academics do, and that as an academic I must ensure that I’m a part of an ongoing conversation.
With regards networking, there is only so much one person can do; and there is SO MUCH that persons can do when they NETWORK. Being a doctoral student, I reasoned that my fellow peers today were tomorrow’s professors and collaborators - there is really no advantage in isolation, especially within academia.
I will keep trying new things and try to become more open to meeting new people and understanding their diverse perspectives. I have learnt to be courageous, and to seek opportunities that make me a better person. I have resolved to accept myself: but to welcome constructive criticism and ensure that I keep being a better version of myself every day.
Other images by Oyin Ige