University of Bradford and School of Management staff and ethos helped me achieve my full potential

By | June 7, 2016
Dr Saima Rifet, who was awarded best PhD dissertation by the Academy of Management

Award-winning thesis – Dr Saima Rifet, who teaches Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour at the University of Bradford School of Management

Having completed my Psychology BSc Honours at the University of Bradford in 2009 I still could not decide on my future career. I knew the employment market was competitive and I was not sure I had the patience to apply for jobs, due to the fear of rejection – after all I was not the best of students until this point. I had average grades and graduated with an average degree classification so I felt I did not stand a chance compared to my peers. At the end of the summer holidays my brother asked me whether I had applied for any ‘real’ jobs (the job I had was no longer good enough because I had a degree now!).

The conversation with my brother was a wake-up call for me because I had not even given it any thought before. Following a summer of fun, it was now time to get my act together and decide on my career. I always enjoyed maths and really did not want to spend my life listening to the problems of others (or so I thought!) so I decided psychology was a great field but not for me as a profession. My passion for maths led me to explore accounting degrees offered by business schools across the country (I hadn’t had enough of education just yet). I found that the MSc at the University of Bradford School of Management was highly ranked across Europe so I decided that this was a golden opportunity to get myself a quality education in a field of my interest, and also increase my chances to secure my future career.

I applied for the Msc in Finance, Accounting and Management – a generic management degree that gave me exposure to some of the amazing academics at Bradford School of Management such as Prof Nelarine Cornelius and Prof Nancy Harding. The MSc at the Faculty of Management changed my life – I enjoyed learning! It was a steep learning curve but I came out with an exceptional grade and learnt that I have a huge passion for research. It was thanks to the amazing staff at the Faculty that made learning so very enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the way Nancy taught me and asked her to supervise my MSc thesis. She agreed but on the basis that we had to collaborate mostly online because she was due to be in Africa during that period. It worked perfectly. Nancy’s noteworthy commitment to her students is commendable – even when she was away for research with very limited internet access she still managed to be a great support! At the same time as studying for my MSc I worked 22 hours a week to fund my studies.

I was no longer worried about getting a job or following a career – it felt liberating to graduate with a fantastic degree from an outstanding university, and with a fabulous grade. I felt the world was now my oyster. I continued with my part-time job and decided to follow another opportunity at the Faculty – a short PGCert in Employability and Entrepreneurship. My interviewer (and module leader) was confused why I would want to join a course that is not at a higher level than my past academic achievement. I explained to her that it may not be recognised as ‘better’ than my MSc, but that is not what I was seeking – I was exploring my career options and what better than a course that considers both entrepreneurship AND employability!

My MSc had helped me significantly increase my confidence, skills, knowledge base, and appreciate my own abilities. It taught me how to network and exposed me to various networking opportunities so by the time I studied the PGCert I was actively seeking opportunities. I quickly secured a placement at the University to carry out some research. I made connections with senior staff and moved on to carry out mini freelance research projects with academics in the university and with external international businesses based in Bradford.

In the summer following completion of my Master’s dissertation Nancy contacted me to follow up on a previous discussion about doing a PhD. She informed me of a scholarship that I can apply for. I applied and met another amazing academic, Prof Jackie Ford. Soon after Jackie and Nancy were my supervisors on my PhD. Although I was extremely passionate, I had so much to learn – focus being my biggest weakness! Jackie’s patience helped give me the motivation I needed to keep trying in the first couple of years. Nancy and Jackie guided my early development towards my academic career, and have been my role models ever since.

The scholarship meant that I now didn’t need to to-and-fro between work and university, but instead I was able to take up teaching opportunities at the university. I started teaching as early as my first year and, significantly, enjoyed every moment of it. From the second year of my PhD onwards Nancy had 90% responsibility of supervising me. Focus was still an issue for me but her support and guidance led me to a place in my mind that I could never have imagined previously. She kept me grounded while helping me explore ideas that I was passionate about.  My interest for research rocketed during my PhD as did my passion and enthusiasm for teaching. With remarkable colleagues such as Nelarine, Dr Hugh Lee, Prof David Spicer, Dr Sue Richardson, Dr Robert Finnigan, Margaret Alipoor, I had the best support I could have asked for towards my teaching career.

Having completed my PhD in 2015, I quickly secured a fellowship at the University of Bradford Faculty of Health Studies, but I was aiming to return back to the Faculty of Management and Law as a member of staff. My application for Human Resource Management Lecturer was accepted in March 2016 and I arranged a start date for May 2016, following a period of annual leave. Just before I was due to leave for my holiday Nancy informed me of an award she said I should apply for. With the deadline coming up, I quickly wrote a summary of my thesis and applied. Following my return to the Faculty of Management and Law as a full-time lecturer in the HRM/OB group (the group where all the amazing academics mentioned above are pursuing their careers) my luck continued to thrive: Head of Group, Dr Jannine Williams is the most considerate line manager I have ever had; Prof Ann Cunliffe,  organiser of the biennial Qualitative Research in Management and Organization conference in New Mexico, which blew my mind when I attended in February this year, as my research mentor; and Dr Simon Kelly, known for his fantastic work-life balance skills and ability to manage both teaching and research so exceptionally well, as my mentor.

My first experience as a full-time lecturer was marking with Dr Andrew Smith, who taught me so much in the space of two weeks – much more than I had learnt in my previous four years of marking. He was patient with me even during his busy teaching schedule and gave me detailed feedback to support my learning. So already I knew I had made the perfect choice to return – they an amazing group of people to work with, what else can I ask for?

Three weeks into my new role I received a very casual email informing me that I had won the ‘Best Dissertation Award of the Critical Management Studies Division for 2016’. Words are not sufficient to describe the shock that I felt – a numb feeling of not knowing how to react. My instant reaction was to inform Nancy, who I feel deserves much more credit than me for supporting me during all the ups and downs that life brings in the midst of a PhD journey. I cannot thank Nancy enough – she is by far the best thing that happened to my academic career, followed closely by my amazing colleagues that played a significant role in guiding and supporting my development.

I was a nervous student with little future prospects and now I’m going to collect an award from the Academy of Management – I may not have known where I wanted to be half a decade ago, but I had never imagined I would feel like the luckiest early career academic alive. All thanks to my colleagues at the Faculty of Management and Law.

There are others that I have not mentioned here, but deserve credit for supporting me in the big and small ways, so thank you Prof Carole Howarth, Jackie Franklin, Glyn Tindale, Ellie Clement, Dr Roger Beach, Tricia Steele, Jan Sheahan, Tracy Hayes, Dr Martin Sedgley, Fatima Malik, Matt Hayes, Dr Anna Zueva-Owens, Helen Preece, Dr Caroline Parkinson, Gulrez Akhtar, Lorraine Lucas, Dr James Wallace, Elaine Dean, Dr Zahid Hussain, Owen Whitehouse, Joanne Christie, Lisa Bartlett, Sarah Waterhouse, Ian Fouweather, and Keith Hanning.

The pleasure of working with you is all mine!

About Saima Rifet

Dr Saima Rifet is a lecturer in Human Resource Management/Organisational Behaviour at the University of Bradford School of Management She is a member of the Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour group

One thought on “University of Bradford and School of Management staff and ethos helped me achieve my full potential

  1. M Akram Khan-Cheema OBE

    Wonderful success story for you and a great boost for Bradford. Congratulations and well done. You are a worthy role model for future generations of Bradford I answered masha’Allah.
    My own brief encounter with the Bradford Management Centre was enormously beneficial years ago.
    I would love to make an appointment to meet with you if you can spare the time.

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