From her studies, Dr Martha Mushunje has learnt valuable lessons on the importance of perseverance and dedication in all spheres of life. “Our backgrounds do not shape our destiny; through perseverance and dedication you can achieve anything,” she reckons. Along with 15 other candidates, she was awarded her PhD during the virtual graduation ceremony on 15 April. Read more about her career, the fulfilment of her current job and future plans below…
Q: What was the topic of your PhD thesis and why did you select it?
The topic for my PhD study was Customer perceptions of Community Information Centres in Zimbabwe
. The topic came as a result of enjoyment of the subject matter. My passion for Community Information Centres (CICs) and their contribution to society stemmed from my master’s research. One of my findings from the master’s research indicated that rural communities in Africa mostly access Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) through shared communal facilities; in this case CICs. Most African governments have tried to bridge the digital divide by establishing CICs in rural areas. One missing link in the establishment of such centres has been issues around the quality of service offered in such centres. This led to my research into assessing the quality of services offered in these centres in Zimbabwe.
Q: In your opinion, to what extent does a PhD ensure/boost business/career success?
A: A PhD qualification has different merits in different sectors, and as for me, whose career is in academia, possessing a PhD is essential to sharpen my research skills. It is also one of the requirements to teach in Higher Education. The debates and critical thinking skills that we are exposed to at the higher level, can furthermore be transferred to other sectors besides higher education. As one qualifies for a PhD, a lot of transferrable skills are gained such as finding relevant information, working independently, and communicating and managing time effectively. Moreover, the higher qualification can help build on current abilities or even a transition to an entirely new field. It can also contribute to positive change in society by making a theoretical and practical contribution.
It gives one some confidence when teaching at university level. The students also develop confidence in you by the mere recognition that you are a PhD-holder. I now have the capacity to also supervise postgraduate students up to PhD level.
Q: Are you happy with the way your career has evolved?
A: Yes, I enjoy the academic environment with its intellectual stimulation. Attending seminars, workshops, colloquiums and conferences has exposed me to the different debates pertaining to Higher Education. This has broadened my understanding of the Higher Education context and its different stakeholders. I have also gained new knowledge from experts in the field and continue to gain new knowledge in my field of work.
Q: What are the most compelling/rewarding aspects of your current job?
A: The most compelling aspects of my job are the opportunity to grow and the support I get from my supervisors and peers. Professional development is encouraged, and I am able to achieve measurable results. Working in teams, I feel valued being part of the team. There is a lot of in-house or outside training offered to me, as well as a lot of learning from my colleagues and supervisors. I have had the privilege of having supportive management in my PhD. My current job entails frequent collaboration with different stakeholders within the institution and this has helped me to appreciate my colleagues as work done collaboratively is usually of a higher quality.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: The PhD “journey” has broadened my research, transferable and soft skills and boosted my confidence, which all contribute to my success in academia. The research methodology module helped to sharpen my research skills.
Q: What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt from your studies/lecturers at the University of Pretoria?
A: From my studies, I have learnt valuable lessons on the importance of perseverance and dedication in all spheres of life. Our backgrounds do not shape our destiny but through perseverance and dedication, you can achieve your dreams. I learnt to appreciate the power of peer learning as my peers became my support systems throughout the PhD “journey”.
From my lecturers I have learnt humility, motivation and constructive feedback. Humility in their interactions with their students made me, as a student, value them as role-models. The magnet in motivation should never be underestimated: I received motivations from my supervisor and this made the journey less strenuous and easier to climb the ladder. Constructive feedback from my supervisor made it easier to probe and start conversations as I was working on the manuscript. I have also been introduced into a culture of working hard by supervisors who pushed me to meet deadlines.
Q: What is your “golden guideline” in life, in other words what keeps you on track?
A: A quote, namely that “dreams help us to climb mountains”. One should never stop dreaming, as the absence of dreams can rob you of envisioning a better life.
Q: Going forward, what are your career and personal goals?
A: I envision climbing the ladder in academia and to be able to employ all the skills acquired to the benefit of my students and my community.
Q: How is the SA economy, and business in general, likely to be reshaped post COVID-19?
A: Technology use will predominately “engulf” the post COVID-19 environment and business. Health and safety at work places are going to take centre stage and will be costly to industry. This, in turn, will lead to higher prices of goods and services. The SA economy will most likely reduce its dependence on products from abroad and try to be self-sufficient in terms of a number of goods and services. Online buying and selling will likewise take centre stage. Companies are likely to adopt the 4IR technologies fast and this is likely to reduce the number of jobs for the less skilled workers. In the medium term, the whole world will go into recession. Foreign direct investment will dry up. Humanitarian support that SA gets from developed countries will also drop. This will negatively impact the demand for goods and services from SA businesses. Sadly, as a result, many people may be retrenched.