The importance of time, and managing it, was one of the most important lessons Dr Likeleli Letsie learnt during her studies at the University of Pretoria. Along with 15 other candidates, she was awarded her doctorate (in Informatics) during the virtual graduation ceremony in April 2020. “UP strives for the best and this is visible in the way academics are treated. The incorporation of industry talks and lectures in classes helps to bring the outside world into the classroom,” she argues. Read more about her career, aspirations and thoughts on the economy post-COVID-19.
Q: What was the topic of your PhD thesis and why did you specifically select it?
Reason for selecting this topic: Being an academic, and with my academic background in Informatics, it was always my interest to find out how different generations in academia perceive and experience educational technology introduced and used in institutions.
Q: In your opinion, to what extent does a PhD ensure/boost business/career success?
A: A PhD on its own will not necessarily ensure or mean that one’s career progresses; I believe it also depends on several other factors such as location, field and sometimes work experience. I have seen people who have, for example, a PhD in mathematics and one would think that with mathematics one would automatically get a job or other opportunities, but you would be surprised that some of these people go several months without a job, probably because of their current location, and sometimes because of a lack of work experience.
However, I also believe that a PhD can open doors, make people listen to you and value your input, so this may advance one’s career and business prospects.
Hard work does not stop with you getting your PhD; I greatly believe that after getting your PhD, that’s when the real work starts, making associations, networking and therefore growing your prospects of making real-world impact.
Q: Are you happy with the way your career has evolved?
A: To a great extent yes; however, I still would like an opportunity to explore the corporate sector. I am currently in academia and I am confident and foresee growth opportunities in and outside of academia.
Q: What are the most compelling/rewarding aspects of your current job?
A: Teaching is greatly fulfilling. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing people learning a new concept, understanding it and seeing how that concept influences their lives. The ability to also take up project work through grants, gives one the chance to explore other issues and ideas in the field.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: Immensely. Because of UP’s status and ranking in the academic field in South Africa and the world, a lot of doors are opened by the mere nature of this institution. Knowledge wise, I have benefitted greatly, as being at UP has broadened my knowledge capacity, and I have gained a lot of confidence in my field knowing that I have acquired my education from one of the best universities in SA.
Q: What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt from your studies/lecturers at the University of Pretoria?
A: The importance of time and managing it. UP strives for the best and this is visible in the way learning is handled. The incorporation of industry talks and lectures in classes helps to bring the outside world into the classroom, which gives a student an idea of what to expect in the work environment.
Q: What is your “golden guideline” in life, in other words, what keeps you on track?
A: The fear of an idle mind makes it difficult for me to stop learning something new whenever I get the chance. This fear is very intense, and I really don’t know where it stems from. My golden guideline is therefore, keep on learning and keep on discovering new things that broaden your perspective of the world we live in. Such learning eventually sparks interest, which would benefit people in their personal lives, as well as in their careers.
Q: Going forward, what are your career and personal goals?
A: Career-wise I plan to advance in publishing more journal articles, which will improve my chances of promotion and growth within the academic space. I plan to engage in a lot of consulting, especially in terms of research. I envision a career change in the next five years, where I would want to move into the corporate sector or work for international or national bodies such as the United Nations or Southern African Development Community/Southern African Customs Union. I also want to start an ICT-related company, which will focus on training, software and application development, especially mobile app development and consulting.
Personally, I would like to enhance my hobbies and what I have always wanted to do but could not because of my studies. I want to start painting again, and I also want to take up sewing lessons. These activities could eventual grow into money-making activities once I have perfected them. I also want to do a lot of travelling, see the world and read lots of non-academic books.
Q: How is the SA economy, and business in general, likely to be reshaped post COVID-19?
A: I believe a lot is going to change. In terms of the economy, there will be a lot of companies that will go under and close shop because of the inactive economic activities experienced during the national lockdown. Companies will also have to embrace and incorporate ICT activities because the normal as we know it will be no more. I foresee people withdrawing from several physical contacts, so businesses that rely heavily on physical contact might have to reconsider many of their activities. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) aspects and concepts will simply have to be incorporated and fused into the business models and activities.
The 4IR is going to take up space, so people will need to re-think their career choices, re-skill and make drastic professional changes. Businesses, likewise, need to embrace the changes that will be brought about by this concept (4IR), and therefore a lot of planning needs to go into incorporating and embracing these changes.