Portrait photograph of: Irina Mikhailava

Irina Mikhailava

Country Of Origin: Belarus

Degree: PhD Management Learning and Leadership, 2012

Assistant Professor, VU University Amsterdam

My decision to enrol on a PhD programme was driven by my interest in learning. As I had studied neither psychology nor management before, it was a new-found passion that I discovered during my Masters at the University of Manchester and decided to pursue further.

Amongst many schools, the Department of Management Learning and Leadership (DMLL, now called the Department of Leadership and Management) stood out for its focus and reputation in the field. My work looked at organisational practices of absorbing and assimilating external knowledge, and DMLL provided plenty of experts with whom to brainstorm and discuss. I was particularly lucky to be supervised by Professor Mark Easterby-Smith whose support and encouragement reached beyond professional guidance.

My colleagues in teaching (and I literally worked with almost everybody in DMLL) were supportive, attentive and helpful throughout my work with students. It is only with their help that I gained professional presence and confidence, and reconfirmed my desire to develop people and organisations.

Apart from its academic and scholarly merit, the School also won me over emotionally. It felt like a community, a ‘city within the city’ of like-minded people, and it felt like home. The level of inspiration and encouragement that was offered by friends and peers more than made up for the occasional frustration of writing a PhD. The sense that you are not alone during this rather lonesome experience gave me reassurance and helped build my internal strength to complete the project. It also allowed me to foster life-long friendships that I cherish as much as my final award.

Lancaster is a place that I always want to come back to, and to some extent, I envy those people who are still at the inception of their Lancaster journey.