Part-time PhD brought David instant business impact and added client value

Dr David Oludotun Fasanya completed a part-time PhD in Management (International Business) with LUMS in 2018 while running his own consulting and advisory business, The Junglepreneur Group.

His research into foreign direct investment (FDI) and business internationalisation in Sub-Saharan Africa complemented his work with companies within and beyond the region, on business transformation projects relating to finance, HR and IT.

David explains how his PhD studies fitted in with his business commitments and brought new skills, knowledge and value to his clients right from the start.

What were your work circumstances when you began your studies, and why did you decide to do a part-time PhD?

I am an independent business consultant, and some of my work involves international business in practice, with clients having bases in different countries. I was already doing the practice, and I wanted to do my PhD to find the meeting points between theory and practice.

How did you find the right balance between business and study?

Even though my work and studies were in the same area, they were quite different, so finding the fit between full-time work consulting for my clients and part-time studies was a delicate balancing act.

It is very important to pace yourself and not try to do too much at once. It’s all about doing a little at a time, but often. I dedicated a minimum number of hours for studies each week. I usually tried to wake up earlier and stay up later and study then. I also maximised weekends, while leaving room for family and social life – I had the support of family and friends, and that was really important.

I took short sabbaticals, two or three times during the year, to focus on my studies. My clients would know that I wasn’t available, and I often used these times to attend academic conferences and PhD writing clinics and retreats organised by LUMS. That helped me to get quite a lot of work done in a short period.

It’s important to work well with your supervisors and let them know what is going on in your life, so they can help you when you are going through those challenges. There will be highs and lows throughout the PhD and your supervisors are a great support system to help you through that.

It is also useful to engage with all the cross-knowledge and learning opportunities. For example, the North West Doctoral Training Centre (now the North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership) provided very good collaborative space for added academic feedback and networking in the early days of the PhD. It can be lonely doing a part-time PhD, so take these opportunities to meet other students and tutors, and form those collaborative relationships and friendships, because they can help you when you are working in isolation.

Were you able to apply your learning to your job while you were completing the PhD? How do you use those skills now?

The knowledge and skills I gained have proved tremendously helpful in building my business. My learning brings more research-driven and evidence-based outcomes to my consulting and advisory work – it brings a lot more value to what I do for my clients.

I have gained added credibility, professional respect, an expanded network and increased visibility, and these are all major benefits. Additionally, I am able to use the learning from the PhD to think and process information in greater depth, be more objective and apply critical thinking to a broader range of subjects. I have gained substantial writing skills, and when time permits, I still research and write papers. One such article was nominated for the R.D. Pearce Best Paper Prize, at the joint International Business Conference of Reading University and UNCTAD in 2019.

I have developed skills in stakeholder management, research, communication and presentation. However, the greatest learning is knowing more about myself, my abilities, skill-sets, the limits of my knowledge and capacity, and the necessity to find a great work-life balance.

How did your clients benefit?

My clients benefit from my ability to apply the overlaps of theory and practice to find pragmatic solutions to challenging business problems across multiple territories. Being able to comprehend and synthesise large volumes of information & data very quickly has also been beneficial for them. I have been able to do detailed analysis, apply high-level research skills, give them access to research knowledge and networks, and work well to tight schedules. This all adds value to their organisations, and I have received very encouraging feedback on the consulting and business transformation projects I have undertaken since my PhD.