Navigating through the challenges of a PhD


The Art of Managing Your PhD sharing session provides APU postgraduate students and staff with a deeper knowledge and a road map to success. 

Among those who participated in ‘The Art of Managing Your PhD’ sharing session organised by Driving Girls in Technology, Growth, and Leadership (DIGITGAL). 

Getting a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a “Marathon, not a sprint,” according to Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a well-known American neuroanatomist, author, and public speaker. “It takes time, effort, and dedication to complete,” she adds.

A PhD is a challenging yet rewarding journey. To manage the storm of this highest level of study, it takes devotion, hard effort, and a strong support system.

This is due to the perception that pursuing a PhD is a tough and time-consuming endeavour. Doctoral candidates will undoubtedly face various hurdles such as financial, social, and health issues which they cannot afford if it continues for a long duration of time.

However, according to Dr. Hafinaz Hasniyanti Hassan, Senior Lecturer and Academic Leader, Banking and Finance, School of Accounting and Finance (SoAF), Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU), every work has its own norms, and a determined individual will pass with flying colours if they set a clear goal, organise themselves, manage their time properly, are persistent, and resilient.

Dr. Hafinaz is a Certified Retail Credit Practitioner, an Associate Member of the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers (AICB), and an experienced External Examiner for the Malaysian Association of Company Secretaries (MACS) Financial Management professional papers.

During the sharing session on ‘The Art of Managing Your PhD’ held at the APU Centre for Psychology and Well-Being, Dr. Hafinaz shared her hard-won wisdom with more than 30 postgraduate students and staff, guiding them through the challenges of a PhD journey and sharing her strategies for completing her PhD while juggling multiple roles, inspiring the students and staff to persevere in their own journeys.

Driving Girls in Technology, Growth, and Leadership (DIGITGAL) organised the sharing session, with Prof. Dr. Abtar Darshan Singh serving as advisor and Ms. Meera Eeswaran as the leader.

Studies at the PhD level are very challenging, and it is hoped that some of the explanations given by Dr. Hafinaz can inspire APU postgraduate students and staff not to give up.

Her own stories and insights as an academic leader, senior lecturer, and mother of two wonderful boys provided students and staff with a new perspective on the PhD journey, allowing them to see it as an endeavour that can be accomplished.

“Postgraduate students should establish the big ‘WHY’ and always remember that motivation will help develop confidence to deal with the unexpected. 

“Recognise your unique abilities and capacities. Maintaining healthy relationships with yourself, God, family, and friends is essential. Take charge of your health. Reduce your mental load by doing one thing at a time and simplifying your thesis, it should not be overcomplicated!

“Be flexible in how you manage your tasks. Communicate with others in your industry. Examine other theses in related topics. Write down any ideas you have. Join a study group. Keep continuous progress while keeping an eye for deadlines. There will be obstacles along the way. Stay motivated and have fun,” she said during the sharing session.

The majority of participants believed that this sharing session should be continued as an inspiration and motivator for future postgraduate students.

Radzhabov Bakhodir, a Master of Finance student, stated that attending this sharing session provides him with helpful information on how to make his project easier.

“I got a lot of good advice, and it was nice to listen and get experience from those who went through it,” he said.

Ahmed Magdy Ahmed Abozeid, a PhD candidate in Management, said he enjoyed the sharing session because the speaker (Dr. Hafinaz) was humble, friendly, and straightforward, which made it easier for him and other participants to understand her points of view.

“I had a great time at the sharing session. It provided value to my preparation while also meeting my expectations. I learned to always believe you are going to make it the right way,” he added.

If you are considering pursuing a PhD, it is important to remember that it is a long and challenging journey. However, it is also an incredibly rewarding experience that can lead to a successful career in academia or research.