Updated: Mar 22, 2021
It's a huge honor to have you on board. You're such an inspiring figure.
Thank you. I'm glad to be here too.
Let's get right to it. So, why grad school? Was it something you saw yourself doing as an undergraduate?
Honestly, I never planned on going for graduate studies. After completing my first degree, I got a graduate assistant job with the university where I studied. So, I decided to stay in academia because I needed my Masters' and Ph.D. to elevate myself. My career was what prompted me. If I didn't get the job, I wouldn't be here. I also decided that I didn't want to be an ordinary scientist. I wanted to be an international scientist and knew I needed a platform to expose me to global opportunities. So, here I am.
That's awesome. Would you say that graduate school has helped you in getting to this stage in your career?
Even at this stage, I still feel overwhelmed. I still wonder, "have I taken the right step or made the right decision?" You'll still face the imposter syndrome, but you have to overcome it, right? I believe the most important thing is to keep moving. When I compare where I was years ago to where I am now, I see that I have grown.
I remember when I got Canada; I had to unlearn and relearn everything. As a Ph.D. candidate, I was just learning about the techniques that undergrad students already knew. It was unpleasant. I had to swallow my pride and ask undergrad and Masters' students to teach me some of the skills I needed to thrive here. One other challenge I had then was creating a balance between motherhood and study. That's a challenge that many women face when they're moving up the ladder in academia. But I didn't relax. I multitasked and managed both motherhood and study the best way I could.
I appreciate your honesty. Many times, when successful women share their stories, they gloss over the gritty parts. Speaking of which, have you ever felt like an imposter? And how did you get over this feeling?
It comes and goes, especially for professionals in science. I want people to know that a failed result is a result. Don't believe that you got the outcome because you made a mistake or because your technique is terrible. I have a great supervisor who reminds me of this. People who win Nobel prizes and other awards leverage failed results. They know the approaches to ignore and those to choose because others have worked with those techniques. Don't feel pressured to overachieve or do too much. Take one step at a time. I come on social media to cool off whenever I feel overwhelmed or have a failed result. It can be frustrating spending hours in the lab and leaving your kids, only to have a failed result.
Do you think having a supportive spouse has helped you?
It has. I won't lie to you. Juggling motherhood and doctoral study is hard. That doesn't mean you can't thrive in your career. It's all about having a conversation with your spouse on how to manage the situation. I have been lucky in that regard. My husband has supported me every step of the way. He helps out with the chores and babysitting the children. I honestly don't know what I would have done if he was different. This is why you must agree with your spouse on the process of actualizing your goals and vision. It makes things easier. I have time to focus on my research because I must finish my work on the vaccine I'm developing. It is the first of its kind in the aquamarine industry. Many researchers have tried to create a vaccine that combats this disease, and they have failed. But I'm using a different approach that worked for another type of vaccine. So, I'm staying optimistic about my final results. If it works, it's going to be a huge one for me.
Yasss. We're rooting for your success!
Thank you. I appreciate that.
Being in a male-dominated field, have you ever felt the need to prove yourself or work twice as hard as the men in your area?
I am facing so many battles right now that I can't even start thinking of how being in a male-dominated field affects me. I'm facing the struggle of being a black woman in Canada and being an immigrant from a developing country. I have to deal with raising my kids with no support from a relative or a babysitter. So, I keep my eyes on the prize. By the way, there are numerous opportunities for women in Canada right now. Western countries want to close the gender gap. So, there are various scholarships and opportunities that people can utilize to elevate themselves. It breaks my heart when I see how many opportunities people from developing countries are not taking advantage of
Was that why you founded Study with Mrs O?
Yes. I used to help people review their statements of purpose and scholarship essays for free. At a point, the requests became too many, and I had to set up a platform where people could get their essays reviewed if they couldn't wait for me to polish them.
So, it's just like GetIn, but you have yours as a side job
Yes, it's just like GetIn. I know you guys do a fantastic job reviewing application essays and helping people access opportunities that can take them to the next level.
Yes, we have a Bootcamp where we educate people on preparing their application essays and getting global opportunities.
These opportunities have the potential to change people's lives. It is not easy to have an awareness of these opportunities and keep them to yourself. You know the impact they have, and you'd want to help drive change in your community or country. There are unlimited resources on opportunities and how to access them. If you want to know more about accessing global opportunities, you can reach out to GetIn.
This conversation has been fantastic. I wish you the best in your Ph.D. journey, and I hope we can chat again soon.