The beauty of having multiple and interdisciplinary supervisors

I want to reflect a little on my supervision today. I’ve talked a little bit about some of my supervisors before, but I want to reflect on it from a little bit of a higher level today.

As part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics, I am required to have a supervisor in Computing Science (or more specifically, from Open Lab) and one supervisor from a different school in the university. Since I am in the ‘public education’ section of my cohort, this means I have a supervisor from the School of Education, Communication, and Language Sciences (ECLS). On top of this, I am very lucky to also have another supervisor from Northumbria University’s Department of Social Sciences, Criminology in particular.

It’s amazing to have three supervisors that are so different from a disciplinary perspective. They support me in all sorts of different ways, and although having people from all these different areas supervising me is sometimes challenging, the negatives of being pulled in all of these different directions are definitely outweighed by the positives.

The amount of time I spend with each of these supervisors varies greatly. I work at Open Lab, and sit a few desks away from my supervisor from there. I see him most days, and have a regularly scheduled supervision with him every two weeks (though this has only started happening over the last few months). My supervisions with the other two supervisors are much more sporadic. I meet my supervisor from ECLS somewhere between every month and every couple of months. I see my supervisor from Northumbria at a pretty strange schedule. She is on the board for one of the charities I am working with, and is herself a researcher working on sex work research, which makes me see her in all sorts of different situations: for example, I’ve had supervisions at the charity office after board meetings, I’ve had conversations with her on the phone and often met her for coffee or as part of other projects’ meetings; next week I will see her at the COST ProsPol conference in Copenhagen.

I think it has only been once that I’ve actually had all three supervisors at the same meeting. As far as I remember, this wasn’t as chaotic as I would have thought it to be. But having said that, I absolutely over-prepared for the meeting too. It was a few weeks before I went off on a one-month internship at National Ugly Mugs (NUM) roughly a year ago. I had a little booklet of my project proposal, a detailed research plan, and other bits of reflections and writing I had done for everyone to take home and have a look at. We talked, in very little detail, about my project and how great it will be to get stuck in it properly. It was a nice experience, but I don’t remember whether it was super useful to the research (which I guess means it wasn’t the best supervision I’ve ever had…). Having said that, I think it’d be nice to have another one of these super-supervisions in the near future.

These different styles of meeting patterns also cater to different needs I have as a PhD student, and the tone, structure, and outcomes of our meetings are also often very different. Each of my supervisor has a different supervision style, different areas of expertise, and different ways in which they support me. Having very different relationships with each of these supervisors also leads me to talking about different things with each of them, sometimes focusing more on the personal and emotional side of doing a PhD, other times focusing very directly on specific projects I’m working on, while at other times I’ll focus on my PhD dissertation more directly. It’s weird and it’s nice, but what I’ve learned is that it is incredibly important for me to get on with my supervisors on a methodological / ontological level, but also on a topical and theoretical, as well as personal level. Having said that, I think each of them has a very different way of looking at my PhD and the work I do as a whole. They have different relationships to Open Lab, my projects, my dissertation, and ultimately me.

I like this though, I like that I need to cater to different types of supervision. I feel like it makes me a more rounded student and person, and forces me to look at my work through different lenses. This often causes tensions, which can be frustrating at times, but overall makes me reflect more on the work I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

Yesterday, I had a supervision with my supervisor from ECLS and she pointed out that the way I work is a really strange mix of pragmatism and self-criticality. On one hand I really like organising my thoughts in layouts, I like having structure to my writing, and don’t really want to start writing until I have a well thought-through outline. For example, I’ve written multiple outlines for literature reviews and more recently my dissertation overall, but since I am still not entirely happy with it havnen’t really started writing on these things yet. I know I need to stop doing this and just start writing, but knowing I am going to reflect on everything I’m thinking now to change it again makes me not want to do that. Yesterday however, she gave me some good advice: just stick with it for now. Stick with what I’ve got. It makes sense and seems to be structurally sound. I need to somehow learn to marry my pragmatism and self-criticality. A way that I can get to writing the dissertation rather than just writing papers while still letting myself be self critical (there is no reason why I can’t write stuff and then later rip it up and restructure everything. In fact, I know that that is going to happen, but for it to actually be able to happen, I need to have something written first).

So here goes. My writing goals for the next few months: have the sections of my dissertation that I can have written written by the end of the summer. I want to write a CSCW paper for mid-april, at least one CHI paper for September, and another CSCW paper for November. At the same time, I have my Annual Progress Review at some point in June at which I need to present the panel with some writing I have done for my dissertation. This means, I want to have written a draft of my literature review, methodology chapter, and the chapters for the two case studies I should have (almost) finished by the summer. This gives me the chance to spend the next year on writing my analysis, discussion, and conclusions, which would put me in a pretty good place for finishing on time.

It really was only due to the different types of conversations I’ve had with all of my supervisors over the last month or so that I’ve figured out a potential way of looking at everything I’ve been doing. It’s taken me more than a year and a half to actually figure out what it is that I’m interested in looking at in detail from the work I’ve been doing, and it’s taken me many conversations with friends, colleagues, and supervisors to get to a point where I almost feel confident enough to start writing my dissertation.

What’s the point

Last week on Tuesday, during my supervision with one of my supervisors, he asked me: What’s the point? Why are you doing what you’re doing? At first, this seemed like an absolutely horrible question to ask. I chuckled, we both laughed, and then got quite serious. After a few seconds of me not saying anything, I responded with uuhhmmm what do you mean? To which he expanded a little on what he meant. He laughed again and said he didn’t mean the question to sound as horrible or mean as it did; that he just wanted to bring me to think about what I was doing, and why I was doing it – what it was that I was actually interested in.

To give you a little context on that, this came towards the end of a supervision in which I wanted to talk about the big picture of my PhD. I’m at a point where I want to figure out what I’m doing, where I want to start writing on my actual dissertation documents, and where I want the writing that I am doing to actually fit in with the final argument that I’m making. After going through the thought process I’ve been having over the last year or so (again) with him, we got to a point where nothing really made sense anymore.

I want to do too many things.

I also keep talking about social justice or justice without really going beyond the common sense arguments. Recently, I’ve read some Amartya Sen, I’ve read some Martha Nussbaum, and I’ve read some Nancy Fraser, but for some reason this doesn’t seem to enter my conversations with my supervisors yet. I haven’t really internalised any of these yet, and so haven’t found out how they fit in with my work on enough levels yet (yes, it makes sense with my basic argument of: I’m designing technologies and am looking at how they can/do/should support a move towards a more socially just world, but nothing really beyond that. And I still haven’t really started taking that thought apart yet either).

So what am I actually doing?!
What am I interested in beyond my application area of designing technologies?

In an attempt to answer the questions my supervisor was asking me, I began to drift to a slightly different space. I thought about what I’d written so far, and decided to talk about what I enjoyed there. I really liked writing the ECSCW paper (or well, it’s currently under review). This was a paper that I’ve re-worked too many times to count, have hated for a while, but for some reason keep coming back to. It’s trying to unpick the relationships we build with charities when designing technologies with them. It does this by providing a theoretical overview of HCI literature surrounding methodologies that are used in publications in this space before going into a pragmatic case study that is supported by vignettes of parts of the research experience that I captured in the form of handwritten notes. After the case study, I try to unpick what happened in the vignettes with the help of the methodological overview I used at the beginning. This was a hard paper to write, but looking back, I really enjoyed it!

Looking back at CHI2017, I also remembered that I enjoyed writing the methodological paper (that got rejected) a lot more than I did writing the other paper that was based more on the data I collected, outlining implications for design for technologies to design with sex work support services. While both of these papers are important for the work I am doing (and I’m glad I wrote them both), I did enjoy writing the methodological one more. It made more sense to me, and it felt like there was more of a reason for me to write it. After all, what’s the point of having yet another paper with implications for design? (I mean, I understand there are lots of reasons for this, and it’s actually an interesting paper, but I don’t think it’ll have a major impact on anything, really).

This brought me back to a thought I had a few months ago: why not write my dissertation in a similar style as these papers that I enjoyed writing?

Shocking! I know.

But really, why not? I’ve been getting too hung up on the digital technology and the design process recently, as I’m trying to synthesise everything into an actual website design for NUM with T and E. So the supervision last week was a welcome reminder to come back to reality, to come back to the complexity that is what I am trying to do (or at least I think is what I’m trying to do).

Talking to my supervisor last week was such a good thing to do. It made me re-think what I’ve been doing, and made me realise that that silly thought I had a few weeks (or was it months?) ago wasn’t actually that silly! Talking Rob through my idea was a bit strange. It was something that I’d kept to myself, that I didn’t even write down properly because I didn’t think it made too much sense, and thought it was an argument that was too pragmatic. But here goes. What if I write about the work that I’m doing; the actual practicalities of what I’m doing, to explore the ways in which the designing of digital technologies with and for sex work support services impacts different spaces: what role does it play in relation to the charity I’m working with? Since I’m working in an inherently political space and am all in favour for the re-politicisation of research, what role does my work play in the wider political context (ie the sex worker rights movement)? How does the way I write about the work affect HCI practice and methodology? And how does the work I do affect myself as a researcher and as a person?

All of these questions are really big, but they actually fit in with my social justice, feminist, participatory-style oriented methodology. They answer important questions that HCI (and actually service design research as well) have been asking for a while now. I guess I can use the same argument I used for my ECSCW paper: everyone keeps saying we should talk about these things, but nobody is actually doing the we need to talk about this bit. So it’s maybe going to be me!

So, maybe that’s the point.

Every now and again I get an urge to draw out my entire dissertation in a single flowchart. I know this wont necessarily make sense to everyone, but it sort of makes sense to me. I always tell myself I’m not a pragmatist, I’m not someone who goes through things in a necessarily very logical order, that I’m really chaotic and like to be spontaneous. At the same time however, I love making flowcharts about my dissertation. To be fair, they often come out of nonsensical notes on pieces of paper (or the floor). These notes often make sense as I’m writing them (and drawing different coloured lines between the different parts of the paper), but once I’ve covered the piece of paper, the connections often don’t even make sense to me anymore.

This time I tried something different. I wrote some notes on a piece of paper (that actually made sense in the order I wrote them, almost like a list), and after that started to draw out what I was doing with my research. I went back and looked at the reading and writing I had done thus far, and wrote down the two gaps in research that I’m trying to address: (1) the gap in research around digital service delivery for sex work support services; and (2) the gap in research around the intricacies and complexities of doing this kind of design research. That’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t have a research question that addresses this (but I guess my disliking of research questions calls for another post!), but I guess that’s what I’m trying to do!

A weird flow-diagram of a potential dissertation that made sense in my head when I drew it

After realising (again) that those were the two things I’m trying to do, I also added the things I’m interested in as outlined in the questions I posed above about who is affected by my research (though I left out the personal journey on the diagram I drew). The whole point of the dissertation wouldn’t be my argument if it didn’t go to a meta level it really didn’t need to go to: to explore the relationships between these different areas, and to explore the everchanging ecology that is built through the process of designing digital technologies with (sex work) support services. In this way, the application area (sex work) becomes less important in the end, as it is an example of a space that is particularly complex due to the many historical, legal, and cultural stigma and misrepresentation in society that is often associated with the space. It’s a space I want to keep working in, but I also understand that what I am learning about working with charities and the processes I am going through to develop technologies with them is a space that goes beyond this. Taking this thought further, it takes me back to what I was saying earlier about how I feel about the two papers I wrote for CHI2017: what’s the point of them? Is it to design more technologies or is it to attempt to understand the world we work in, affecting the ways in which we think about the work we do?

Researching Our Futures

Yesterday was the culmination of a lot of work on a little side project I’ve been a part of for the last few months: along with six other Humanities Arts and Social Science (HASS) PhD students and some members of staff from the HASS office and careers service, we organised a conference called Researching Our Futures. It was a day of listening to speakers from a really diverse set of workplaces about how they got where they are, why they did (or are working towards) a PhD and how it helps them in their current job. After a keynote speech from Prof. Pauline Dixon, we had two sets of parallel sessions in the morning covering loads of different fields. In each of these we had three or four people who recently obtained their PhDs or are working towards their PhDs while working in these sectors tell us about their stories; about how they got to where they are now and how they use their PhD in their everyday life.

Aren’t these conference bags pretty?!

The first set of parallel sessions:

  • Working in Non Academic Research & Consultancy
  • Working in Public and Voluntary sectors
  • Working in the Cultural & Heritage Sector
  • Creative Practice & the Freelancer

The second set of parallel sessions:

  • Working in Academia and Education – research and teaching roles
  • Working in Academia – professional support roles
  • Working with Words – Creative Writing, Translation, Writing for the Media
  • Working in Education sector

After lunch, we had two more speakers: Charlotte Mathieson talked about the importance of the digital, and Chris Humphrey tried to help us write cover letters for non-academic jobs.

It was a nice mix of things, and the verbal feedback I got from attendants just before they were leaving was usually positive. Perhaps one of the nicest things I heard (a few times, actually) was that the conference was what they were expecting – it was what we advertised, and they’re really glad that it was what they were expecting. So that’s good!

Working in the Public and Voluntary Sector Panel with Natalie Day, Alex Feis-Bryce, and Nikki Spalding

In the morning, I attended the Working in Public and Voluntary sectors panel, which was really interesting! It was amazing to hear such personal accounts of people; to hear a very different side to the story you usually hear at conferences. After his talk, I had a brief chat with Alex from National Ugly Mugs (who, I am working with as one of my PhD case studies) about a project we are currently planning, but I also told him how nice it was that he was there. I had known bits and pieces of his story from having talked to him about his PhD and work previously, but it was nice to see it shared in one piece, in front of an audience that seemed to be genuinely interested.

Similarly, I thought it was really nice to see Pauline as the Keynote. I was her student during my MA, and have been in contact with her every now and again since then in relation to teaching on some modules, as well as trying to organise some events as part of the International Development Society. So I’ve known her for some years and have read and heard about a lot of her work; I’ve heard her talk at the International Development Conference, have been in her classes, and have seen her TEDx talk. Again, I’d heard bits and pieces of her story from her and her colleagues through my continued engagement with the EG West Centre (pretty much only for teaching), but I never heard the story from start to finish.

Another thing that was great about the conference was the audience involvement. There were questions after every session. And the questions were interesting. They were thoughtful, thought provoking, and reflexive. Being in a room with this many PhD students was a strangely comforting experience. Throughout the day, we had a whiteboard and sticky-notes for delegates to answer three questions (at different points in the day): (1) I came here today, because… (2) Today, I have learned… and (3) What action will I take after today’s conference?

Whiteboard with sticky-note responses

I really like some of these responses, and see if you can spot my own (hint: I really like free coffee at conferences, which is why every event I organise has free tea and coffee. It’s a necessity), but one that stuck with me is the one in the image below. It reads: Do what you want to be. Do it among other doers. Present it to multiple audiences in multiple languages. I’m not sure which panel session or speaker this advice came from for the person who wrote the note, but I feel like this is a nice way of summing up the practical advice we got throughout the day! Yes, we talked a lot about skilllike resilience, project planning, or people management that we learn while doing our PhD, but I really like the simplicity of this advice. I like how true it rings to what I’m doing, and how I’ve started doing this kind of thing with my feminism.

Sticky-note response to ‘what did you learn today’

Yesterday was a fun day. It was tiring, but it was more fun, informative, and interesting than I thought it would be (and I helped organise the thing!) So, here’s to us for organising such a lovely event. Go team, and keep pushing the door, even if it’s just a little.

Part of the organising committee of Researching Our Futures

And an extra special thank you to Michael for designing the awesome t-shirt and bag design, as well as the overall branding for the conference (I also really like this picture of myself, which is rare, so here’s for some body positivity!)

We’ve done a good job, time for wine!

Take time to explore, time to let your writing breathe

I love doing my PhD. I also love doing things that are specifically not my PhD.

I know it’s often written about that you need to find a balance as a PhD student as to not to tire yourself out, but for each one of those blog posts there are at least three that talk about the stressed out PhD student, and at least five that talk about how to not to become one of those stressed out PhD students. What annoys me about so many of those stressed PhD student blog posts and articles is the romanticisation of being busy. And not just being busy, but of constantly doing, thinking about, and writing your PhD; or even worse: feeling guilty about not writing or working on your PhD. Even the posts that try to tell you not to be so stressed about stuff, kind of in a way seem to romanticise the idea that when you’re doing your PhD that’s all you should be doing, all you should be thinking about.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve been reading articles around how to write a literature review, have been trying to figure out how to turn papers into chapters, and I’ve generally been feeling the pressure a bit more than I did a few weeks and months ago. A couple of weeks ago, I had another one of those moments where I tried to figure out how everything I’ve done over the last year and a half and that I’m going to do over the next year and a half will fit together, so I sat down with my coloured pens and flipchart paper and started sketching out some ideas. This time it was different though. I had more of an idea of what I wanted to do. So I sat down, or well, stood next to an empty desk and started doodling, sketching, writing until it all made sense. After that, I sat down at my desk with my laptop and started drawing up potential outlines for chapters putting in how the paper(s) I’ve written can fit into that. It made clear what else I still had to write up, and how that could fit in with what I’d already written. Since then, I’ve been meaning to start writing on my dissertation, but I just can’t figure out how to start. I know the best way is to just start, but it’s hard. And papers are so much easier. They’re shorter, they have a shorter and more precise argument to make, and perhaps most importantly have a closer deadline.

But why am I writing about this little anecdote when I want to talk about the romanticisation of the busy PhD student? Well, it still doesn’t really make sense to me. I’ve been doing this for a year and a half now, and before that was a really busy MRes student, so arguably have been directly working towards my PhD for two and a half years. In all of that time I learnt how to deal with stressful situations, how to deal with publication deadlines, and how to engage in (at least most of ) the bureaucracy and admin work you have to do as a doctoral student at a university. What I always tell people who are super stressed out is: go for a walk, or go home and rest. Don’t do more work today, and just go home and chill. Read a book for pleasure, go to a coffeeshop and knit, or go for a run. Whatever makes you happy, and don’t force your thinking about the PhD. It works for me. Whenever I have a really productive week, and on Friday feel like I can keep being productive, I take my work home and go to a coffeeshop the next day to do some more work. If I’ve had n unproductive, horrible week, I’ll most likely take my evenings, and that weekend off, because it means I need a break. It means I’ve done too much previously and need to regroup before I can start anything again.

I can’t work if I don’t take breaks. I just need small breaks where I can go outside, not do anything, or just have a sit down in a cafe with a good book or my knitting. Maybe that just means I’m not meant to be a stressed out PhD student, which sometimes makes me feel like I’m not meant to be a PhD student at all. Like I’m doing it wrong. Like I’m doing the whole PhD thing wrong.

Let’s be honest, I haven’t taken many holidays over the last two years. I took a few weeks off over christmas, for the last two years, but since that’s the revisions time for CHI, I didn’t really have a full two or three weeks off. It was just a more relaxed way of editing the paper. Besides that, I haven’t really taken much time off, except for a long weekend here and there to visit friends and family. But the holidays I do take, I make sure they’re holidays. I don’t constantly think about work, and I don’t feel bad about not thinking about work. I don’t plan to do things I know I’m not going to have time to, or want to, do and instead plan to do a little bit of reading here and there, or a little bit of writing in a cafe somewhere. That’s perhaps one of my favourite things to do: write in a cute little cafe in a town or city I’m exploring. I take my laptop in case I get an urge to do work (it happens) so I don’t want to hinder it, but I also don’t actively make space to work. If it happens, it happens.

Sometimes that’s not possible though – sometimes a deadline is looming. And since I work within the disciplinary confines of HCI, that’s not particularly work-life-balance friendly, and has stupid deadlines around Christmas (yea, I’m looking at you, CHI), it’s not always possible to not have to worry about a deadline. So I want to tell you a little story about that first Christmas (the one during my MRes). It was perhaps the one that I learnt the most about being a stressed out student, or well, not being one. It was my first year in the discipline of HCI, and for some reason someone thought the work I had done for my MA in International Development and Education was worthy of being published at CHI. The weird thing was that it was being shepherded (which means that an academic thought it was really interesting, but not quite good enough to publish yet, so I pretty much had to re-write parts of my findings and my entire discussion and conclusion). All of this over the christmas holidays. So lucky me got to sit in a house in Villahermosa, Mexico next to a christmas tree with some delicious guacamole and corn chips, a margarita, and my laptop. Yes, I see how incredibly stereotypical that image is, but hey ho, it’s true. I was staying with the family of my partner at the time who lived there, and they knew that I liked guacamole and margaritas. So they kept them coming. It was amazing. Anyway, I sat down for an hour or two a couple of days a week to work on my paper. The rest of the time I was doing fun things like going to the park, seeing ancient pyramids, or taking an amazing road trip along the Yukatan Peninsula. I guess I should also say that I really like writing, so having to do a few hours of writing every couple of days was not bad for me, it enhanced my holiday.

What I learnt from this was that writing in a relaxed environment is amazing. It’s peaceful, thought provoking, and relaxed. Yes, I was working under pressure because I needed to fulfil certain requirements of it wouldn’t get published, but I was also in Mexico. On holiday. So I took the feelings I had on that trip (I mean, besides the whole personal thing of that now being an ex-partner and the whole thing being a bit of a mess) and continue to try to apply them to what I do when I’m on holidays and trips, but also for when I’m back home in Newcastle.

Exploring is important to me. So I like to explore literature and research methodologies, but also cities, countries, and hiking trails. I like to explore possibilities of thought and adventure; to delve into the deep end of the pool without knowing how to breathe under water. Every week, I try to get out, to see something I haven’t seen before. Sometimes it’s a mundane as going to a cafe I haven’t been to before, other times I like to get on the train or the bus and go to a small town close to Newcastle. Sometimes that’s when I get a spark of inspiration that helps me figure out what it is I am supposed to be doing with my PhD (or my life). At the same time, I really value the time I have at my desk, the time I can spend immersing myself in my writing, and just banging away at the keyboard (kind of like what I’ve been doing here).

And I think that is what the PhD is to me. A chance to explore, a chance to adventure, and a chance to reflect. It’s rare that you have the possibility to work on what you want to work on for three (or so) years. It’s rare that you get the chance to not only write papers about what you do, but also to have 80,000-100,000 words to reflect on how all of that works fits together, how it ties in methodologically and theoretically, and what the role of your work is in relation to so much of the other amazing academic scholarship that is out there. I think that’s it for me. Seeing the dissertation as an opportunity rather than a massive piece of writing I have to do. Giving it space to breathe, and explore, and adventure.

Finishing bits of writing is hard, but possible (thanks to great support networks)

Yesterday was a strange day. This whole week was a little bit weird. I didn’t actually do very much, but felt very accomplished. It was a weird situation where I had been working towards a couple of things that I finally felt the courage to finish off. I have a problem with finishing things off, in that I don’t like doing it, and avoid it whenever possible. That’s why I have so many unfinished pieces of knitting on spare needles and pieces of yarn, it’s why I have so many paper outlines and so few finished articles. It’s why I have four potential outlines for different chapters of my PhD, and it’s why I have so many stacks of papers and notes on my desk.

So, I’ve been working on editing a journal article post-reviews, have been sitting on an abstract for a book chapter, I’ve re-written my rejected CHI paper, and have been meaning to write an abstract for the HaSS PGR showcase. I’m sitting on a couple of paper ideas with half-formed argumentations and outlines, and am constantly trying to figure out how all my work fits together to form a coherent PhD dissertation argument.

On Tuesday I met with my supervisor to have a chat about the journal paper followed by an update of what I’ve been working on, thinking about, and writing.

On Wednesday it was international women’s day, and while I’m usually not one to over-celebrate holidays, this year was a little bit different. With everything that’s happened this year, and my growing involvement in activist groups such as yarnbombing for solidarity, fempower.tech, and most recently the North East Women’s huddle it felt a lot more powerful to me. Usually, I quite liked international women’s day because it meant that even those that were generally not so great towards women at least made a tokenistic approach to be nice to the women in their lives. This year however it felt powerful. I have built a network of powerful, supportive, and brilliant women around me – and we all sent each other supportive messages on various social media channels (but let’s be honest, it was mostly through snapchat…).

I’ve been working on trying to finish things, have been working towards finishing off various bits and bobs of writing and editing, and had a major power- and solidarity-boost on Wednesday, so I guess it only makes sense that Thursday would be the day I finish stuff. Upon reflection, it makes sense, really. Right?

This is where I come back to what I wrote in the beginning, that I really hadn’t done too much, but felt accomplished. I’ve been working on all these different bits of writing and editing for months and weeks, but it was yesterday that it all came together. I submitted the edited version of the journal paper, sent in my book chapter abstract, wrote an initial draft of the abstract for the HaSS PGR showcase, and the most recent PhD outline makes sense in my head again. It really was a culmination of a lot of hard work, but I think most importantly it was a coming together of my unintentional support network of amazing people, and a few continuous days of fabulous support from a number of different social and academic levels.

Thank you. Thank you to all the amazing women whose shoulders I can stand on, and thank you to my supervisor for reading and commenting on all the different drafts of papers I send your way. Thank you to everyone who marched and protested and made pussyhats for international women’s day. I really think it is about confidence, and I continue to build mine. Not a day goes by that I feel like I’m faking it, that I really shouldn’t be here, and that I somehow managed to weasel my way into doing a PhD, that I have no idea what I’m talking about. I work too much, and have too many #phdweekends. But I’m sick of romanticising the overworked PhD student. I take time off. I’m sick of romanticising this idea that I should be quiet about my accomplishments. I write about them and text my friends.

This week I accomplished two amazing things. I fully understand that the book abstract will most probably be rejected (it’s a bit left-field, and also, I have no idea what I’m doing), but have decent hopes for the post-review (major revisions) journal paper.  So let’s just say I’ve had a good week, and wanted to make sure to capture this so I have somewhere to look back on next week. Of course I’ll have good and bad weeks, but I’m going to try to learn from this week. To celebrate the small successes and to be vocal about them. To continue to have supportive, celebratory, and emoji-laden conversations with other women that go something like this:

There are very few things that are more powerful than women supporting women