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Name: Mark
PhD discipline: Philosophy
Area(s) of work: NGO; university teaching
Year of graduation: 2006
Date of Interview: 24/06/2008

Mark - the meaning of the PhD
Mark reflects on what the PhD means to him and how it is perceived at work.

How do you feel that your PhD is regarded by your boss and by your colleagues? 

Right. I think it was actually quite important that I had a strong academic background. That was part of the role for this for a number of reasons. Firstly if I'm going overseas and I'm talking to MPs or permanent secretaries of government departments it makes a difference if you can call yourself doctor. It's one of those things that you know you don't feel any different but other people will look at that, especially in cultures that are very hierarchical for example in some African cultures, that means a lot more than it would here so that's an advantage work-wise. My colleagues don't defer to me particularly because I've got a PhD. We now have two people with doctorates. It's not that kind of thing. We defer to each other on our expertise but not because of the titles. So it's certainly regarded positively rather than negatively.

And do you feel personally then, if not professionally, do you feel personally affected by the prestige of the PhD?

I think when I first got it, it was the kind of thing that keeps you warm at night for the first month or two (laughing). But then half the time I also just forget about it as well. It's been almost a couple of years since I finished it, if it wasn't for the fact that it's professionally useful, not on a daily basis but at least on a monthly basis, it probably wouldn't affect me so much. Having it might be something that I can see helping to open some doors, I suppose that's quite affecting. I'm from New Zealand and we're a very egalitarian culture so I guess I'm much more likely to just dismiss the PhD as anything special rather than play it up. 

But if you're being really honest what does the PhD mean to you?

I have to say I am affected by it. I guess what it has meant in the culture is something that I've internalised as an achievement for a start and there are some times when I think back on my life and it's one of the things that I think, 'Yeah I've got this'. I don't know if it gives me security, I'm not sure if that's quite the right word but it's certainly a milestone that is part of my life story. Because anything you spend so long on and then get, if I didn't get it I would probably be trying to write it off completely but that becomes something that I think becomes part of you.