A Day in the Work Life of: Tega Ogbuigwe - University Lecturer (& PhD student)
I personally looked forward to this post so much, because in the past few years I've come to greatly appreciate and respect university lecturers as a result of being married to one. I think it's amazing how on the outside it seems like they could have it easy, but then it's such hard work round the clock! One that obviously takes a whole lot of dedication and if I'm being honest, one that I'm not sure I could ever do.
But Tega is absolutely in love with her career; and you can see this from her responses. I'll have to admit that I stumbled on her via Instagram thanks to her perfectly sculpted body, but even underneath fitness photos she's almost always sure to hashtag #lecturer and that's how I found out what she does by day.
From previously lecturing in Nigeria, Tega now lectures at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. How she ended up there is an interesting story in itself - one that is sure to inspire you and make you take chances!
She's married to her Husbae as she calls him and they have two adorable boys. In describing herself she says "I can’t sing to save my kids but you will hear me singing all the time. I can run 10miles without stopping. I’ll rather lie on the couch staring at the ceiling in silence than watch TV. I have an “angry look” by default so I am learning to smile a lot. I’m obsessed with workout leggings. My favourite junk is any drink with caramel in it!"
She shares her work life with us. Enjoy!
1. My alarm goes off...
Who needs an alarm when they’ve got 2 restless toddlers? The time I wake up is dependent on a wide variety of factors ranging from where I left off the previous day, what I have planned for the next day, to when my kids decide I’ve had enough sleep. But on the average, I’ll say 6:00am. Takes me 20 minutes to get ready and then I proceed to get things all packed up and ready for the kids. If they are awake, I give them a quick bath before breakfast. If not, I prepare their breakfast, pack lunch for school and load their bags in the car before waking them up for their baths. People always wonder how, but it takes me roughly or slightly under 20 minutes to give both my boys a bath and dress them up – (no time for nursery rhymes this morning boys snap! Snap!!).
While they have breakfast, I quickly go through my to-do-list for day and make adjustments/allocate time for each item. I normally make this list the night before as my mornings are always eventful – mostly screaming or pleading at one child to eat while making sure the other one doesn’t undress in the process. Overall, my morning routine is mostly dependent on how cooperative my kids are.
2. Getting to Work
I live an hour away from work, so I like using the train as this gives me an hour to get some things done on the way. I normally catch the train at 8:00am to get to work at 9:00am. I spend this time doing my daily devotional and just spending time with God. It's really a beautiful time too as the views from the train are absolutely stunning.
If I spend less than an hour on my devotional, I use the remaining time to decompress from all the morning rush and just relax my mind and brain in preparation for my day at work.
3. I am responsible for...
Hmmm... how do I explain this. So I have 2 conflicting roles. I am a lecturer and a student in the same university (by the way that thing messes with my brain sometimes. Because it's really hard to switch to student mode and let somebody be the boss!)
As a lecturer – I create, assess and administer course content in International Business and Trade Policy to undergraduate students in their final year. I work with a team of 2 other lecturers in the same field and this helps reduce the work load as it can be quite demanding especially with assessments and grading. Also, I provide course advising services for students to ensure they maintain the right sequence during their degree. Finally, I serve in the academic planning committee responsible for creating and organizing educational events and seminars with other institutions.
As a student – I am currently undergoing my PhD in International Business from the same university in collaboration with the New Zealand government. My research is looking at the motives, strategies and post entry strategies of foreign direct investment in New Zealand and the regulatory institutional factors that influence these outcomes. Overall, my focus is on conflicting home and host institutional pressures. In simple terms, I’m working with the government to help them advance a better understanding of foreign direct investment into the country and guide their policy development and implementation in this area.
The cool thing about both roles is, they require a lot of independent work, reading, critiquing and research so nobody really expects you to be at your desk from 9-5. You can work from anywhere. However, while you don’t have to show up at work form 9-5, you have to put in those hours or even more to get any meaningful work done.
4. How I got the job!
I studied International Business for both my bachelors and masters degree, at the United States International University Nairobi Kenya and the University of Surrey UK respectively. I had a first class in both degrees so it’s no surprise that I am a lecturer and pursing a PhD in the same field right?Seems like I perfectly crafted my career path right? NOPE! To be honest, after high school, I went on vacation then chilled around the house for a few months crafting plans on how to become a dancer and a model SERIOUSLY – in my defence I was 16. And then one day my dad said to me, "you’ve been accepted into this school to study international business". I was like okay. Apparently while I thought I had been chilling doing A levels in some school, he had organised the entire admission process with them. I had no clue what it was or what it involved or what I could use it for afterwards. I was just happy to be in university.
Anyways fast forward to final year in University and I had just totally fallen in love with the concept of businesses investing in different countries and how the price of a product for instance, was not just determined by the cost of producing the product plus profit on top it. Things like cultural differences, regulations and polices became more significant and I was just intrigued. I had to know more and discover more and it was a no brainer to get a masters degree in the field.
After my masters in the UK I came back to Nigeria for my NYSC and shortly after that I got a job in a large agrochemical company working in HR. Though it wasn’t directly my field, it was related and I had a very good understanding on how things worked. To be honest, I could have easily built a career path, a very good one too, in that field but I just never felt quite settled in there. You know when you feel like, this is good but it's not right? Yeah… that’s how I felt.
And then there was an advertisement for lecturers at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology in Nigeria. After talking to my dad and boyfriend (now husband) they thought it was a good fit for me, so I applied and interviewed for the position. That was the beginning of my journey as an academic and it truly is a good fit for me. 4 years into lecturing at the university, it was time to take the next step in my career which of course required a PhD so I was starting to write PhD research proposals and fill in applications.
When I tell people I am a Nigerian based in New Zealand they always ask why? Why did you choose New Zealand? My response is always the opposite; New Zealand chose me.
While I was planning to get a doctorate, my default search was Canada and the United States (I didn’t even bother with the UK because I had a bad experience during my masters research). I completed all the requirements, GMAT, ridiculous application fees, countless skype interviews and all the hops with these schools.
While I was waiting to hear back a friend of mine told about how NZ universities were more straightforward and “relaxed”. I think what got me interested was the word “relaxed”. Everything I had read about doing a PhD seemed like it was the end of the world so being in a generally relaxed environment seemed nicely different.
I did a quick google search on New Zealand and I was just hooked to my PC screen for the rest of the day. It was a beautiful place, nice people, beautiful weather. If I am going to spend the next 3 to 4 years reading and researching I might as well do it in a beautiful place right? Then I did a quick search for PhD’s in my field and my university popped up. It was a really nice surprise because in all my search for a PhD, I had never seen an actual PhD in International Business degree; most of them were either in management or something different with an international business component. So I was like "Oh God is this a sign"?
And then I opened the link - there was an advertisement for intending PhD students with lecturing experience and research interest in foreign direct investment to work with Victoria University and the government on policy implementation (almost like they had me in mind really).
They required a 7000 word proposal and the deadline was in 2 days. I don’t think I even read anymore after that. I closed the page opened Microsoft word and typed away without stopping until I reached the word limit (yo the hype was real). Sent in my application and forgot about it. To be honest I didn’t invest my heart in it because I knew my proposal was substandard. Anyways, 6 weeks later, I got an email inviting me for a skype interview and I was like OMG!!!!
I will tell you a funny secret. For the skype interview I wore a really nice work shirt and my hubby’s boxers (trust me it made me less nervous) and it wasn’t really an interview in my opinion, it was more like a chat between old colleagues. New Zealanders are indeed nice. From the interview I kind of had a feeling they were really interested in me. And one-week letter I got the offer. Research with the University and the government with lecturing hours included. PERFECT! The rest they say is history
5. My typical day at work
Papers, markers and books. Either as a lecturer or as a PhD student; papers, markers and books form a major part of my day. Depending on my tasks, I can work from home or go to the office. On the days I work from home, after dropping the kids at school, I come back home do my devotional and jump right into work. Either towards my research or towards lecture preparations and course content.
I actually prefer working from home because it's always quiet with less distractions. But I go into the University when I have meetings at the New Zealand treasury, meetings with my supervisor or PhD seminars I am interested in. Sometimes all the PhD students in my faculty have lunch on Fridays as well. I try to merge these meeting with the days I have lectures so that I can reduce the amount of days I go into Uni during the week. Depending on how busy my day is, I might skip lunch. But if I don’t, I have lunch with my hubby. He works just 10 minutes from my Uni (good time to catch up without the kids).
6. My most memorable moment on the job so far has been...
I’ve had quite some memorable moments as a lecturer overall; from my first international conference presentation to winning the best research paper at another international conference.
However, the one that still shakes me till date has to be my first day as a lecturer in the Nigerian university. For those familiar with Nigerian universities, imagine a tiny girl in her early twenties walking into a classroom of about 100 students (who by the way were mostly older).
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I prepared mentally and physically. I practiced my game face, picked out clothes that weren’t very “youngish”, searched on YouTube for make-up tips to look older. And I walked into the class. Students sitting on the table, their backs to the board, some hanging on the windows, others on their phone, girls taking selfies and chewing gum. So much noise.
I just stood in front of the class for 30 seconds and I don’t think they even noticed me. Finally I said “silence please lets begin this class” and someone from behind screamed “who be this one? Abeg get out” I was shook!
And I just stood there, 1 million things flying in and out of my head. Then I said, “Okay, I’ll go. When you all are ready to learn come and find me” and I left. Two weeks later I was heading to my office and there was a big crowd at the door. They apologized. I didn’t feel bad though, I understood it wasn’t out of being disrespectful or anything they just didn’t believe I was their lecturer.
7. The worst part of my job is...
The measurement of your “worth” as an academic is not by how many classes you teach or how well your students perform (these have very minimal reflection on you). Your performance is mostly measured by the impact of your research on academic literature worldwide. Your research ideas are yours, you develop and form them on your own. Everyone else is too busy working on their own anyways. I’ll say it’s a very lonely journey.
8. The perks and best part of my job...
Funding! From the Nigerian context, there is a lot of government funding available to lecturers that are not known or not used. My first international conference to the United States was sponsored by the Nigerian government and there's a lot more where that came from.
As lecturers, we are entitled to a lot of funding - all you have to do is write a paper get it accepted/published and the funding is guaranteed. I am presently on a 2 year research grant also from the Nigerian government. Basically I’ll say as a lecturer you get paid to test whatever funky research ideas and pet projects you can come up with.
My ongoing research grant is on something a colleague and I just come up with randomly “TOXIC BOSS SYNDROME” and now we are getting paid to further develop and understand the concept.
And this applies to anywhere else in the world. I reckon there will be more and better funding available to lecturers in bigger and more developed countries.
Also, I am not exactly sure how this works in New Zealand as I have only been here 7 months - but in Nigeria, I’ll say it’s a good job for women. The demand on your time is less and they can be very understanding of our role as mothers and wives. Some people find it offensive but it worked perfectly for me when I was having kids. They happily gave me all the time I needed to get things sorted and I appreciated that.
9. On misconceptions
Being a lecturer is not just about teaching classes and grading papers. You genuinely have to like research. You have to see yourself as a researcher first, before you see yourself as a lecturer. There is a popular saying in academia “if you don’t publish you perish”. Except you are comfortable not growing within your institution then you can focus on just teaching classes. However, to grow as a lecturer, you need to research and publish papers. A LOT of them.
People also think lecturers are broke especially in Nigeria where the pay is actually not that great. But like I said, being a lecturer doesn’t limit you to just teaching classes. Preparing and teaching classes take a quarter of your entire time at most. What do you do with the rest of your time? You are expected to use your time outside of teaching to develop yourself and make theoretical contribution which you can do in a lot of ways that generate income. 1) apply for research grants 2) claim expert status in your field and partner with other agencies. I’ve done write ups, mini research and research assistants for organizations like the United Nations and other government agencies. All these were only possible because of the “lecturer” title.
10. If someone wanted a career like this, I'll advice them to...
Get a PhD as early as possible. By doing this, you can discover if you really like research and if you can grow as a lecturer. Also, getting a PhD helps with getting papers published and gaining some recognition among the academics in your field which makes it easier to get a lecturing job afterwards.
Secondly, you need to be self-driven to be a successful lecturer. Unlike other industries where you have job descriptions, daily tasks that you have laid out for you and a boss that you have to report to, lecturing is the opposite. You have your office, your desk and your computer and that’s it. Nothing else happens. Nobody is on your neck to get anything done. You have to wake up every day and decide for yourself what you want to achieve and go for it. Without the self-motivation, you are tempted to teach your class, grade papers and just chill. Lecturing is not for the lazy.
11. After work I...
Mostly just hang out with the kids. And by hang out I mean having them drag me in all directions across the house screaming things I can’t even remember right now. I have come to the conclusion that at this stage of my life there is no unwinding.
12. What I love the most about a 9 - 5?
While my job is not a traditional sit in the office 9-5 kind of job, it does require those hours and more. I’ll say what I love the most about it is the structure and predictability. Yes, there are times things pop up that are unplanned for but the solution is always within my purview. If it's not, oh well, I can’t be bothered.
I like that I also have an “out” without affecting my income. I can decide to go on vacation and truly not be worried what is happening back at work and my income is secured.
Being a lecturer specifically is a flexible kind of 9-5 so apart from when I have lectures, I can decide when I want to start and finish work as long as I put in the work eventually
13. If I ever quit my job or if i never had to work, I'd go on to...
Do something fitness related! I love fitness, I run a small fitness business on the side and If I had any free time it will be on building my fitness brand.
14. One career I'm genuinely curious about, and might try in my second life...
I’ll definitely like to be model. Growing up I was one skinny girl and I wasn’t too happy with my size – if only I knew I could make a million bucks from it.
When she said that she typed 7000 words non- stop, I literally felt myself so pumped up. And taking the chance to move to NZ shows that sometimes we simply have to be willing to leave our comfort zones.
I enjoyed this so much and could picture her work life. Tee often goes on about "publish or perish", and I've seen first hand how difficult it is to create course content, teach, set examination questions, mark scripts, research for his PhD and still do a whole lot of admin stuff in between! It's almost like they get no break and even on holidays, he's constantly working! But like she said, it's a role that can be absolutely fulfilling. So I hope if it's for you, you're inclined to consider it and if not, at least you appreciate and respect lecturers a little more! Her narration of her first day at the Nigerian univeristy had me in sticthes!
On a lighter note, I don't think Tega's modelling dream has to be for another world! Maybe a fitness model as she's definitely rocking that body. Check her out on Instagram @dear.mrs.obigs
Let me know your thoughts on this feature!