New mum Favour Uzoma Mba is somehow fitting in a business PhD, a PGCE course as well as sitting on several research committees at London Metropolitan University. We find out more about her PhD – which tackles an overlooked area of procurement: social value (or SV), and the economic and environmental benefits it can bring, and how she's managing to juggle everything.
Tell us a little bit about yourself...
I was born and raised in the Eastern region of Nigeria along with three amazing siblings. I took my bachelor’s degree at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where I studied management and graduated with a 2.1. A year later I applied to do my MSc at Nottingham Trent University and I received the 2017/2018 Nigerian High Achievers Award. For my master’s degree, I studied Global Supply Chain Management – I graduated with Distinction and got the Chartered Management Institute Prize for Overall Best Performance by an MSc Management Student on a one-year Programme. I then started a PhD study at NEOMA Business School in France but moved after one year to restart my PhD research at London Metropolitan University.
What brought you to London Met?
I followed my supervisor to London Met. When I started working with him, he was at Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh where I applied and got a PhD research study offer. Right after I received the offer, he was to move to London Met and I had to decide to either go to where I had an offer or apply to London Met. At this point, I already had a fantastic working relationship with my supervisor even without having met him in person, and I wanted to work with him on my thesis and beyond. So, my partner and I researched London Met and we came to a similar conclusion that London Met was very diverse and most importantly, would provide a good opportunity for my academic and career development. This completed the link for me – so I applied and got the study offer.
What does studying at London Met mean to you?
I’m glad that I made the decision to do PhD research at London Met. Since joining the Uni, I have attended sessions to develop my research capabilities; got a teaching assistant role and the opportunity to study PGCE at the Uni; I have also been supporting London Met's Guildhall School of Business and Law PhDs as their deputy PhD representative and we are building a very supportive business school community alongside the University’s postgraduate research society (PGRS), to help each other from the same discipline and get through the PhD journey. I’m grateful for these incredible opportunities because they are preparing me for my career aspirations and building my social network.
Tell us more about your PhD topic – what real-world value will it have?
My research is exploring social value (SV) delivery through procurement. Part of its focus is on how SV is embedded within the procurement process/cycle, and by the application of academic theory, it also explores how some competing activities/goals in procurement can be carried out; that is, how procurement can be ambidextrous in delivering SV and the contract it is associated to.
I’m using multiple case studies for this research and conducting interviews with UK procurement professionals from the public sector; both buyers and suppliers/providers. Since the suppliers are responsible for delivering what is procured at the right specification, it will be useful to learn from their perspective as well.
The value of this research is that it contributes to a more efficient and sustainable social value delivery through procurement. Considering the massive benefits (social, economic, and environmental) that can be generated through SV, it would be useful to find ways that facilitate a sustained delivery, by balancing the tensions that may constrain procurement professionals in achieving their objectives. Also, there’s a further contribution to the field by studying the suppliers’ perspective which has received limited attention in procurement literature.
How is your relationship with your PhD supervisor?
I have two very supportive and brilliant supervisors. To start with, I feel blessed to have Prof. Nigel Caldwell as my supervisor. Prof Nigel and I started discussing my PhD research in 2019. He consistently supported me in developing my proposal – and did that on the basis that the outcome could help me get into any suitable university. Even when I started the PhD at another university and realised that the environment wasn’t supporting my development, Prof Nigel was still there for me – he responded to my emails, held a series of virtual meetings with me and provided support beyond my expectation at no cost. He is an accomplished professor with a lot on his plate, but he has, throughout the years, created time to support my aspirations and even responds outside of work hours and in holidays. I must say his likes are rare – and I’m lucky to be associated with him. He is my PhD supervisor and my mentor.
Dr Jonida is nothing but amazing, brilliant and supportive. Her feedback shows me that she reads my work thoroughly with so much attention and she always have useful comments. Despite her schedule, she swiftly responds to my requests and meeting schedules. I’m glad to be working with her on this.
One other wonderful thing about my supervisors is that when they’ve not heard from me for a while, they check in with me. I know this is a special attribute because I’ve listened to some colleagues who lament about their supervisors’ response rate (I know people are busy), and for mine to respond swiftly and even check on me, is beyond incredible.
I understand you are a member of the Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee – tell us more…
Yes, I was recently accepted into the Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee as a student member to represent the interests and views of the postgraduate research community at London Met. I’m looking forward to gaining experience across the different issues that relate to research at London Met by working with other members and contributing in the best possible way in ensuring that adequate strategies are adopted to continuously build high-standard research at London Met.
And you’re also on the Postgraduate Research (PGR) Student and Staff Liaison Forum?
The PGR Student and Staff Liaison Forum is such a wonderful group that brings students and staff together. Over time, I and other student members have presented issues that bother PGR students from our respective schools, and I have seen practical solutions which show that our voices are truly heard. Of course, nothing is perfect so there’s always room for improvement and we are continuously working towards that.
What is your biggest passion in life and where did that passion come from?
I’m quite passionate about supporting and contributing to people’s life journeys. Mine has not been such a smooth ride – I started making very tough decisions about my life at a very young age with little guidance, so I know how hard it can be. I count myself lucky because some people may not have the capability to make the right choices in the face of immense challenges. I can’t say that I have made the right decisions all through my life, but most have been rewarding. This experience is the reason that it feels so fulfilling when I get the opportunity to support anyone in the way that I’m capable of. I’ve had strangers and acquaintances contact me on social media seeking my advice on the choice of university, application process, visa interviews and even career options. Though I don’t know most of these people, I know that they are pursuing a dream – and by helping in the little way that I can, I’ll be making that journey just a little easier, and being part of their success story, whether it is acknowledged or not. I was once in that position and would probably not have made some mistakes if I had gotten the right support.
With the teaching assistant opportunity that I got at London Met, I discovered that each time I deliver lecture or seminar materials, and answer the students’ questions to support their learning, I leave the building feeling excited. It might not be a big deal for someone else, but it is for me – and even more rewarding in the cases where some students expressed their satisfaction with how I helped them understand better. It is absolutely motivating for me.
What drives you?
My aspirations are my key driver. The advice is always something like, get a job you like, research a topic that you’re very interested in etc. But the truth is, doing what we like is great, but not enough to keep us motivated. There are a lot of factors, internal and external, that we must deal with daily. Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and want to give up, despite doing what we love. In my case, when I get to this point, I think about what I’m looking to achieve. There are always beautiful pictures painted in my head, and then I tell myself to get there, you have to put in the work and that gives me the kick that keeps me going.
What’s the proudest moment in your life?
The moment that I read an email saying that I was graduating with distinction and with the Chartered Management Institute Prize, I was super proud of myself. That was my first study outside Nigeria, there was so much difference; the teaching and learning standards, academic writing style and learning requirements were so different from what I was used to. To finish at the top, not just as the overall best in my cohort but as the overall best in the entire one-year programme despite the challenges, is definitely my proudest moment so far. There’s nothing more rewarding than putting in the work and getting great results.
What’s your favourite space at London Met and why?
My favourite space would be the library, it’s a knowledge hub. The facilities and resources are great, seeing people from diverse backgrounds, exploring knowledge, and working hard to successfully progress through whatever they’re at the library for, always motivates me to be more productive.
Tell us a little bit about your interests outside of uni and why they are important to you.
At this phase of my life, my interests are now intertwined with my baby’s. As a new mum, I feel clueless sometimes and I’m always researching and practising things to help me support her development in the best way that I should. Family is important to me, so I cherish spending quality time with my husband and our daughter.
What’s next in your career?
At the moment, I am getting involved in activities that will equip me for academia and industry because I don’t know where the opportunities are, and I want to be ready when they come. I started the PGCE program alongside my PhD – I gained distinction on the first two modules and I’m on the last module. I have gained some teaching experience at London Met, and have also sat for my CIPS Diploma exam to get the certification. I believe all the knowledge and skills that I’m gaining will be useful wherever I find myself after my PhD. I’m hoping that the best happens with my career.
Do you have any advice for anyone else considering studying at London Met?
Yes, I do. As an international student who has studied at two universities in the UK and one in France, I can say that I know a bit about what aspiring students should look for. One of those should be an environment that is welcoming and supportive of your development as a student and prepares you for the phase beyond. For me, being at London Met:
- I have the most supportive supervisors, and school coordinators here at the Guildhall School of Business and Law
- I have had the opportunity to get some teaching experience
- I’m getting teaching training for a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE)
- I am a student member of the Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee
- I am the deputy representative of PhDs at Guildhall School of Business and Law
Yes, this might be a lot to handle while doing a PhD, but the point is, these are the opportunities available at London Met to any student who is willing and capable of taking them up. Experience from these stays with you forever and could make you stand out.
Read more about our PhD courses or our teacher training programmes
"One other wonderful thing about my supervisors is that when they’ve not heard from me for a while, they check in with me. I know this is a special attribute because I’ve listened to some colleagues who lament about their supervisors’ response rate (I know people are busy), and for mine to respond swiftly and even check on me, is beyond incredible."