Dr John Effah
As the son of a teacher John Effah - currently Head of Department for Operations and Management Information Systems at the University of Ghana Business School - has academia in the family, but it is his desire to use his own research interests to help developing countries that has driven his ambitions. Knowing exactly what he wanted from his PhD has kept John on the career trajectory he planned, and the aim is to go higher!
As well as achieving a first class Bsc and an MBA, John gained valuable industry experience with stints at NCR Ghana and Deloitte & Touche, before landing his first teaching position as Assistant Lecturer in Management Information Systems at the University of Ghana in Accra. As the requirement for becoming a full time lecturer was gaining a PhD the next step was obvious, but it’s a long way from Accra to Salford, so what was it that brought him here? “I contacted several professors online on my desire to do a PhD with them. Most of them did not reply whilst others were not proactive. However, Prof Ben Light, who later on became my PhD supervisor was very proactive and responsive to my questions. I was highly inspired by his prompt responses which motivated me to settle on Salford.”
With his thesis entitled ‘Tracing the Emergence and Formation of Small Dot-coms in an Emerging Digital Economy: An Actor-Network Theory Approach’, John was particularly motivated by “the novel application of the Internet in the developing world and the challenges involved. As a developing country citizen, I was interested in studying something that could be of immense help to the developing world.” This is a focus that has not wavered: he is still researching information technology applications in organisations with the major focus being the internet. It’s also John’s focus and determination that has enabled him to achieve exactly what he set out to do: “I did have a career plan before I completed my PhD. Having already been employed by the University of Ghana as assistant lecturer and being on study leave, my plan was to return immediately to the university to work as a lecturer in information systems”. Mission accomplished so far.
However, the path of PhD completion never runs smooth, and John admits there were challenges along the way. “As a foreign student, I think my greatest challenge was financial. It was difficult for me to meet all my financial needs but with support from my home university and income from teaching in some colleges, I was able to manage.” There were also academic issues, which John overcame with help from his supervisor; “My other challenge was how to switch from positivist/quantitative research background to interpretive/qualitative paradigm which I ended up adopting. Fortunately, my supervisor, Prof Ben Light, did very well in helping me manage the transition.” As John completed his PhD within 3 years, we’d tend to agree!
Having stuck to his plan and achieved his career goal so far, John has sound advice for our current crop of Postgraduate Researchers; “My advice for current PhD students is for them to keep writing and getting feedback from their supervisors, colleagues and reviewers of conferences and journals. I advise them to take the opportunity to present papers at workshops and conferences and also submit to journals. PhD is not a private but a social affair hence the more feedback you get on your work in progress the better.” And so, what’s next for Dr Effah? “My plan for the future is to become a world class professor and researcher in Internet related innovations in developing countries in various sectors including e-government, e-society, e-banking, e-health, e-education and so on in order to influence research, policy and practice.” With John’s track record, who would back against him?