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I am Arun Verma and This is How I Work

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Arun Verma for the “How I Work” series. Arun is a Social Psychologist/Health Professions Education researcher, with over 7 years experience specialising in Equality & Diversity, Professionalism and Qualitative Research Methods. As an expert in this field, he has presented his research at international conferences. Arun has been successfully recognised for his academic research and won a number of awards in to support impact in his teaching and research. He completed his Masters in Clinical Psychology in 2013. He currently provides academic tutoring, assessment and feedback for students on the Master’s in Medical Education program and is nearing completion of his PhD titled; “Retention and succession health care education: Exploring the influence of gendered identities in male- and female- dominated environments”.

Current Job: PhD Researcher and Part-time Staff Tutor
Current Location: United Kingdom
Current mobile device: Apple iPhone 6s
Current computer: Macbook Pro

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
I am currently a Higher Education Academy Mike Baker doctoral researcher, with my PhD titled “Retention and success in healthcare education: Exploring the influence of intersecting identities in male- and female-dominated environments” and in the last few months before I submit. I am also a Part-time Staff Tutor at the Centre for Medical Education (University of Dundee), teaching on multiple modules (i.e. Management & Leadership). I am on the Editorial board for the upcoming Psychreg Journal of Psychology, and an active reviewer for prestigious journals – Medical Education, International Perspectives in Equality & Diversity, and The Student Doctor Journal.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
There are so many but, for project management the key ones are Slack (online collaborative software), Doodle (scheduling), Microsoft Outlook (for scheduling meetings) and Timely (for tracking my time management).

For analysis, I use ATLAS.ti (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software: CAQDAS), SPSS, Microsoft Excel and Papers (reference manager).

For writing, I use a Moleskin notebook (pen and paper), Microsoft One Note (collating and organising ideas) and Microsoft Word.

For presenting, I use Microsoft PowerPoint.

What does your workspace setup look like?

I am doing my PhD by distance, so I try to vary my working environments. I currently switch from my home to coffee shops. I try to keep my PhD desk relatively minimal, with a couple of supportive faces (i.e. Mr Potato Head and Optimus Prime).

Home office setup

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
I currently have four PhD supervisors so I have had to learn and embrace four very different styles of feedback, whilst ensuring a smooth team working process. This has meant my resilience and thick skin has really grown from when I first started the PhD.
My advice is to invest in developing your resilience to help bounce back from feedback and adversity. I also think you shouldn’t give yourself a hard time when getting feedback from the academic network. Academic work can be cognitively and physically consuming, so treat yourself kindly when you can.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?

During my final year, I made 3 to 4 month project timelines to map out what tasks needed to be done and when. I found writing a week-by-week schedule was helpful to plan realistic goals. I also use the Tasks and Reminders settings on Microsoft Outlook and Calendar to ensure I don’t leave things until the last minute!

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
My iPod classic, because I can’t receive emails or notifications on that device. It means I can listen to my music without interruption and I find music is my way of having a time out from academic work.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
My tenacity, which is my strength but also a limitation. As a strength, my tenacity means that I do not give up on a task and can retain and apply knowledge in innovative ways, whilst being adaptive and getting out of my comfort zone. As a limitation, it also means I can jump head first into a task without spending time planning or preparing for it. I’ve been spending time learning and developing these planning skills to help continue my own professional development.

What do you listen to when you work?

I listen to different genres of music for different types of work:
When I’m writing, I typically listen to instrumental and classical music, like the London and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Ennio Morricone or Vangelis.
When I’m analysing data, I listen to dance/electronic music, including DeadMau5, Shapeshifters and Daft Punk.
When I’m preparing presentations/reviewing my own work, I listen to rock/pop music, including The Pixies, David Bowe, Prince, Solange, Aretha Franklin.

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?
I signed up to Audible, and am currently being read the book “Sapiens: A brief history of human kind”, which was recommended to me by an Australian colleague at a conference (OTTAWA/ANZHAPE) in 2016. I try to spend about an hour a week (usually in the morning or evening) doing this.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

I would probably say I lend myself more to the extrovert side of the spectrum. I enjoy talking and meeting new people, which has been great for conferences as I have met some fantastic people and made some great connections. It also has meant I can get more involved in different workplace environments quite easily.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I try to get to sleep between 21:00-22:00, and I aim for about 7-8 hours an evening to feel rested.

What’s your work routine like?

I work 6 days a week quite comfortably. I’m currently looking for post-PhD research work, so I find some of my time is dedicated to extra-curricular activities to help with my employability. My typical hours range between 8-12 hours per day.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
I wasn’t given advice per se, but there has always been one quote that has resonated with me, and that I use to draw on a lot. It’s something Ghandi said,
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world”.

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