I just loved being in an environment that was challenging and stimulating, where every day I learnt something new

Image of PGR student Emma Johnson
Emma Johnson
Sheffield University Management School
PhD researcher
PGR student Emma spent 18 years forging a career in hospitality, with 12 of those years spent in management positions. Having completed her undergraduate and masters' degree, Emma chose the Sheffield University Management School to study her PhD in Transformative Consumer Research. Emma's future plan is to work in academia.
Image of PGR student Emma Johnson

Choosing to undertake a PhD

I just loved being in an environment that was challenging and stimulating, where every day I learnt something new and I wanted that to last for as long as possible.

I have been really fortunate to have had some amazing role models throughout my academic journey who have inspired and supported me. Seeing the effect that they had on their students and the way that they were able to help them reach their potential was something I really admired. So, I knew fairly early on that I wanted a career in academia. The PhD was a natural step towards that. Plus, I get to do research on a topic I am passionate about that I hope will be able to make a real contribution to society

The decision was made easy

SUMS felt like a great fit for my research interests in terms of the school’s mission and vision. The triple accreditation of the management school, Russell Group status of the university, and links with the WRDTP and NAARTI gave me confidence in the quality of supervision, support and training opportunities available to help me develop. 

Before making my final decision, I visited the management school and spoke with my potential supervisor, support staff and students. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly and only had positive things to say about SUMS. It was a really easy decision to make in the end.

'We're all in this together'

The research community. I include in that the relationship we have with other PGRs. I know if we’re ever feeling stuck or unsure of anything we can rely on each other to offer advice and support and it’s great to be able to celebrate each other’s successes and achievements. You really get a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’. 

There is also the relationship with our supervisors and other academics in our research clusters. Each cluster holds events relevant to their area of interest The event programme in our cluster is designed from the bottom up. PGRs are able to suggest sessions we would be interested in attending that would help develop our skills and academics we would like to invite as guest speakers. It’s great to have our voice heard and suggestions put into practice.

My PhD is in the area of Transformative Consumer Research. I take an intersectional approach to explore the experiences of same-sex-attracted individuals who were raised in a religious environment and their relationship with brands that represent LGBTQ+ and/or religious cultures in their advertisements. 

The title is ‘Decomposing Consumer Self-Brand Congruence: Accounting for Individual and Cultural Discrepancies in the Context of Same-Sex-Attracted (ex)Religious Individuals’

You don't need to have everything figured out

I’m not sure it qualifies as ‘advice’ but I almost didn’t submit my proposal. The day of the deadline for submissions I read it and decided it wasn’t good enough. Thankfully I was talked into submitting it. 

So, I would say don’t worry about it being perfect, it’s a proposal after all. You don’t have to have everything 100% figured out at that stage and inevitably things will change. But make sure it’s something you’re interested in because that will help get you through your interview and the 3 or 4 years of the PhD.

What about the work-life balance?

I’m still figuring that out! But it’s a lot easier in academia than hospitality.

In the future

I’m hoping to have a career in academia.

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