Global Development Institute Blog

We heard that one of our alumni was coming back to Manchester to attend the Big and Open Data Workshop this month, so we sat down with Chris Foster to talk about how why he chose to study at the University of Manchester and what he’s been up to since he graduated.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Manchester?
There are a lot of great experts at the University of Manchester who look at intersection of ICT, digital technology and development, and that really attracted me – the opportunity to work with these world renowned experts. I’m also a big fan of Manchester, I really like the city!

What did you do after graduating?
I spent a little bit of time at the University of Manchester, developing some of the work I had done for my PhD. I then got a postdoctoral position at the University of Oxford, doing research in a similar area for nearly two years, before finding a lecturer position at the University of Sheffield.

What are you doing now?
I work at the University of Sheffield’s Information School, which explores social science around information, information technology and data. I’m really interested in how digital technologies are being used in various contexts, but particularly around firm contexts, and how firms are globalising, how they’re using digital technologies to help them globalise, and what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of that. I think this is an important research area at the moment as the internet and digital technologies are becoming more prevalent.

How has your University of Manchester degree helped you?
In two areas: first of all, in terms of thinking critically. When I first came to the University, I was interested in technology and development but I don’t think I had really understood or explored these topics in a critical way – the Master’s degree definitely gave me that. When I moved on to do the PhD, being able to plan and put into action an innovative programme of research was something that I was able to learn how to do with the support of the staff at GDI, and that has been a very valuable skill to learn.

What’s your best memory from the University of Manchester?
There were a couple of really fun memories: it was great when I finally submitted my PhD after all that time working on it, what a relief! The graduation itself was really good fun – there were four or five of us who had been together in the department for a few years, and we were able to come together to celebrate what we’d been able to achieve, which was a really nice experience.

What advice would you give to students?
Often when you finish you PhD, it can be quite a struggle to figure out what to do next – you’ll have been doing your PhD for quite a number of years so working out what to exactly to do after it can be difficult. This is particularly true when you’re looking to work in academia: it can be hard to move up that ladder to go from your PhD to become a lecturer, so there may be a period when you perhaps move around a bit to find something that fits suitably to what you’re interested in.
Another good piece of advice is that whilst you’re doing your PhD, there’ll have been a great number of academics and colleagues you’ll have interacted with, and these are great people to stay in touch with and possibly work and collaborate with in the future

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