Evolving Viva Survivors

From next Tuesday, the site is changing.

The podcasts will be here, the other resources page will still be here, and the overall aim will stay the same: I want to help PhD candidates feel ready and confident for their viva. The Viva Survivors Podcast has helped do that for almost five years. From next week, the podcast will be an irregular part of the site.
 
From 18th April there will be a daily post of viva prep help. Every day at around 9am there will be something new on the site. The posts will cover a wide range of themes – practical help, inspiration, questions, ideas, tips, humour – all aimed at helping you be ready for the viva. I’ve been fortunate to produce the podcast for almost five years. I’ve delivered over 100 “Viva Survivor” workshops since 2010. I have a lot of concrete ideas for how to help people that I want to share.
 
I also have ideas which I’m working out. The new daily blog will, for me, be a way to test these ideas. My hope is that over time it will help me to help more and more PhDs prepare for the viva. The podcast isn’t going away! My goal at the moment is to have a new episode up around once a month or so. For some time though my heart has wanted to do more writing. I’ve looked for opportunities to experiment with new ideas. This change will help me do that and, I hope, help a lot of people too.
 
The site design will change over the next few weeks to reflect the new nature of things. I hope that I don’t break any links, but if you spot any then do let me know over email.
 
I’ll be tweeting new posts every day, but the best way to ensure you see them is to subscribe using the box on every page. That way you will get an email when a new post goes up. If you already subscribe but don’t want daily emails with viva-related thoughts then you can unsubscribe too.
 
My hope though is that you and others will join me on this next stage of Viva Survivors. If you’ve got any questions about it then email me or tweet at me. I hope that this site becomes even more valuable.
 
Thanks for reading.
 

Coming Soon: a new Q&A episode!

Hello!

I’m recording two new episodes of the podcast this week. I plan to record several more interviews in the next few weeks too. I like that the bulk of the podcast’s archive is about sharing stories and experiences, but I’m also happy that there’s been space now and then to do things which are a bit different – like the Academic Jobs Specials, the chances to reconnect with past guests, and the Ask An Examiner special. Last year I tried a Q&A episode, and while only a few questions came in, it ended up being one of the most downloaded and listened to episodes that I released last year.

Everyone loves a sequel

Since we’re at the start of a new year, it seemed like a good time to return to this and do another episode which is all about answering your questions about the viva. So:

  • Got questions about effective viva preparation? Ask!
  • Want to know about viva expectations in the UK? Ask!
  • Thought about doing a podcast but unsure of where to start? I’m happy to help!
  • Got ideas for future episodes you want to throw past me? Please do!
  • Curious about how a shy pure mathematician ended up interested in the viva? I’m happy to talk about it!

Whatever you want to know, please ask, either in the comments on this post, or by tweeting at me. Or you could email me, but in any case you’ve got until February 8th 2017 to get questions in to me. I plan to record the podcast soon after that, with an eye to publish on Monday 13th February.

Ask away

Really: this episode won’t work without your questions. Just let me know what you’d like me to cover. If you don’t have a specific question, but rather a general theme, that’s fine too – just let me know. Thanks for reading this post, please share it with others who might have questions!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

January Sale! (and Update)

Happy New Year!

Let’s start with something fun 🙂 If you want to save yourself some money on viva preparation books then go check out Books right now! The Viva Prep Handbook is £2.49 delivered to your door and you can get that and Fail Your Viva for only £8.99. They’re on this special offer until my birthday on January 18th; do check them out!

2016 on the podcast micro-review!

Last year was a good one on the podcast. There were fewer visitors to the site but there were also fewer new episodes because of work and time commitments at my end. Despite that, there was a greater number of downloads and listens than 2015! So fewer people visiting, but people exploring a lot more of the archive, listening to stories of PhD research and viva experience. The number one episode of 2016 was Episode 59, where I chatted to @DrHelenKara about life as an independent researcher. Plus we talked about our book that we published in May, Self-Publishing For Academics!

Coming up in 2017!

I’m planning the schedule now and I’ll record new episodes soon. The first new episode will debut in February, and I’m looking for people who want to share their story in the next few months. One of the first episodes will be a second Q&A episode. I’ll write a post in the next few weeks to start getting your questions about the viva, the podcast and anything you want to know that I might be able to help with. If there are any questions in your head now then email or tweet at me!

Back to the Sale!

That’s nearly all for this post, but please do go and check out my January Sale of viva preparation books: the ultra-concise Viva Prep Handbook is £2.49 delivered! 3000 words of viva preparation help condensed down from six years of workshops that I’ve delivered all around the UK.

Plus you can get that bundled with Fail Your Viva for £8.99. Fail Your Viva first came out four years ago as an ebook in the Kindle Store. It has some pretty good reviews on the Kindle Store, but since Day 1 of the release I’ve had people asking about a print edition. Very happy to have helped people with that in the last year, and you can get it now bundled with The Viva Prep Handbook, delivered, for £8.99. All of these offers are only for the next two weeks, so get them at these prices while you can.

If your viva is coming up, check out the archive for stories of people who have been there and got it done. If you need some more help then either email me or check out one of my books or ebooks. And if you want to share your research journey and viva experiences then drop me a line and come on the podcast.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Hiatus

What happened?

It’s been some time since I’ve posted a new episode, and I’m sorry to say that there might not be another before the end of 2016. Episode 63 came out a few days before we went on a family holiday. When we came back we had the convergence of a busy work period and our daughter started nursery, which has added a new adjustment to the flow of our daily lives here at Casa Ryder.

It dawned on me recently that I had forgotten to follow up with a few people who had volunteered to come on the podcast – and then it dawned on me that I had forgotten to even promote the podcast through the Twitter feed. Recently, I’ve been working on a few new projects and a few old ideas, and the podcast has slipped through the cracks as a result.

So what now?

  • I need to spend time to shake up the design of the site and get the Other Resources page up to date;
  • I need to follow up with people who have volunteered to come on the podcast and share their experiences;
  • I need to book a window in my diary to start a new research project and I want to ask both for your help to promote it, and for question ideas;
  • And I need to do another Q&A episode, because I enjoyed the challenge of making the first one.

If I spend a bit of time now and think it through, make a proper plan, then I can get 2017 off to a good start!

In the mean time…

…if you’ve been in touch before about coming on the podcast, expect an email in the near future. If you’d like to come on and share your research and viva experiences, then please get in touch. If you’re looking for viva experiences from a wide range of PhD graduates then check out the Archive. And if you’re looking for a bit of extra support then check out my ebooks and print offerings – including the ultra-concentrated Viva Prep Handbook!

Thanks for reading, thanks for your support and thanks for listening to the podcast.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

The Viva Prep Handbook

Hi!

Last week I delivered my independent Viva Survivor workshop. I’ve been excited about the possibility for a long time, and to finally do something in this way was great. I’ll try to write something about it soon, but wanted instead today to share something that I made for the workshop: The Viva Prep Handbook.

The Viva Prep Handbook_AIt started life as wanting to do a nice two-page handout for participants. It grew into a small zine, a 12-page booklet dense with practical viva preparation. It’s concise, around 3000 words, and I really like how it turned out. Here’s how it begins:

It may be that you have a luxury of time available to you between submission and the viva. It is more likely that you may have no choice but to prepare in your spare time because of work or life circumstances. This is not a problem. Why? Because this is how many PhD graduates have prepared for the viva. You can do it too.

Through the rest of this concise book I will be presenting tools and processes that you can break down into small, manageable tasks and activities. Viva preparation is not a full time job: follow these tips, tools and processes to manage your time and energy well.

You can see more about it over on the Books page, along with the print edition of my first book Fail Your Viva. It costs £3.49 to have one delivered to your door (and there are options if you want to buy it in bulk too, or buy it with Fail Your Viva). Sales help to support the podcast’s overheads and my business. I like the short but useful format of the zine, and I think I will make a few more guides like this before the end of the year.

If The Viva Prep Handbook sounds useful to you, go ahead and order a copy from the Books page – or via the Paypal button at the bottom of this post – I’ll get it in the post to you as soon as possible! And if you want to know more, just drop me an email.

Thanks for reading.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


The Viva Prep Handbook



Viva Survivor Workshop Update 1!

A week ago I announced my viva preparation workshop, Viva Survivor, which is taking place on June 29th in Manchester. I’ve been delivering these workshops in universities for six years, but this is the first time that I’ll be offering it directly to PhD candidates – and I want to make it extra special for people who are coming. Over the next four weeks I’ll be blogging here and over on my work blog about the behind the scenes things as I prepare for this workshop; this is my first update over here, so let’s recap:

I’m writing a blog post soon for my main work blog about books, but here is a sneak peek: I’ve created a paperback print run for my first book Fail Your Viva!

PrintRun1

Participants at the workshop will receive a copy as part of their participant pack, and I made a print run of 100 copies to be able to offer the book directly. I’ve created a books page where you can order them from me, and have a stack of padded envelopes ready and waiting to send them on their way. I love reading books on my Kindle, but there’s something awesome about a print book. If print is more your thing, then maybe this is what you’ve been looking for! Check here for more details.

I have some more great things to share about the workshop over the coming weeks – and plus next week the podcast is four years old, so I’ll do something fun over the week to celebrate that 🙂

Thanks for reading – check out the Eventbrite page for more details, and if you know someone who might be interested then feel free to share this with them!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

New Viva Preparation Workshop!

Two posts in one week! 🙂

Eagle-eyed visitors to the site might have spotted a new addition to the pages; that’s a link to a description of the Viva Survivor workshop that I’ve been delivering at universities since 2010. I thought it would be useful to make that connection on here – some people know me for the podcast, some people know me for the workshop, now everyone will connect me to both.

I love doing Viva Survivor, and I’ve delivered it to almost 2000 PGRs around the UK. For the longest time I’ve wanted to deliver an independent workshop to PGRs. I plan to keep delivering the session in universities for a long time to come, but I’ve been thinking about new challenges for a while. An independent viva prep workshop that was open to PGRs from any university seemed impossible for a long time until I visited Ziferblat, a really great meeting space in Manchester.

As a result of finding that venue, I present Viva Survivor, a three hour viva preparation workshop in Manchester on the afternoon of June 29th 2016. Full details are at the Eventbrite booking page, but here’s the short version: Viva Survivor is a workshop designed to help PGRs effectively prepare for the viva. If you come then by the end of the session you will have

  • identified what examiners are looking for when they examine your thesis;
  • discussed the many ways that others can support your preparation;
  • explored valuable viva preparation methods;
  • established realistic expectations for your viva;
  • discussed common questions about the PhD viva.

I want to make this an amazing experience: I want people to leave knowing that they are set for the viva, that they know what to expect and what to do. I’m going to be providing excellent supporting materials, including ebooks, print books, handouts and more, maybe a few surprises to make people smile! And Ziferblat is going to be providing an excellent venue and refreshments for the day.

Sound good? I hope so. Please come! More details and booking is on the Eventbrite page; places are limited and while I want to run more of these in the future I have no dates or plans at the moment. Please share this with others, let them know that there is an independent workshop happening to help PhD students prepare for the viva. Come along and meet PGRs from other institutions, find out how to prepare and what to expect.

If you want to know more, then get in touch: drop me an email, tweet at me or leave a comment here! I’ll be posting details about the workshop over the coming weeks, announcing things that I’m excited about. If you want to know more now then please contact me.

Thanks for reading, and if you can, please help me share this exciting new opportunity with others.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

FYVwordle1

Q&A Episode Coming Soon

Hello!

One of the few podcasts I regularly listen to is the Tim Ferriss Show: I highly recommend it, Tim interviews people about how they manage to be excellent in their fields. It’s a wild ride sometimes, and he has a huge variety of people on his show. I don’t think that the Viva Survivors Podcast is a “wild ride” but I think it’s great that there is such a variety of PhD graduates who come on here to share their experiences.

A few times now, Tim has had special Q&A episodes and listeners ask him all kinds of things – anything and everything really. It struck me a month or so ago that this might be a useful thing to do on Viva Survivors, at least every now and then. I used the poll function on Twitter to see if this was interesting to followers, and got a couple of positive votes, and also heard from several friends to say that this was a neat idea.

So let’s do it!

Read More

Hiatus Ending Soon!

Long time, no see!

This short hiatus wasn’t something that I particularly had planned for the podcast: I underestimated how involved I was going to be with a new project of mine, and the time that I had for doing any work on the podcast seemed to evaporate into thin air. Now that new project is underway (and another one has been done in secret; I’ll tell you about it in a few months’ time) I can switch my attention back to sharing PhD and viva stories.

Episode 55 is coming up on April 11th, one week from today, and features Dr Anna Mackenzie telling me about her PhD research, how she prepared for her viva and what happened on the day. I think this will be the only episode for April, but then I’m planning to do two episodes for May: one regular and one “special” that I’ll need YOUR help with.

A few months back, after listening to a couple of other podcasts that I really like, I thought that it might be fun to do a Q&A episode: what do you want to know about the viva? About the podcast or the work I do? What would help you? Ask me, and I’ll answer! I’m going to start the prep for this in two weeks I think, so will give more details then. I really want this to be a useful episode, so your help is greatly needed and appreciated.

A quick update on my idea of running a Patreon campaign: after a lot of back and forth on this, thinking about pros and cons and so on, I’ve decided not to pursue this. I think Patreon is a neat idea, but I don’t think it is quite right for how I want to develop the podcast. Running and managing it could become a distraction to making the episodes themselves. I am fortunate that I have the kind of business and life that gives me time to do the podcast (and pursue ideas and projects for my own development) and I think for now that it’s best that things stay more or less as they are.

So to recap: new episode on April 11th, more episodes in May, including plans for a Q&A epsiode, and no plans for Patreon. Email me if you want to know more about any of this, or if you’d like to come on a future episode – I’m always looking for people who are happy to share their PhD and viva experiences, or who are interested in coming on a future special.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Shout-Out: The PhD Vlog Video

Today seems like a good day to do a shout-out for the video that I made with Emma Cole earlier this year. Emma produces the PhD Vlog YouTube channel and has made lots of great videos to highlight what the PhD is like. I think that it’s particularly valuable for candidates approaching the final year; it gives good ideas of the kinds of pressure and work that can affect postgraduate researchers.

We chatted over Twitter when Emma was doing a series on the final 30 days of her PhD, and thought that it might be fun to do a video on preparing for the viva for her channel. As I prepare this post it’s had almost a thousand views, which is amazing. If you’ve not seen the video check it out (below). It’s just under 9 minutes, and we talk through common viva topics, as well as ideas for preparing for the viva.

Oh, and why is today a good day to re-share the video? Because today, unless something technical goes wrong, I’ll be interviewing Emma – now Dr Emma Cole – about her viva for a forthcoming episode of the podcast! Stay tuned to Twitter or subscribe to the blog for alerts.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)