Eight months of painstaking work is nearly over. 51,000 words and 213 pages later, I am submitting my thesis A Framework for Managing Multiple Vendors in an Outsourcing Arrangement for examination at QUT. While I am (very openly) excited at the near completion of my second qualification (this thesis is for my honours degree), I think it is important to keep things in check.
So what did 32 weeks of hard work teach me? A lot, and that’s outside of what I learnt about IT multivendor outsourcing. While research has been an exhausting, stressful and exciting experience, I think there is a lot to learn from the experience before saying all is done and dusted.
The first thing I learnt is that you must always have a “Plan B” (and Plan C wouldn’t go astray either) research. Given the size and complexity of everything, it’s important to have a second way out. I must admit I’m not great at this: it’s often either my way works or it’s time to start a yelling match (always at my Mac that probably did nothing to deserve that kind of treatment). The one thing I’m going to take away from this is have someone else there to help you find Plan B; in my case it was my supervisors that did that. I’m thankful they had a Plan A and Plan B all along (I suspect they were both probably planned up to Plan X though).
Secondly, never trust Word. While I respect what Microsoft does in developing and supporting a gigantic, feature-packed office suite, Word’s performance and reliability starts to break down at around a 100-page document. When you’re working for hours on end on a 200+ page document, the last thing you want is a crash. I learnt that the best thing to do is create a template with all the layout, styles and bits and bobs you want, and then use it as a pseudo-template. Do things in bits (chapters for me, that is how serious things get). Save frequently. Backup often. Version. Just always do one thing: don’t trust your computer not to crash.
Some of the other things I learnt were small but valuable lessons. I really should know these things by now, but who has time to try and remember these sorts of things?
- Have a plan and keep a journal. Do this from the beginning.
- Ask for help (this is one of my biggest issues).
- Use mind maps. A lot of them.
- If something isn’t right the first time, iterate.
- Know when to stop writing (this is a hard problem).
- Don’t trust EndNote or any of the academic databases to get citations right automatically.
- Get someone else to do your printing and binding (using Officeworks saved me a lot of time!).
The last thing I want to do is thank every single person who helped me. I must thank my supervisors or their support and interest in the project. Thanks to QUT for the scholarship that made it all possible. I want to thank every participant and supporter of the project for their ability to make things happen (especially data for the research). Thanks to my family that had to listen to constant complaining, put up without seeing me surface from my desk for hours at a time and for being there to provide much needed support. For my manager and co-workers at Tech-Knowledge, thanks for providing support in terms of study time off and for having someone to vent to. To my friends who were keen supporters of me, thanks for being supportive and hilarious at the same time. Every single person’s support was invaluable and I doubt I’d have gotten this far without you all!