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      Work/life experiences of Brookes’ academics


    The most rewarding aspects of my job is that, I’m impacting knowledge, helping and influencing others.

    Sola is a Senior Lecturer in Business and Management at Oxford Brookes Business School. Sola is an Athena SWAN and EDI Champion in the Oxford Brookes Business School, and acts as a catalyst to institutional policy on race and diversifying leadership on the Race Equality Steering Group and Race Equality Action Group.

  • After graduating from the University of Essex in LLB Law, Sola continued her education at the University of London to gain a Master’s degree in Law (LLM Commercial & Corporate Law). She then followed her legal professional career in London. The turning point for her was when her husband was accepted onto a PhD programme at Cranfield University. The demands of the legal profession, struggling with finding a suitable legal job following relocation, and the work-life balance of having two young children then, lead to Sola expanding and diversifying her career and education, gaining an MRes in Innovative Manufacturing, and then a PhD in Business Process Improvement, both degrees at Cranfield University.

    After working as a Research Fellow in Manufacturing Supply Chain Positioning at Cranfield University for 3 years, she needed “a fresh new environment” and applied for a Lecturer post at Brookes. She moved to Brookes in September 2004 and has never looked back. Sola currently teaches at undergraduates in Corporate and Business Law, International Markets & Competition; and International Organisations on the MSc International Management & International Relations programme. Although her career path has changed over the years, she is grateful that she “can still come back to my first love of law”. She has always been ambitious and believes that “it’s good to aim high and have a goal”. Pondering over her career moves Sola realises that it is important to be able to “adapt in life” and be resilient to changes in your environment. Success for her “is about waking up in the morning and thinking I’m happy to go to work because I’m changing lives and influencing people”.

    Family is extremely important to Sola and she is grateful that they have always been supportive throughout her education and career. Her children are now independent grown up adults:

    By the time I get home I’m so tired but I can be assured that there’s someone at home that will be helping with the cooking!

    Her faith and church community are also very important to Sola. She is a leader in her local church and sees it as a “support network of extended family that is always there to encourage you”. She enjoys the good work-life balance that she gets by working for Brookes and has “found a way of separating work and family”. This was especially important to her when her children were still young:

    I wanted to make sure that I was attending to their homework and taking them to their extracurricular activities like football, netball and choir practice.

    Sola also appreciates the flexibility that comes with working for Brookes and welcomes the opportunity to work from home at times as she has to commute a long way.

    Sola was born in London but brought up by her grandparents, and completed both her primary and secondary education in Nigeria, a country of origin that remains very close to her heart. She does a lot of research around entrepreneurship education, and as part of this, she took some students from Brookes and France to Nigeria for a study visit in student entrepreneurship. Helping others, seeing students excel and being seen as a black role model for the students, is why Sola loves her career. For her:

    The most rewarding aspects of my job is that; I’m impacting knowledge, helping and influencing others, it’s not about money at all.

    The most important aspects of her future career are that: she is working towards becoming a Black Female Professor, but also for her research in energy policy and entrepreneurship & university interactions to be relevant, impactful and useful in Africa:

    I would cherish the opportunity to know that my research is making sense to and being used by practitioners and policy makers in Africa.

    Along with her academic career, issues around gender and race equality are also crucial to Sola. She acknowledges the challenges of being a black woman in Higher Education and how “it’s twice the number of barriers to break through” but she is tackling both race and gender issues head on by being involved with the Oxford Brookes Race Equality Charter, acting as an AdvanceHE Diversifying Leadership champion, and the Athena SWAN Vice Chair for the Oxford Brookes Business School. By being involved with these steering groups, Sola has “the opportunity to contribute to and influence strategic issues concerning ethnicity, race and gender.”

    She also believes that her role as a Senior Lecturer goes beyond teaching:

    I’m not just a full-time Senior Lecturer here but I’m able to do a little bit more, to encourage students that are struggling and give much needed pastoral care. It’s important that students can find someone they can go to and relate with. My African cultural background and Christian faith provide me with a humbly natural advantage to be there for students and colleagues as and when needed.

    Prioritise your life and don’t try and do too many things at once. Start early in academia, have a strategy, be disciplined and focus. Most times, you will be working alone, but it’s wise to find other academic colleagues to work with. Don’t be a lone researcher! Your academic success is determined by the 3Ps: Publications, Pound and PhD, in other words, publish papers, seek funding, and supervise PhD research. Finally, understand the institutional processes and system.