WTI Postgraduate Programme Summer Conference 2021

For the first time since early 2020, Postgraduate Programme students gathered in-person last weekend for the WTI Postgraduate Programme Summer Conference 2021. Against the backdrop of the global pandemic, all participants were requested to take rapid lateral flow tests before joining the conference, and masks and social distancing were maintained as far as possible.

WTI Postgraduate Programme scholars at Magdalen College, Oxford - social distancing, masks

From Friday 30th July to Sunday 1st August, WTI scholars were hosted in the picturesque and historic Magdalen College, Oxford. Here, Postgraduate Programme students actively participated in workshops on Values Based Leadership and job hunting skills, as well as enjoying the social side of things and competing for glory in the ever-challenging “Windle Olympics”.

Saturday's workshop was Part 2 of a workshop that the scholars participated in digitally in February as part of the structured leadership development programme undertaken by all WTI Postgraduate Programme Scholars. Conducted by Heather Wickes of Connect Oxford, scholars were asked to consider issues of leading others including; different ways of leading others; understanding their own preferred styles and how this can impact upon others; and different styles of influencing and their impacts. WTI's leadership development programme focuses heavily on encouraging scholars to develop a values-centric model to their leadership styles and considering how their words and actions are received and perceived. We recognise that when returning to Africa the advanced qualifications of our scholars mean that they are often thrust into management and leadership positions due to their technical abilities alone. The leadership development programme aims to bridge the gap between the more traditional organizational leadership curricular common in East Africa and contribute to infusing a broader base of values to support the developmental impact of East Africa’s next generation of leaders.

Changing the pace and topic for Sunday, scholars began to think actively about their upcoming return to Africa with a technical workshop on CV writing and interview skills. The aim of the session was for students to think about recruitment from the perspective of the hiring manager and consider how their CV could be best tailored to each upcoming employment opportunity through close reading of the job descriptions and person specifications. Students also had the opportunity to practice their interview techniques using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to answer behavioural interview questions in mini-mock interviews.

Perhaps the most valuable opportunity of the weekend however, was finally the opportunity to meet each other. Having come to the UK in Autumn 2020, this year's Postgraduate Programme scholars entered the UK in an unprecedented environment: all faced quarantine on arrival; some left quarantine into national lockdowns; all have done university and WTI courses digitally rather than in person for most of their time here; and all have been unable to travel and meet with each other throughout their time in the UK. The Summer Conference 2021 was an important opportunity for scholars to meet up and build friendships, connections and networks before their return home. As future leaders of Africa, building bridges between individuals, industries and countries will be vital to continued progress in Africa, and the WTI Summer Conference was a fantastic opportunity to do this.