Viva Survivors Podcast: Past, Present, Future

In case you didn’t already know – like I don’t talk about it enough – I produce the Viva Survivors Podcast. It’s an ongoing project of interviews with PhD graduates about “their research, their viva, and life after the PhD.” It came out of a desire to share the stories of what the viva was like for people; I had an idea that the horror stories that everyone seems to know about were, for the most part, myths – I wanted to share real stories. I was, and still am, delivering viva preparation workshops, and I thought as well that by learning more about what people had done to prepare for their vivas I would be able to help PhD candidates more.

I also thought it might be a lot of fun to do! And as time went on I realised what a tremendous learning experience it was for me too.

The Past

I put the podcast online in June 2012, and for the next year or so I updated it as and when I could. I interviewed people as they presented themselves, and got their stories on to the site as fast as possible. I didn’t have any great ambitions for the podcast really – I just thought that it might be a useful resource, and that it might raise my profile a little, help to distinguish me.

Moving house in early 2013, then becoming a dad last autumn put the brakes on things for a while. I did a few more interviews in early 2014, but then things started to tail off. I kept collecting ideas and contacts, and wondered what I could do to restart things…

The Present

The best thing I could do, it turns out, was to follow all of the advice I give in workshops: make a plan, set some goals and be realistic. I started interviewing people in batches, two or three per week. I set a schedule for debuting two episodes per month, and am on track to keep to that for these last three months of 2014. Using Buffer has been enormously helpful when it comes to letting people know about updates, ideas and the contents of the archive. I also started a Patreon campaign to see if I could gather support and help to make the podcast grow. This week two new episodes debut on the podcast! Today, Episode 31 is up, and I talk to Dr Katy Vigurs about her PhD, viva and her work as a lecturer at Staffordshire University. On Friday, I chat with Dr Katy Shaw and she shares her experience as an examiner.

The Future…?

The Viva Survivors Podcast will continue in 2015! I’m currently looking for people to interview before Christmas so that I can start the editing and scheduling for next year. Some of my plans for the future rest on how much support the Patreon campaign brings: the podcast will continue and will always be free. Patrons can help me to do more: can help bring new content to the site, new tips-based podcasts and more! I’ll have a Patreon FAQ page on the site soon.

I have other ideas though which are not Patreon-contingent, including:

  • Continuing with aim of two episodes per month: with a few bonus episodes that might take us to almost Episode 60 by the end of 2015! I’ve made grand claims about this kind of thing before, so let’s leave it as aims and hopes for now, backed up by a desire to work on it! I’ll continue with mostly interviewing people about their PhD and viva, but anticipate a few more Academic Jobs Specials and Ask an Examiner episodes.
  • Looking at getting the podcasts on iTunes: I have no idea how this works, but have been told it is possible. It might expose the resource to a wider audience, and that’s not a bad thing. Let’s see.
  • Improved Site Functionality: interactive archive, options to have new posts emailed to you, a new design…? What would improve things?
  • Something to celebrate three years of the Viva Survivors Podcast! I keep having odd little thoughts that make me smile… Hangouts, live-recordings, a week of “events”… Who knows, I think I’m getting better at getting things done… Time for the next stretch!

Thanks for indulging me while I share something I love today, and thanks for reading. If you have any ideas or suggestions then do let me know – and get in touch if you want to come on the podcast. It would be great to hear from you.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

PS – please take a look at my Patreon campaign for the Viva Survivors Podcast!