Image: “This is me in Tampere city center, enjoying my first summer in Finland. Usually I like a quiet place for a walk, but the summer was so tempting that I didn’t care about the crowd and loud music. I enjoyed my time, and I’m looking forward to a beautiful summer again.”
This series introduces the members of University of Vaasa’s InnoLab research platform. Today we’re meeting Syed Hammad Ul Haq.
Hi, and welcome to InnoLab! Could you start us off by introducing yourself?
Hello, my name is Syed Hammad Ul Haq, you can call me Hammad. I am from Pakistan and have lived most of life in the beautiful capital of the country, Islamabad. I am currently working as a Project Researcher for the BizPub project.
Pleased to meet you, Hammad. So what brings you to InnoLab?
Let me start from the beginning! I came to Finland in 2020, with the Covid-19 at its peak at the time. I enrolled in the Master’s programme for Strategic Business Development here at the University of Vaasa. I had previously done supply chain management, and SBD went really well hand-in-hand with that. So, I got the admission and came to Finland, but then I heard I cannot go to the university! I basically completed my degree in my own room in Tampere, where I had some friends.
After the first year I started contacting professors, since getting a Doctoral Degree was one of my two goals for coming to Finland. The first one was getting my Master’s and the experience at a state-of-the-art university. I was then given an opportunity to work in the Clean Propulsion Technologies (CPT) project. It really motivated me because we were working to make the world a better place to live in. Because of the climate change we have seen floods in Pakistan and everything… So, it was a huge moment for me: I was playing my part in solving the problem. This project also put me in a better position to apply for my current position in InnoLab by enhancing my research skills and making research more interesting for me.
Can you tell us how you transitioned from that project to BizPub and InnoLab?
My contract was ending in September. I had to apply for my PhD studies anyway when I saw this position, and it was very interesting to me. I could somehow connect all the things in my mind: this project is about leadership competence and how we can digitally transform public and private organizations – so good leaders can have a play in making the world a better place to live. It’s about both private and public organizations, and I won’t be confined to only one sector, which is very exciting and challenging at the same time. It also allows me to pursue my PhD, I’ve submitted my application and… Let’s see, fingers crossed!*
So what do you do in BizPub?
Currently I’m going through previous research, familiarizing myself with the literature and the theoretical frameworks. In addition, my work includes publishing papers and collecting data. I also manage social media for the project, so I do updates on our LinkedIn page and our Twitter, try to keep people in the loop and update them about our findings.
How’s the work compared to your previous project?
Methodology-wise it’s the same. The topic is different, but from a bird’s eye view the day-to-day tasks are the same: the surveys, the readings, the interviews. But the topic is new and it’s more challenging, which I love – I have to learn so many new things. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to this PhD!
Speaking of which: what is your dissertation going to be about?
The project and the PhD – they are the same.
A-ha, so you would be getting paid for doing your PhD?
Yeah, that’s the most important part, you know! *laughter* The idea of looking at both private and public management… It sounded very interesting when I heard it! I just wanted to do it, so I opted this for my PhD.
In all seriousness, the project is currently funded for two years by the Foundation for Economic Education; so yes, I am paid for the work, but it’s also a full-time work for me.
Assuming everything goes to plan and you finish your PhD… Will you be staying in academia or will you go work in the industry?
I think I’m going to stay in academia. You see, what I have learned from the teachers and all the mentors I’ve had, and I still have… They give you so much, you can never be thankful enough. And I think teaching gives you so much pleasure and satisfaction. So, I think I will be in the academia and make people learn new things, help them develop their skills and careers. It’s like the most satisfactory feeling ever – that you’re developing someone so that the chain goes on.
That’s admirable, not everyone is so enthusiastic about teaching. What made you that way?
My father, who is now retired, was a government servant for many years, but he also did some teaching. He had studied automobile engineering. There was this one day when I had a lecture from my teacher regarding cars and how cars work, way back when I was on 7th or 8th grade. I came home and said “I can’t understand this, can you please make me understand this?” And the enthusiasm I saw in him, the way he was teaching me… He was so excited. It made me aware that teaching can be so great! He was doing fine in his government job, but I could see the glimpse of excitement while teaching me. He loved teaching.
One time I was teaching something to a junior of mine, back in Pakistan when I was in university. I felt so motivated when I was explaining the thing. I don’t remember the topic right now, it was something about marketing… I was feeling so good about it. And I thought: this is the thing I’m going to do in the future! Research is connected to teaching, so I also want to continue doing that and learn new things, and then pass them along through teaching.
That’s a beautiful story about your father. So maybe it runs in the family?
My father was also a teacher for some time, my aunt, she’s also a teacher, my grandfather was a teacher… It’s my inner feeling that it’s transferred to me from my family.
You seem like a very enthusiastic and energetic person. Can you give us any tips on how to be as motivated as you?
Well, there are times when you’re not motivated, with the weather and everything… The main thing is what your goal is and how enthusiastic you are about it.
But monotonous routines can make you dull. So you need to incorporate new things into your life. What I do is photography, it’s my hobby. I’ve previously done a lot of photography, even professionally, in Pakistan. Even though I have a busy routine now, I somehow still find time do it. Besides photography I watch a lot of movies, I read a lot of books – other than the academic books.
So I keep my mind busy, that’s how you keep yourself motivated. My advice is –there are two things– first, never create a routine that is always monotonous. You need to experience new things. Second, always have your goals at the back of your mind, remind yourself that you can and you will reach them.
Sounds like good advice. Since you’re an avid reader and cinematophile: can you recommend us something?
Yes! There are two movies which you need to watch. First, The King’s Speech. It’s about a king who stammers and how he overcomes the problem. The journey is amazing. The second is… There are a lot of movies in my mind, but I recently re-watched The Words. It’s about a writer, he’s struggling and his writing is not that good, and then something unexpected happens… It’s about all these ups and downs.
And the books I would recommend are A Message in a Bottle and The Notebook. There’s also another book I really want you to read, it’s a spiritual book… It’s called The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak. It’s from the Islamic perspective: there are forty rules, or forty points regarding love. The best quality of that book is that whenever I re-read it, I learn something new from the book.
From the perspective of Hammad’s co-workers: What makes you appreciate him as a colleague?
“Hammad is not a bad guy to work with! He is ambitious and thoughtful, but also knows how to find the right balance in work and in life. He also says he knows how to cook so we have to take him up on that!”
“He has a ’can do’ attitude which can help an early-stage researcher to learn new things. I think Hammad’s trustworthy, committed and ambitious in his career, so a good addition to InnoLab!”
“Hammad is a curious and committed person who is always ready to take on new challenges. He is permanently willing to get involved in new tasks to continue his development and executes them responsibly. Equally important, he is a friendly and cordial person who is easy to work with.”
*Hammad has since this interview been admitted into the University of Vaasa doctoral programme. (“I think every day I am closer to my dream.”)