Supported by Eduserv, our Data Platform specialist, Victoria Holt has been conducting post-graduate research into database management. When I discovered she’d won a national award for her work, I caught up with her to find out more…
You’ve recently won an award from the Open University. What was it for?
The award is the 2016 AOUG Will Swann Award for Innovation and Knowledge Development for dedication and outstanding achievement in postgraduate research.
It’s aimed at understanding how the management of database systems is undertaken, how best practices and procedures form a part of the management process, and exploring the complex nature of database systems. The study examined the adoption of best practices and how the complex interactions between components of the database system were affecting management and performance.
The research followed a mixed methods approach, using sequential explanatory design. The quantitative research phase, using an online survey, highlighted the breadth of issues relevant to database management. It concluded that existing practices and procedures were not optimal, and revealed some of the complexities.
The qualitative research phase that followed used information from the quantitative survey to understand key areas through a number of focus groups. Thematic analysis of the resulting data was carried out, before deepening the analysis through the use of systems thinking. Taking this holistic approach to database systems enabled best practices and the complexity of database systems to be examined in a new light.
How long did it take you?
I have been working on the PhD for 6 years part time.
How will you use the findings of your research?
The analysis led to the creation of a blueprint to enable improvement and innovation of database systems. This is directly applicable to the database services we provide at Eduserv.
What advice would you give to someone considering undertaking a PhD with the Open University?
I would recommend that you pick a topic that thoroughly excites you, particularly as this will take up most of your free time, if you’re doing it part time. You need to be very disciplined about time management and have project management skills. You have to enjoy the journey and not think about the destination as research takes time. You also need to be able to work alone and be highly motivated. It is difficult to keep motivated in the middle, so designing little goals such a writing a paper that is published can help you get to the end. Completing a PhD teaches you many things and helps advance your technical career.
What are the day to day challenges of being a Database Architect?
Being a database architect means you have to be knowledgeable in the current field and have breadth of knowledge across many data areas such as administration, business intelligence, development and data science. You need to have one area which is focused at depth and keep up with the new developments. The pace of technological change means new products and features are being released every week. Learning how to improve the architectures and follow best practice designs never stops.