Poonam Dohutia, Policy Analyst

Poonam Dohutia, Policy Analyst

BY: Catherine Nygren

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Poonam DohutiaFor her PhD in philosophy, Poonam wrote on thought experiments, counterfactual conditionals, and impossible cases. Throughout her degree, she worked regularly as a TA, and various scholarships helped with her high international tuition. As a woman of colour from a developing country, she sometimes experienced other students or professors doubting her language skills or her chosen study of logic rather than ethics, but her program’s strong sense of community among the professors and the graduate students provided comradery and guidance. International students were rare in her philosophy department, so the structured events and resources available from the larger university community and administration were invaluable.

Poonam finished her degree in ten years. Her relatively unstructured program provided the freedom to explore, but did extend the program duration. Support from her supervisor helped to keep her on track, but the program would have benefitted from more coaching on how to structure research towards a particular outcome, whether for a dissertation or an article.

After graduating, Poonam worked with a consultant for a federal organization and as a translator for a police department. Currently, she is working with the Canadian government as a policy analyst. Although her doctoral research is not directly applicable, her skills—critical thinking, effective argumentation, and research—have been invaluable, and her experience as a sessional was a useful lesson in how to navigate workplace politics and dynamics.

Although doing a degree in philosophy or other humanities disciplines has a bad reputation for future employment right now, the many skills and forms of knowledge learned during a humanities degree will be a great advantage for whatever the student ends up doing, whether inside or outside the academy. PhDs shouldn’t be looked down on for not getting jobs in academia: rather, by being out in the world, we can often benefit society more.

Poonam DohutiaFor her PhD in philosophy, Poonam wrote on thought experiments, counterfactual conditionals, and impossible cases. Throughout her degree, she worked regularly as a TA, and various scholarships helped with her high international tuition. As a woman of colour from a developing country, she sometimes experienced other students or professors doubting her language skills or her chosen study of logic rather than ethics, but her program’s strong sense of community among the professors and the graduate students provided comradery and guidance. International students were rare in her philosophy department, so the structured events and resources available from the larger university community and administration were invaluable.

Poonam finished her degree in ten years. Her relatively unstructured program provided the freedom to explore, but did extend the program duration. Support from her supervisor helped to keep her on track, but the program would have benefitted from more coaching on how to structure research towards a particular outcome, whether for a dissertation or an article.

After graduating, Poonam worked with a consultant for a federal organization and as a translator for a police department. Currently, she is working with the Canadian government as a policy analyst. Although her doctoral research is not directly applicable, her skills—critical thinking, effective argumentation, and research—have been invaluable, and her experience as a sessional was a useful lesson in how to navigate workplace politics and dynamics.

Although doing a degree in philosophy or other humanities disciplines has a bad reputation for future employment right now, the many skills and forms of knowledge learned during a humanities degree will be a great advantage for whatever the student ends up doing, whether inside or outside the academy. PhDs shouldn’t be looked down on for not getting jobs in academia: rather, by being out in the world, we can often benefit society more.

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