Finding the balance in studies and life

Sayla headshot

3 minute read

Sayla Siddiqui is graduating from The Australian National University (ANU) College of Business and Economics (CBE) with a PhD in Finance. She has completed her PhD through CBE’s Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics (RSFAS).

Sayla is currently working as an Economist at the Department of Social Services with the Australian Federal Government. In 2012 she received the government’s prestigious Endeavour Postgraduate Award, a scholarship that allowed her to pursue her Master by Research. Her research interests focus on labour market, mergers and acquisitions, innovation and corporate litigation.

Sayla was the winner of the CBE Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in 2019, and was the competition’s host for 2021 and 2020. She is passionate about teaching, painting and swimming.

In her interview, Sayla shares her highlights of being a higher degree by research (HDR) candidate, and offers advice for others about to enter the field.

Q. Why did you choose ANU to complete your PhD, and what has your research focused on?

The main reason I chose ANU to complete my PhD, is that it’s the number one university in Australia (QS World University Ranking 2022) and one of the top-ranked global universities. A PhD from ANU is highly regarded anywhere in the world. My research interests also matched with some of the scholars at RSFAS. I knew that working with them would equip me with rigorous research skills and provide me with an international focus.

Q. You won the CBE 3MT in 2019 and have been the MC at our last two events. What was this experience like for you and what are the benefits of being involved in 3MT?

Being involved with 3MT was like a dream come true. Two years before I participated in 3MT, I attended the CBE and ANU finals as a spectator. I was in awe watching the grandiose arrangement of the event by ANU, and wondered whether I could compete in it someday. That dream came true in 2019. 3MT has given me the courage to speak anywhere and in front of any number of people, in an articulated and engaging way.

Q. What have been the highlights of your HDR experience?

The research I did during my PhD has been accepted in top peer-reviewed journals. I got the opportunity to present my research at international conferences. My thesis was accepted straight away for graduation without any review recommendations. I was nominated for the best tutor award by my students. On top of all these, I won the CBE 3MT competition and represented my college in the ANU 3MT Final.

Q. What advice would you give to future HDR candidates?

I would advise them to have a balanced life. If I were asked to plan for my PhD life now, I would emphasise planning a balanced diet, regular exercise, family time and adequate socialising. Mental wellbeing is no less important than physical wellbeing. While doing a PhD, we get so target-oriented that we often forget what makes us happy. I would advise them to do what they love for at least half an hour every day.

Q. How has your PhD shaped your career aspirations?

It has given me the freedom to work in any sector and anywhere in the world. A PhD in finance from ANU has made me fit to work in academia, industry, government and development organisations. It has trained me not only with the empirical tools for research, but also with the critical-thinking ability and effective communication skills. It made me confident to dive into any challenging task that comes my way.

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.