Dr Razan Baker graduated from Brunel University London with a PhD in sports sciences in 2014 and was appointed director of international communication at the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee earlier this year, after joining the organisation in 2018.
What made you decide to study a sports management postgraduate degree?
After graduating from university, I started working as a journalist covering sports and cultural events in 2005 at the Arab News. I found myself keen on learning more and enhancing my skills, but I felt I had reached the point where staying in place would not help me achieve that. I decided to get my MA in international journalism with a specialism in sports at City, University of London, and that got me more interested in understanding the field of sports sciences.
At that time, Saudi Arabia didn’t have undergraduate or postgraduate degrees in sport sciences for women. I was already settled in London and started contacting supervisors to discuss my PhD proposal before I ended my MA. The Olympics was also happening soon, and I was lucky to be accepted at Brunel under the supervision of Dr Vassil Girginov in 2010. It was a wakeup call for me, it was a new journey that I was willing to take because I wanted to make a difference in my country and the only way to do it was to do something different, and I’m happy I did it.
Why did you choose the the course at Brunel?
I was already happy in London and Brunel is considered one of the top universities in the sports sector. I had contacted several supervisors but I found Dr Girginov had a great background related to my idea and area of study. This encouraged me to apply and to start a new journey with a supervisor who understands where I come from and was supportive throughout my journey.
How do you feel the course helped you prepare for a career in the sports industry?
From day one, I was learning something new, as we started with the literature review to understand different ideas and studies. My knowledge before was limited to covering sports events and interviewing athletes. The PhD gave me a new direction; to be more precise, it gave me a broader perspective to why athletes would say what they say and how they do what they do. I was able to learn not only from studying, but also from participating at conferences and sports event and meeting people in the field who share similar interests but were from different backgrounds. It was really fascinating to just absorb the knowledge and communicate with the field in so many different ways. It was a bit difficult to adapt, I remember my supervisor telling me, ‘forget your journalist hat and put it on the side for a while, you are a researcher now, think differently’. This helped me a lot in my career and in decision making, strategy planning and communicating in general.
How does being a Brunel graduate continue to support your career?
In addition to the above, I’m still happy to meet my colleagues from Brunel and hear about their success. I’m always happy to stay in touch with my supervisor and learn about Brunel news. It felt like home, so it will be my pleasure to cooperate through my field or career when needed.
What advice would you offer to someone starting on the course this year?
First, be sure of your topic of interest, then find a course that will help you understand it more and will help you offer something new and valid when you graduate. Trending topics may seem important now, but it doesn’t mean it will continue to be important in four or five years. Therefore, my advice is to invest your time and choose your topic or idea to study carefully.