Making Success Inevitable with Dr. Thomas Joseph

Thomas Joseph, Ph.D. was born in Dominica, an island in the Caribbean. Dr. Joseph is an expert in effectively training employees on relevant products, services, and procedures, helping deliver high standards of customer service coupled with established objectives and KPIs. His unique style to training development results in actual change, saving companies time and money.

Dr. Joseph has been engaged in higher education as an Instructor in Business Management and Leadership courses for several years. He holds a PhD in Organization and Management. As an educator, Dr. Joseph fosters positive learning, incites students’ passion for learning, and creates a sound and genuine basis for life-long learning. His teaching style exemplifies the role of mentor, consistent with his primary focus on student success. 

Dr. Joseph’s professional passion is applying a collaborative leadership style for designing and implementing programs that create improved organizational performance, talent and succession planning, strategy implementation and processes. 

He has published his work in various scholarly journals and is also the author of the book, Notes to Self.  Dr. Joseph continues his desire for knowledge through research, higher learning, and inspiring others to live their best life and work towards achieving their goals.    


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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Dr. Joseph’s informal academic coaching led to a career in higher education
  • Proving the naysayers wrong
  • The secret-handshake language of the doctoral journey
  • The benefits of push-back from your dissertation committee members
  • Losing your dissertation: a cautionary tale
  • Data analysis and child’s play
  • Celebrating in the defense afterglow
  • How Dr. Joseph’s big why turned into his first book

In this episode…

What does it mean to succeed…and what does it take to get there?

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, Dr. Thomas Joseph tells Dr. Russell Strickland about the ins and outs of the dissertation journey from his experience as a student and an educator. He discusses the importance of motivation and measurable goals in overcoming a pessimistic advisor and how a delicate balancing act of pushback with his dissertation committee chair led to a better working relationship… and a done dissertation! Since graduation, Dr. Joseph has availed himself of many opportunities to become a university faculty member and a published author…all in the name go helping students be successful in following their own motivations to achieve their own goals.

Dr. Joseph’s story will inspire you to recommit and succeed!

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done, America’s #1 authority in dissertation completion for working professionals.

Founded by Dr. Russell Strickland, Dissertation Done serves people in two ways:

  1. If you’re struggling with your dissertation, getting ready to start your dissertation, or just plain wanting to get your dissertation done as soon as possible, go to and Let’s Get Your Dissertation Done
  2. If you’re busy living your Unconventional Life and have a message that you want to share, maybe you should join our Expand Your Authority Program to become a published author. Go to and let me know that you’d like to talk about Expanding Your Authority.

Visit to learn more about our other services and leave a message or call them at 888-80-DR-NOW (888-803-7669) to schedule your free 30 to 45-minute phone consultation.

Episode Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript is here for your reading convenience. It was created by machines and may (a-hem) contain some errors. If you email us about these errors, the machines will undoubtedly find out. I hope they won’t get angry.


Intro [00:00:03]

Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy one percent out there who earned their doctoral degrees and then went on to use them in crazy, cool, unique, and unconventional ways. Here’s your host, astrophysicist turned teacher, author, dissertation coach, and more, Dr Russell Strickland.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:00:29]

Good afternoon and welcome to an Unconventional Life podcast with Dr. Russell Strickland, I’m your host, Dr Russell Strickland, and I have with me today Dr. Thomas Joseph. Dr. Joseph is originally from Dominica in the Caribbean. He actually shares an alma mater with me at Capella University. So we’re going to have some fun talking about that. He’s a published author. We’re going to get into everything about the dissertation process and how you can really accelerate your career after you graduate. He’s got a lot of great information to share with you guys today. And I can’t wait to have that conversation with Dr. Joseph. Dr. Joseph, welcome.


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:01:08]

Thank you. Thank you for having me, Dr. Strickland, it’s my pleasure to welcome to the show time. Thank you.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:01:14]

Before we get started, I want to let everyone know that this episode was brought to you by Dissertation Done. If you are an adult doctoral student working on your dissertation about the start on your dissertation, struggling through your dissertation or fed up with it and about ready to quit on your dissertation, why don’t you reach out to us first at DissertationDone/comdone that’s and see if you might not be a good fit for our Fast-Track Your Dissertation coaching program where we take students from here to graduation in much less time than you might think possible. Our students routinely graduate a year or two years, sometimes three years faster than their peers. And so if you’re working on the dissertation or about to get started, look for the support, the guidance and structure that you need to get this thing done, reach out to us at And if by any chance you’ve already graduated or you’re an expert in trying to get your expertise out into the world, the best way to do that is by becoming a published author. You can reach out to us at and we’ll talk to you about our Expand Your Authority program, where we take authors from the blank page to a published work that you can leverage to grow your business or start your business as an expert, coach, consultant, counselor, or more so, reach out to us at for that. Dr. Joseph, again, thank you so much for being here today. And I’d like to start off by asking you. To tell us a little bit about your background before you started working on your doctoral degree and what led you to that calling to decide that you wanted to pursue your doctoral degree?


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:03:01]

The honest truth with all of that is I remember I worked for JP Morgan Chase, that’s one of the managers, a manager within the firm. And something that really caught my attention as an individual was the opportunity I had to work with my staff and do a lot of coaching and stuff. And something that I was interested in is learning not just the practical aspect of managing people, but the theoretical aspects of managing people. During that time, when I decided I only had an undergrad degree, so I decided to pursue my master’s degree in management just to learn more about the theoretical aspect of managing folks. And then once I got that master’s degree, it was like it looks like there’s a little bit more to learn, right? There’s always more and more to learn. Right. So from there on, I realized that I had gathered sufficient information on management, but I needed more. I needed something more. I got a bit more caught up in the coaching aspect of things and just working one on one with my staff at the time. So that kind of led me to say, you know what, teaching might be something I might be enthusiastic a bit more about. So that led me to say, OK, I want to get a doctoral degree, which from my perspective will have position better in the process of wanting to move into higher education and so on and so forth.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:04:30]

So on top of my got you hooked on the idea of teaching and you wanted to teach at that higher ed level, and that was why you wanted to get into the doctoral program.


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:04:40]

Yeah. And another thing I had to my staff always asked me about education because they knew I was in school. And so they were always consistently asking me about education and what should I do, where do I go to school and so on and so forth. So I always felt in that it’s almost like I was like it was like an academic coach. So I said, OK, so then maybe I can just pursue higher education. And that might be a good starting point where I can become more of an educator rather than just a coach mentee, staff manager. Yeah.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:05:18]

So, yeah, Thomas, that actually kind of reminds me of my own story when I was the reason I went to graduate school. I was in a I was a traditional graduate student. I went from high school to college straight into graduate school. I was studying astronomy and astrophysics to be a research professor and I followed along that path. I was really excited, really passionate about it. Until years into the program, my research advisor died in a plane crash. And I decided at that point, well, it was just time to do something else. I hadn’t been making any money because I was a graduate student. I was going to get started with my research that I was going to be another couple of years delay. And I just decided to to switch gears a little bit. And I got into you mentioned JPMorgan. Well, I got into working with a bank in downtown Chicago. ABN Amro was the name of that institution. And as I was doing more and more business related things, I realized I’d never study this at all. So I thought maybe if I go back to school and get my doctoral degree, I’ll know a little bit more about what’s going on and what some of these folks are talking about. And and so that’s kind of how I got pulled back into it. That and as you mentioned, wanting to teach, though I ended up doing some magic teaching before I started dissertation done. I know you have a story about a teaching opportunity came up to you that I want to get to a little bit later on. But tell me, when you when you decided to go to graduate school, going to get your doctoral degree, what was it like getting enrolled and getting back into school after having been working for for so long?


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:06:49]

So I actually got into my my doctoral degree about. A year and a half after I finished my master’s degree, there are two thousand nine. So during the gap between my master’s and my doctoral degree, I use that time to kind of research what I wanted to do. I’m a very I know if you heard of John Maxwell, but I’m a very fond person of John Maxwell. So I wasn’t I was very much interested in what he was doing. So that’s why the emphasis on the specification of my Ph.D. on leadership. So I did a lot of research on what I where I wanted to go with my and finally came to the point that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted a degree in organizational management that focused a lot on leadership. But I’ll tell you a story. When I signed up with Capelli University, I did my doctoral degree during that time after you signed up, you would have your like a mentor academic coach would call you and have that our conversation with you and I actually, for my degree, I was required to take 16 courses through your program, 16 courses. So I figured out 16 courses. I can finish the coursework in two years and in one year for my research. And that when I had my my first call with my with my academic coach and I told him what I was going to do in relation to my my studies and how I’m going to take my courses through classes I return. And I knew I was working full time, I was a parent and all that stuff. And he told me I was crazy. I was crazy to do that. This is not possible. I will not be able to do two courses at one time, having to work full time and all of that stuff. And I said, well, I’ll prove to you that I can just put my exact words. I said, I can do this. I said myself, do something. I’m going to do it. So it was a bit discouraging to hear that. But at the same time, I used that discouragement as a motivation and said I wanted to prove to you did not really give me what I can do to be successful. And I think that’s a big kicker for us, because in life we will find those things, people we expect to help us make the right decision and push us in the right decision. And sometimes they can be that person that just throws something in here that can actually stop us along the way.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:09:17]

It’s not that you were discouraged, but I know a lot of folks get discouraged by their, you know, their dissertation chair, the committee chair, by people who are in their family or their personal circle. It happens all the time. The fact that you use that as fuel to to to keep moving forward, I think is very, very good because no one knows what you can do but you. All right. And then if you have reasonable expectations and tell you how difficult it’s going to be, if they told you it would be easy to take three courses and you’re killing yourself to take to make you happy about that either. But to say you can’t do something, I think that’s shortsighted for any coach or adviser. Tell them what it’s going to take to do it and let them make a decision. They’ll tell them they can’t because most people can do most anything they set their mind to as long as they’re determined to do it.


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:10:13]

And then to piggyback from that, the discouragement that sometimes we don’t even expect it. Where does it come from? And then it doesn’t matter who it comes from. The I think the ideal thing is what fuels you that for you. So you have like with me, when I heard that, it was like. You know, it wasn’t like I’m going to back off. It was really like, OK, this is something that I set out to do and this is what I’m going to do. So it makes it kind of make me think even up to today, it doesn’t matter what negativity comes your way when you set out to do something, you have to have that persuasion and that conviction within yourself. And this is what I set out to do and this is what I’m going to do no matter what. So that was that’s the feeling that I had, that no matter what, this is what I’m going to do and this is what I set out to do. So we have to have that fuel to continue on our process.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:11:13]

And one hundred percent true. You have to have a reason why you have to to know why you’re doing a thing. So I don’t think I don’t subscribe to that, no matter what philosophy, like I have to keep going no matter what. I think you keep an eye on the environment. You look for changes. You always should be deciding, is this what I want to be doing? And you should be able to renew yourself every day that, yes, this is what I need to be doing. It makes sense for me to be doing this now and then. Of course, if it makes sense for you to be doing it, you have to be committed to doing what it takes. That’s where I agree with the no matter what philosophy that, you know, that this is something worthwhile for you, then you have to look at the difficulty and say, that’s what I have to do. That’s the price I have to pay to get to where I want to be in this world or in this life. And so then it doesn’t matter what you have to pay in once you’ve decided that it’s worth the investment in yourself in your time, your energy and your money.


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:12:10]

Essentially, it hinges on why there has to be a why and then everything else hinges on that why.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:12:19]

And for students that are working on their doctoral degree, the the upside, the payoff, the return on investment is huge. And I know that you’ve already mentioned to me some of the things that we’re going to be talking about here a little bit later on. Extraordinary opportunities that can come your way. I’ve talked to have had other guests on the podcast before that have done so many different things that they would have never dreamed of before getting a doctoral degree. So the the upside on the fly is often off the charts. And so that’s where the no matter what in terms of the work and the effort you have to put in, it is worth it.


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:12:57]

Yeah. Yeah.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:12:59]

So tell me, as you were going into this process that you mentioned right from day one, they were trying to discourage you. You’ve got that attitude. I can do it. I’m going to get it done. At what point in the process did you start to. To to. To encounter any kind of difficulty or any kind of challenges, did the course where did that come easily to you or was that a difficult process?


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:13:25]

The honest truth as the transition for at an undergrad level transitioning to a master’s level transition into a Ph.D., there is something I call the language, right. It’s like every process of your academic. The language changed. Yes. So the more difficult thing for me was to adjust to the language of a doctoral level, to write at that level, to read at that level, to the point where it almost seems like what you’re reading doesn’t make sense, like common sense to everybody else. So I think that was when I started off. That was the hardest thing for me, just to read material and read information and kind of understand it at the level that it was being written. And also and it’s kind of clear to me that if we think of it well, every subject that you study, it has its own language. Right. And if you understand the language of the subject, then you’re able to capture the concepts and understand easily. So that was the challenge for me. I had to develop a perspective just to understand the language. How did that happen? How did I overcome that? I started it right. I started reading dissertations. I started reading more scholarly work. So instead of reading a blog, I would read an article written by a doctor or people that were at that level already. So that helped me kind of see how they write, what type of language they use and not necessarily learn in citations and stuff like that. But actually just to hear the language that the writing, the writing on. I remember I was working the night shift at the time and there was another part of mine. We were working together. And one night I was kind of relax a little bit. And I have been kind of reviewing a paper that I wrote for one of my classes. And then I remember the lady came to my office and to say, all right, I said yes as I read this right. Kind of just put her on the spot and she read the first paragraph. And then she looked at me. She says, What the heck are you saying? You know, so I was like, that’s that’s the level. It comes to that place where you write at that level because you understand that language and how to do that. So transition and into that that that language was what was very taxing for me to start with, but then didn’t use that word language.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:15:55]

When I was in first in graduate school, I remember several of us coming to the conclusion that if you knew. About seven words in a given discipline, and you knew how to use them and when to use them, you could go in to that to that discipline and fool people for a very long time into thinking that you knew exactly what was going on. Yeah, just by just by knowing just a very few words. But it wasn’t. Just normal words, I mean, it would take you a while to even figure out what those words were. For example, in my circle that when I was going to graduate school in astronomy and astrophysics, there was a lot of math that happens in that field. And one of the things that we we would talk about is if something was a trivial argument and they would use that word trivial. And this is not mean. It’s easy. And you could show this to somebody, a college student, a high school student. And like you said with your person, he has to read the paragraph. They would not understand what’s going on at all. But at some point you say this is this is a trivial solution and we’re looking for something else. And it’s knowing those few words that folks used in the discipline and how they use them, that sort of makes you part of the club getting the inside handshake, so to speak.


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:17:16]

Now, that’s right. We’re right about that. And I think and I think sometimes that’s where the struggle is to start with. That reading is a key element to get you to that to.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:17:27]

That immersion, right? You said that you were just reading and reading and just like you would learn any language, right? You’re near enough. You see enough of it. And that’s much harder to do when you’re at a remote, when you’re a remote student, when you’re going through a distance learning environment with your school. So many of our students that we work with, they go to school online and they’re not they’re not working and they aren’t part of the community on a day to day basis. They don’t go to campus. They don’t have an office in the basement like I did at the University of Chicago. You’re not exposed to it all the time. So you have to make sure that you’re immersed to pick up that language and.


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:18:08] And that goes back to the why. That goes back to the why it’s now, so.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:18:14]

OK, so you pick up the language, you start to understand how communication works in the field. What was the next challenge or hurdle for you once you did that, did the classes come easy at that point or.


Dr. Thomas Joseph [00:18:27]

They did, except they did for the most part, except that when I got to my financial management class, that was that was a tough one. Yeah. And then transitioning into my research methods, classes, this were a bit tough because I don’t I don’t I don’t consider myself to be a very strong person in math. I know just enough to do math. So when I got to quantitative research methods, it was kind of like, OK, I have to do this SPSS stuff and all of that good stuff. So that helped me to get out. OK, where do I go? Do I go quantitative? What do I call qualitative? If I was better able to analyze pure data, you know, verbal data rather than statistical data and stuff, but that was the challenge was to how do I transition from what research method will my more comfortable and more convenient feel more comfortable to work with and have it? Because I have to do my quantitative classes and I also had to do my qualitative classes. So it was really balanced for both. Yeah. And then once I finished that, it was like, yeah, I think I will take qualitative over quantitative, but it’s more like.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:19:39]

I tell all of our students coming in that work with Dissertation Done that we can help with qualitative project. We can help you with quantitative project. If you’ve already kind of gotten on one track or the other, that’s just fine. But if you don’t know which one you want to do yet, I encourage everybody to do a quantitative dissertation projects because qualitative projects take so much longer to collect and analyze the data. And and the most beautiful words I ever say to any student is when they talk about their quantitative class or their research methods class is that, you know, we can do the statistics for you. You have to do those yourself. So you have to get the class. But, you know, our students are nurses and psychologists and educators and folks in business, and they don’t expect you to be a statistician. So as long as you can understand the results and what they mean and you can explain themselves, you’re good. And I tell you, I don’t know if I’ve ever hear a deep sigh of relief, then when someone says I really have to actually do that.

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.