My Story

Hi! I am Diana Zina and I founded PhD Pilot because of one thing: I know how it is to be you! And I also know that being you is not easy. I started as a PhD student in December 2015 at Copenhagen University, Denmark, within the field of structural biology. I remember getting chosen among many other applicants and one thought that came within the first months was "I couldn't possibly be the best. I guess I had a lucky day. They will find out soon that they hired the wrong one. Wow, I really fooled them". 

Crazy, right? Well, it might sound crazy, but I actually believed in it. Not only the first months but I spend a lot of energy trying to not get 'revealed' for how incompetent I actually was. That's at least how I was thinking. And these thoughts led to increased stress, anxiety, and a lot of worries about the future. Besides having trouble mentally, I developed what the doctor called 'irritated bowel syndrome' (IBS) and struggled with rash on my whole upper body.  But the doctors were saying that there was nothing wrong with me - and that was the most frustrating message I could get when I was obviously not feeling fine. 

I tried to share my story with some colleagues and on one hand, it felt good but on the other hand, it didn't. It felt good because I felt understood and I felt less alone with it, and it didn't feel good because they told me that they were feeling somehow similar and in between the lines they said that it is quite normal in the academic world. Therefore, I tried to bury my pain and keep going. Because that was apparently a part of the game... 

Until I couldn't do that anymore. I had to take some weeks off to get better and I sought help for the first time through the university. Honestly, I was feeling guilty that I had to take some time off, when no one else in my group needed that. I felt weak and I felt like I was getting 'revealed'. My biggest fear was to fail in my PhD and I felt like I was on the right track to do so. Because I felt so much like a failure, all I wanted was to quit and avoid getting fired and being told that I wasn't good enough from someone else. Looking back, I can't believe that I was afraid of getting fired. I was working a lot, I delivered what I was told, I was a good presenter and I was a helpful colleague. But what I was focusing on was that I didn't produce any results and the only explanation for that (in my head) was that it had something to do with me.

My first meeting with a psychologist was already in October 2016 and I felt like I had a safe room to share how I was really feeling. He was mostly just listening to what I had to say and when I got out of the room I felt a bit lighter, but my problems were still there as soon as I entered the office. Since my meeting with him, I've had sessions with two other psychologists during my PhD journey. I started to realize was that I needed to talk to someone who knew the academic world and how the "unwritten rules" work. However, I was still struggling with sharing my true feelings with people in academia as I would seem weak. That was at least what I told myself. 

Since day one of my PhD, I started to worry about my defence. Mostly because I knew that there would be a jury. And how could I possibly hide my incompetency in front of a jury consisting of senior specialists within a field similar to mine? You can't imagine how many times I have been dreaming about that day (where I forgot the PowerPoint/didn't practice at all/failed badly...you name it). In January 2020 I defended my PhD successfully. Without being revealed as an incompetent PhD student. Without failing. 

Since that January I decided that I want to be the person that I needed myself during my PhD. Therefore I have been specializing in effective coaching methods to support, help and mentor PhD students who feel like they are not good enough. You are good enough and I can help you reach your fullest potential as a PhD student and help you to start enjoying your journey, based on, not only my own experience as a PhD student, but training as a mindset coach.  

Coaching and mentoring is my biggest passion, and my mission is to make you achieve your doctoral degree while thriving. 

Feel free to reach out, follow us on Instagram (click on icon below) and join the Facebook group (click on icon below) with hundreds of other PhD students.

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