Doctorate of Business Administration- Challenge and lifelong journey

Some of my friends and colleagues often told me they admire the initiative I took to add another challenge to my life—becoming a Doctorate of Business Administration candidate at Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM)— given that I have a wonderful family and a full-time challenging job. They are right. It is a challenge. Finding the right equilibrium among family, work, and four years of an intensive, applicative research adventure is currently the challenge of my life. I came to some points during the last three years where I asked myself this simple question: what did I do? However, many times more, I also told myself how lucky I am to have this “window” to change the air in my life by trying to respond to a question I had raised 20 years ago—a question very related to a professional passion I have. 

 

The first step

Naturally, my work went in the same direction as my passion, but  my work was not able to help me fully respond to my question simply because I was not working for myself, and I needed to adhere to the objectives of the company for which I was working. Early 2012, I moved to France with a new mission in the company where I work, and in 2013, I decided it was the right time (or never) to dedicate part of the next four years of my life to answer my question. One point here that is crucial in my opinion for the work-research-family balance that every DBA candidate must seek: the DBA research must be related somehow to a passion and, at the same time, needs to also be related to the work the candidate is currently doing. A DBA is applicative, and after passing three years as a candidate, I can confirm this relationship between the work I am doing and my Doctorate of Business Administration was crucial.  So, I applied and went through the structured application process, and I was very fortunate to be accepted as a DBA candidate at GEM. This was the beginning of the challenge.

 

Defining the research question

Quickly afterwards, I was faced with the very first test: I found myself working with a great advisor, but, I discovered, not an expert in my research question, but in another even greater subject. The lesson I learned is that it is vital for the coming four years for me to take in hand the hard task of finding the right advisor for my DBA. I decided and worked on my research, and I found the best ever advisor who is an expert in the question I pursued.

Of course, I’ve said my “first test” because I thought my question was perfect, which it was not even close to being—it was not a proper scientific research question. Luckily, I am an agile, flexible, and easily adaptable person, which I must be to continue in this four-year challenge. So I changed, then modified, then re-changed my research question so that it became aligned with the rules of the art of scientific research that I had learned through the intensive workshops during the first two years and through consulting with the academic team and especially my advisor.

 

Balancing family, research and work 

What I’ve described might seem easy and simple, but it isn’t. However, it is surely manageable. All these events went on while my family sacrificed time (weekends and daily hours) spent with me. My solution was planning—planning vacations, small escapades to the park, or even dinners—ahead of time. Planning is key, as well as continuous daily work and thinking about the research topic. The Grenoble Ecole de Management team is wonderful in this aspect. They have helped me with the overall DBA plan based on their long and successful experience. For instance, the first recommendation coming from the program director was to devote two hours per day of continuous work on the research, and more important, from the beginning, the DBA team has provided clear objectives of deliverables with all the deadlines. Accordingly, I have planned my life at home and at work during these years doing the DBA. This is simply a wonderful recipe.  I am not describing the workshops, but these are excellent opportunities to learn and exchange the experiences as well as the tough moments with an academic team and the cohorts.

 

In sum, it is currently the challenge of my life, and I am not finished: I am still working on the quantitative part of my research after completing the qualitative part. What I can say is that it is a breeze of fresh air that I feel on my face every time I sit down to work on my question. I am happy to do it and confident I will make it with the extra effort I still have to put in to reach my objective of responding to my question.

 

Zaher ElTawil, Grenoble Ecole de Management, Doctorate of Business Administration student

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