A short journey to my DBA

When I started my journey to my Doctorate of Business Administration diploma, I could not imagine that my career and life would change so dramatically. In November 2011, I boarded a plane for Grenoble to attend the first workshop. Although it was freezing, I was excited to meet my new colleagues and, most importantly, my supervisor.

Some people say that the journey can cost you “a kidney and a lung”; some others are still struggling; and the rest have found it difficult to continue. However, in my experience, I enjoyed every moment: I found it short and fulfilling, and I embraced new friends and colleagues with whom to pursue my research journey. With my experience in mind, I’d like to share my two best tips for making it through the DBA in a time-efficient way:

  1. Get organized

Take control of your research and come up with ideas while intelligently reading papers and articles. Don’t read all the paper’s content; instead, focus on the abstract and the conclusion. Organize yourself to write all these ideas in one document while keeping track of the references. Use Mendeley or other software that organizes papers.

I organized my work using a phase-by-phase project management methodology used for projects with interdependent activities that included real-time communication with my supervisor and rapid adjustments throughout a project.  It contains a list of activities and uses a work break-down structure (WBS); a timeline to complete; and dependencies, milestones, and deliverables. My methodology consisted of phasing each step. For example, I had the reading phase, writing ideas phase, organizing papers phase, contents table phase, analyzing phase, etc.  Each phase had its own deliverables with its own timeline to complete knowing that some phases can be prepared in parallel. There were some major deliverables to send to my supervisor, like the table of contents, literature review, hypothesis development, analysis, and conclusion.

  1. Don’t overload your supervisor

Don’t overly rely on your supervisor: make sure you know what to do when he is unavailable for a month or longer. I have tried to take the lead many times and have co-organized work with my supervisor. Monthly meetings during the first year with my supervision were the best pattern to keep up with work, and deliverables were provided at least every three to four months, and sometimes six months.

If you have the choice, choose a supervisor who is active in one area of your doctorate and also in your main field of research. My supervisor has lengthy experience in customer/consumer education, and my field of interest is ICT. He has shared his different experience and expertise and given me insight into his field. In establishing a relationship with a supervisor, the most important things to consider are trust and the opportunity for intelligent communication. Invest time with your supervisor because it will repay you and not betray you. Because my supervisor and I have created this important trust relationship between us, he knew I could deliver on my work, and we are still collaborating by writing and publishing many papers and articles.

The key issues in my successful journey were confidence, trust, communication, reading (a lot), writing (a lot), and, most essentially, proper planning. I have survived my journey, and I have found it really short. I have invested this short time in learning, listening, reaching for others, and, most importantly, enjoying every moment.

Good luck!

Rania Fakhoury; Grenoble Ecole de Management, Doctorate of Business Administration, Alumnus 2014

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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

The DBA journey: The art of designing your own flight plan

Starting the journey of the Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) is a big step. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” To embark on the path of a DBA, prepare yourself. Continue reading “The DBA journey: The art of designing your own flight plan”

Why I didn’t want to go to the EGOS Colloquium in Naples …but went anyway.

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Stephen Broadhurst (DBA 2014)

In this month’s post Stephen Broadhurst (DBA 2014) discusses not going, and then going, to the 2016 EGOS Colloquium in Naples, Italy following a passing remark made by his Grenoble DBA Program Director. He was initially encouraged to have a look at the 2016 EGOS Colloquium as specifically they were holding a themed workshop on his research subject of Spirituality… in fact on ‘Spirituality and Mindfulness’, a theme on which he returns to in his conclusion.

Continue reading “Why I didn’t want to go to the EGOS Colloquium in Naples …but went anyway.”

Seven Lessons from a Novice on getting published

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Shailesh Rana, Doctoral Candidate DBA USA 2012

It seemed to me like a wishful thinking …or at least a really daunting task having your work recognized in a reputed journal and publish your FIRST article….yes, with your own name as an “author”! In this post Shailesh Rana (Doctoral Candidate DBA USA 2013) explains how he just happened to pass that hurdle last month, and shares some of his experiences, which may be useful to you as an ardent academician hovering over your thesis every day, dreaming it to be complete SOON!

Continue reading “Seven Lessons from a Novice on getting published”

It’s a Marathon and not a Sprint

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Fernando Lagranna (DBA 2011)

At the 2015 Doctoral school graduation Mark Smith (outgoing Director of the Doctoral School) borrowed Fernando Lagraña’s (DBA 2011) analogy of marathon running in relation to completing a doctoral degree. In his last post, Mark joins forces with Fernando to develop the idea, and promote a bit of sport. As a former high-level runner, and now expert Argentine Tango dancer, Fernando regularly uses running and dancing to explain the doctoral journey to incoming DBA students in Switzerland and Grenoble. Continue reading “It’s a Marathon and not a Sprint”

Making Innovation Last

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In this post Christophe Haon and David Gotteland – professors from the Marketing Strategy and Innovation team of Grenoble Ecole de Management – discuss their major project to map the state of the art knowledge in innovation research – a key theme of research among faculty and doctoral students at Grenoble. A project that culminated in the book Making Innovation Last, co-authored with Hubert Gatignon (INSEAD). Their two-volume book deals with a hot topic and, like a doctorate, it was a long time in the planning and execution… but in this case more than 10 years of preparation and 4 years of intense writing!

Continue reading “Making Innovation Last”

The ‘What’, the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’: The benefits of Connecting with Faculty Research teams.

 

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Marc Baumgartner, DBA Candidate 2014

This month Marc Baumgartner (DBA Grenoble 2014) discusses the benefits of participating in an event hosted by the research team linked closest to his doctoral research topic. In late 2015 Marc came to Grenoble Ecole de Management and joined the in-house conference “The Business Model Days” at GEM. Continue reading “The ‘What’, the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’: The benefits of Connecting with Faculty Research teams.”

Putting Valorisation into Practice at the Doctoral Knowledge Community

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Delphine Vidal, Knowledge Community manager, GEM Doctoral School

This month on the Doctoral Knowledge blog Delphine Vidal, Knowledge Community manager, writes about our strategy for supporting the valorisation of the intellectual output of our global community of doctoral students, alumni and supervisors. As the new academic year starts it is time to think about how the institution can support members of the community and what individual members can do themselves.

Continue reading “Putting Valorisation into Practice at the Doctoral Knowledge Community”