The DBA challenge after my Doctorate in Dental Science

Why I decided to pursue a Doctorate of Business Administration

I earned my doctoral degree in Dental Science in 1999, from the University of Bern, Switzerland, but during the dental science doctoral process, I realized that the academic career path did not appeal to me. Later, in 2002, I earned my MBA because I wanted to learn how to manage dental clinics. Eventually, the everyday routine set in, and I felt the urge to move on to find new intellectual challenges.

By the time I applied to the Grenoble Ecole de Management DBA program, I had been in various administrative positions managing dental clinics for more than 15 years, and I gained vast experience in both practicing dentistry and managing the business side of dental clinics. But, when my husband Deniz introduced me to the Geneva cohort of GEM-DBA students, and my brother, Nicolai, entered the program, I discovered a whole new universe of dynamism, curiosity for new knowledge, and an aspiration to change one’s professional life. This time, the idea to enter academia, to go beyond my profession as a dental practitioner and manager, to conduct academic research, and to eventually join the faculty of a business school became enticing.

The road to teaching in a business school passes through the academically qualified (AQ) gate, which is a status that starts with either a PhD in business or a DBA. GEM offered a 1-year DBA AQ Bridge Program for candidates who had already had a PhD in a field other than business or management; the argument is that the candidate is already familiar with the academic research process and does not need to be exposed to the first year of the DBA process. I joined the AQ Bridge Program, but I soon discovered that I needed more time to submerge myself into the process, review the literature to find a gap, and develop my own conceptual model. Therefore, I switched to the DBA program.

How was it worth it?

I reached my objective! I earned my Doctorate of Business Administration and became AQ. Therefore, it was well worth it! In addition, I found the intellectual challenge I had been looking for.

Since the date of my defense, I have been teaching statistics both at the undergraduate and graduate levels with immense self-satisfaction. In addition, my student evaluations have been nothing short of great.

How different is it?

On the day I defended my DBA, 15 years had passed since my doctorate in dentistry. During this period, information technology had made huge progress, which facilitated online literature searching, creating a personalized digital library to keep track of cited articles, and collecting data through online surveys. This new information technology gave my DBA process a whole new dimension. Even though the research process in medicine is much like that in business, the DBA journey gave me quite a few “aha!” moments. Concepts fell into place quickly, most likely, because I went through the process for a second time.

A typical PhD student will enter a doctoral program straight after a master’s degree and have little or no work experience. Consequently, that student does not have a clear research topic choice, let alone the ability to formulate a research question. It is the faculty who guide the new student over several years before choosing a specific research area. Doctoral students who come in with many years of work experience in the field of their future research clearly have a comparative advantage. This was the case not only in my DBA studies but also during my earlier doctorate in dental sciences. I had 10 years of dental experience, so I could quickly identify a literature gap and elaborate my research question.

What did I learn from my Doctorate of Dental Science experience and did it help me through the DBA process?

Both doctorates were big milestones in my career and personal development and, consequently, in my life with my husband! Each doctorate, respectively, contributed to an enormous increase in personal growth and self-confidence.

I was fortunate that I could choose my own research question for my doctoral research in Dental Science. This helped me stay enthusiastic and motivated through the entire process. The program taught me that self-discipline, rigor, focus, and regular communication with my supervisor were primordial for success. I also learned that frustration was a part of the process and getting stuck was a part of the game: without frustration, there would be no progress. Consequently, when I embarked on my DBA journey, I already knew what to expect.

The tremendous support from my husband and family was also a very big factor. Thanks to them all!

Susanne Hansen Saral – DDSc – and Grenoble Ecole de Management DBA alumna 2014

 

 

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Being a Leader, Manager and Doing the Job: What Does it Mean to be a First Author on a Paper?

This September, just before beginning my third year of PhD studies, it happened. I opened my email and read that the article I had been working on for the past two years had been accepted for publication in the Long Range Planning journal. After a quick round of proofreading and final editing, the article has been published online and is in the process of being published in print. 

It is a good feeling to see your work in the layout of a journal that you regularly read and draw inspiration from. No more revisions necessary. The product is final. However, the year-long (which is actually pretty fast in academic terms) crafting, revising, and resubmitting process of the academic article was a journey full of ups and downs and unexpected turns left and right.

Lead your idea forward

My journey started with testing the waters. I had only discussed the general idea for the paper with my supervisor, Valérie Sabatier, and Corine Genet, a Grenoble Ecole de Management professor and second author on the paper. We had some preliminary interview data and an intuition that the emerging issue about experimentation in business modeling was quite interesting.

Two months after starting the PhD, the Business Models and Strategy (BMS) team at Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM) organized a conference called “Business Model Days,” and many renowned scholars were invited to attend. Unlike most conferences, this one focused on very early work, so you could present just a research idea and get feedback. Perfect! I presented our initial ideas and got useful and helpful advice, references, and materials to bring the work forward. After this conference, I was encouraged  to apply to several others, where I presented the more advanced version of the manuscript and discussed it with the community. We also had the opportunity to discuss the first results and intuitions with the participants of the Better Business Model ANR contract, where Corine presented our paper.

Paper management

The PhD program at GEM’s milestones require the writing of three papers. The rules and regulations of the program are that there is no problem submiting a co-authored paper, but the PhD candidate must be the first author and has to write the entire paper alone (co-authors can help in conceptualization, data collection, etc.). For my first-year paper, I decided to focus on Experimentation in Business Modeling. This was a big challenge, but it gave me the opportunity to really engage in writing because it was my responsibility.

The process was not too difficult because my co-authors were really nice and easy to work with. We collected a part of the data together (mostly interviews), and I would do the preliminary analysis and then would schedule a meeting to discuss and decide on the next steps. After writing a draft of the paper, my co-authors would read it carefully and comment on the paper, but it was on me to implement their suggestions and write a new draft. And a new one, and a new one, and a new one… Before the first submission to a conference, we already had 10 versions of the paper; there would be five more before the first submission to a journal.

The job of the first author is not only to write and be involved in data collection, analysis, and theorizing but also to lead and manage the entire process. You have to be persistent, especially considering that your co-authors are full-time professors who are working on many different projects. Management is the key. Engage your co-authors and show enthusiasm about the collaboration. Your name is the first one on the paper, so think of yourself as a team leader.  As any good manager, try to understand the strengths of your co-authors and get the best out of them. Understand their weaknesses, also, and try to work around those. Remember, you are not only managing the collaboration with your co-authors; most importantly, you are managing yourself. You need to do the biggest portion of the job. Find a way to get yourself motivated and to transfer this motivation to your co-authors. Dedicate time to work on the paper, but do not expect quick results.

Revise and resubmit

As the first author, I also managed the submission to the journal, which first meant writing a letter to the journal editor. In this letter, you have to be convincing and show that you are very familiar with the discussions in the journal and that your paper can make a contribution to it.

After the paper passes the initial stage and you are not desk rejected (around 60% of the papers are), you are in the game! But then the hard work really starts. The reviews we got were constructive but tough to address, and this meant writing the entire paper again. We had two major revisions, and we were quite uncertain if we would succeed. The journal to which we submitted has high standards, and the revision process required a lot of new readings, a new framing of the paper, and, most importantly, hours and hours of writing. Do not give up and do not despair. The reviewers want to help you. Remember they spent time reading your paper, engaging with it, and giving you feedback. Respect that and give it your best to improve your work. Take it as a learning opportunity to make your thinking and writing clearer.

In the end, it is all worth it when you open that email that reads, “We are pleased to inform you that your article has been accepted.” Celebrate success with your co-authors and be proud of yourself and of the team!

In numbers

The paper had 32 versions before the final submission, including three complete revisions.

Data analysis had three cycles.

The paper was presented at four conferences.

At least 15 scholars read the paper and commented on it.

The article, “Learning, signaling, and convincing: The role of experimentation in the business modeling process”, by Neva Bojovic, Corine Genet and Valerie Sabatier published in Long Range Planning journal is available online :  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lrp.2017.09.001

 

By Neva Bojovic, Grenoble Ecole de Management, PhD student

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

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”