The doctoral graduation – what happens next?

Be proud of yourself

You’ve got your Doctorate of Business Administration degree because you deserve it. You probably feel frustrated because, for sure, your thesis would have been much more complete if you had spent three more months working on it (welcome to the interesting but also frustrating world of scholars, in which your research is never over!).

However, if your thesis passed through all the assessments stages (i.e., greenlight from your supervisor and program director, the greenlight from the internal and the external reviewers, and a successful defense), it means that you have the required skills to be a doctor with an AMBA-accredited diploma. Be proud of yourself! You will also observe that people around you will be proud of you, too! Some of them perhaps forgot about you these last months, but now that you have made it, they will give more value to the 4,500 hours (at a minimum) you have spent on your doctoral research. So enjoy!


So what next then?

The day after or so, you probably will look for more professional recognition, either by asking for a promotion inside your organization, by looking for a more rewarding job position, or by switching from the business world to the academic world. But, it’s not time to party unless the promotion has been directly reached. Looking for a new job position is often stressful: competition is high; so, the best thing to do is to publish your doctoral research as much as you can and as high as you can in peer-reviewed journals (Remember the CNRS list?). So, start as soon as you can! Candidates having published during their doctoral journey increase their chances of being hired.

You may feel exhausted or, even more, empty or depressed. I did not find any study about this, but, as a program director of doctoral programs, I have observed cohorts of new doctors over the years and have listened to their complaints about this feeling. During these years, the main goal is clear: getting this grail−the doctoral degree; the agenda priority is straightforward: working on the doctoral research; and the mind is focused: writing the thesis. Achieving the doctoral degree is like delivering a baby−but after a four- to five-year-long pregnancy. It is usually quite painful! But there is no baby to pamper; just yourself to take care of.


What’s next after that?

After this post-partum period, you probably have a better working position, and you now struggle with publications, but you enjoy the academic life (e.g., working with smart people who are focused on topics like you, using your brain intensively, or traveling around the world to discuss your research). Or you are recognized as an expert in your professional world and get rewards from this (e.g., getting more contracts, writing books).

And you are a doctor for your whole life! One day, you may lose your job, lose your hair, or lose your cat…who knows? But something will remain certain in this uncertain, complex, constantly changing, and sometimes crazy world…YOU WILL REMAIN A DOCTOR FOREVER, and you will never regret this, believe me!

So, wherever you are in the doctoral journey, even having completed it, I send you my best wishes.

By Caroline Gauthier, DBA Program Director, Grenoble Ecole de Management



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



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 :


By Neva Bojovic, Grenoble Ecole de Management, PhD student

Neva Bojovic has received funding for her research from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Grant Agreement No. 676201) and CHESS (Connected Health Early Stage Researcher Support System).

The DBA – A life experience that sharpens your analytical thinking

“My Doctorate of Business Administration journey was a life enriching experience.” This is what I would say if I were to be asked to pin a slogan to describe this event in my life.

The first steps

In December 2011, I started this journey with a weeklong trip to Grenoble Ecole de Management. During my visit, I met a very impressive group of educators and extremely helpful administrators, and I beheld a beautiful scene at the foot of snowcapped mountains. Initially, I was excited to be re-energizing my academic background, and I started planning to be a student again after more than 20 years since my last classroom appearance. At the end of the first week, I had made new friends, acquired new knowledge, and set out to start my thesis work. Weeks passed, and my research direction started to take shape. But, wait…it was not without daily efforts going down different streams of research to find the one that fit the objective of my intended study. My supervisor was very helpful in discussing the subject of my thesis, pointed out gaps in my efforts, and redirected my thesis using some best practice tips.

From research tools to analytical thinking

It was not easy; I had chosen a subject that required conducting a small survey to anchor the study, followed by a thorough literature review to ground a theoretical framework, then I had to carry out an empirical activity of five to six months to complete an iterative data collection. From there on, the analysis, the discussion, and the closure of the thesis were completed. Looking back at the roadmap taken, I can identify two inflection points that accelerated my progress: (1) the completion of a thorough literature review and (2) the definition of a clear research map with my supervisor. Reading and understanding more than 4,500 pieces of literature was bound to leave a mark on my skills. As a byproduct of the thesis activity, I have successfully improved my vocabulary, increased the flow of my thought process, and sharpened my analytical thinking.

My feedback and advice 

In the form of advice to fellow DBA students, I would highly recommend choosing a subject you like to work with, extending your research to include learning about different methodologies, not giving up, staying focused, and regularly working on successive thesis drafts. In addition to the reward of a degree at the end of the journey, you will be rewarded with a passion for writing, a wealth of knowledge, and a positive impact on your career.

Finally, I would not have been able to get to the finish line if it were not for the support of my family and friends. I wish you the best in your own DBA journey!

Dr. Nabil Georges Badr; Grenoble Ecole de Management, Doctorate of Business Administration Alumnus 2014


My DBA experience- Keep calm and watch the next step!

The Doctorate of Business Administration will change your life, your way of thinking, and your beliefs. You will learn how to reason without judgment bias, how to build a rigorous and robust scientific argumentation, and how to make the effort needed because you have never done that before. Well, you will be finally proud of yourself; otherwise, bear in mind that your parents and family will be proud of you, anyway. What is the most important for you—that your parents are proud of you or that you are proud of what you’ve achieved? Both are positive, so never mind.


The research methods courses: warm-up

To become a Doctor of Business Administration, you must beforehand write a wonderful dissertation, i.e., doctoral thesis that will require you to know some research methods: qualitative methods, where you will have to count the number of occurrences of semantically similar words; and quantitative methods, where you will assess the quality level of your data collected through questionnaires that you will have to carefully write.

Keep calm: all of this methodology will make sense afterwards, but not yet. For the moment, you are expected to formulate your research idea into a totally new question never previously studied in research (knowledge) fields that you are likewise supposed to identify in advance. Keep calm: it is normal not to know what you are supposed to ignore. In fact, what you don’t know is called the Wall of Knowledge—the body of research knowledge encompassing millions and millions of scientific publications pages, and each page is an impenetrable first page for a less-than-3-month doctoral student. And your fabulous coming work of deciphering is merely called a Literature Review. (Remember, Grenoble was the city of Champollion who was known as the first decipherer of Egyptian hieroglyphs.)

The literature review: the wall of knowledge and its sparkling discovery

Building on key words, you will be collecting many scientific publications. It is so fun to collect. I think it is in human nature to collect and to own things. But googling is not reading. Your supervisor can additionally steer you toward a first cluster of relevant publications. At the beginning of your readings, not to understand anything is not abnormal. Believe me: you are normal. It takes a few months before starting to capture first meanings. You will feel that the authors write to other researchers, definitely not to you; they speak their own language using regular words but with distinct meanings. You may realize that four years of a DBA will seem to last centuries in such a situation. Then, what happened when you were a child and you learned to read happens.

The meaningless series of words will suddenly make sense. And progressively, you will be capturing the relation between the publications, with each one highlighting its contribution. Unsurprisingly, you will find a degree of relevance among the publications you read, but do expect to realize some of them you have read for nothing. Ok, be generous. Not the whole wall of knowledge is relevant for your research, just a part of it. Nonetheless, you have to comprehensively describe this part of the wall to provide a conceptual (or theoretical) framework for your research question. The answer to your research question will be considered as your brick to enrich the wall of knowledge; it will be your contribution. There is a permanent interaction between the research question formulation and the literature review. The research question evolves with your readings. So, keep calm if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for at the beginning of your DBA.

The experimental part of the quantitative thesis: SPSS, I love you

Your research question, not your mood of the moment, will drive the nature of your thesis: whether your thesis is more quantitative or qualitative. Roughly, your research work is qualitative when you are exploring the meaning of things and you endeavor to build new theories and new knowledge. Building on qualitative data (e.g., interviews), you describe the world to support your theory. A quantitative thesis is rather a scientific demonstration of a given research model (e.g., using statistical tools to show a particular behavior). You are obviously expected to be the author of the research model. If the literature review does not provide a sufficient rationale for the conceptual framework and for the research model, a thesis may sometimes mix qualitative and quantitative studies.

Quantitative studies (e.g., online questionnaire involving a few hundred participants) are very suitable for consumer behavior research. Combined with DBA methodology courses, the reading of many quantitative publications is necessary to understand the spirit, the design, and the choice of statistical tests to demonstrate the influence of manipulated variables. The online questionnaire is made through Qualtrics online software, and SPSS is the perfect (and loving) tool to conduct statistical tests. Grenoble Ecole de Management and your supervisor will provide you everything you need to successfully achieve the experimental part.

Discovering the research community: to infinity and beyond!

During the four-year process, your supervisor may ask you to present your work to the research community. At the end of my second year (just after Stage 1), my super supervisor (I know it may appear as a repetition, but it’s true!) asked me to submit a research paper for conferences. I had not even started any experiments (i.e., no data), and the deadline to submit the paper was less than three weeks away. But we did it. Like childbirth, you forget the painful aspects and you just remember the positive ones, especially as a father. What a pleasure it was to go and meet other researchers during a few days in Montpellier at the Congrès de l’Association Française du Marketing 2014. The year after, with the great help of my supervisors (yes, two supervisors), it was New Orleans, where I met great professors such as Sujan Mita. I was like a fan with rock stars. A great experience to infinity and beyond.

DBA viva la vida…

The DBA appears like a spiritual journey whose end, or beginning of a new life, is the oral defense of your thesis (viva voce). Before attaining this nirvana, your doctoral dissertation—the longest Word document you’ve ever written—must be accepted by a jury: one professor of GEM and another professor of another business school. It is your supervisor who will consider whether you are ready to defend your thesis. Don’t be in hurry to submit. Work hard. Be honest with yourself. Make your research even more robust. Anyway, the jury will ask you to modify your thesis if need be. Bear in mind that it is not a race. Converting your doctoral thesis into a good publication is your next main challenge.

Chamrong Cheam, Grenoble Ecole de Management, DBA Alumnus, 2016


Seven Lessons from a Novice on getting published

Shailesh Rana_Web800
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!

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Ouch that hurts! Using the “force”of rejection.

imagesIt’s one of the tougher parts of academic life, those rejections we receive from journals. Let’s face it, it is a tough part of life in general … not making the team, not getting a place on that program, an invite to a party or getting dumped by ‘that’ girl/boy. What is it that really hurts? Somebody does not want us or our work. It comes to everyone in academic life – star professors, junior faculty, experienced researchers and doctoral students. Just like it comes to authors and actors . What differentiates us is how we deal with it and how we use the experience.

Continue reading “Ouch that hurts! Using the “force”of rejection.”

Making Innovation Last


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!

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Of Mice and Men, Two Keys to Successfully Writing Your Doctoral Dissertation


Crédit photo Pierre Jayet
Professor Valérie Sabatier, Deputy Director of the Doctoral School, Grenoble Ecole de Management

Writing can obviously be a difficult task for many of us. But, it is the essence of the scientific process; the means by which we communicate and discuss our research and findings. While numerous books deal with academic writing*, we may also discover certain key characteristics of good academic writing in various novels or novellas.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is, without a doubt, a chef d’oeuvre of the 20th century. Not only is this novella fascinating in terms of modern literature, but it also provides guidance for those of us writing papers and doctoral dissertations for academic audiences. Needless to say John Steinbeck was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1962.

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