ISM insight: Life as an ISM student

The ISM Student Blog provides insight into life at ISM. Bloggers are current students and recent alumni who are excited about sharing their diverse learning experiences in ISM’s programs. Explore this blog to learn more about life at ISM, and how the program benefits students in the long run. You may also want to follow ISM on Facebook or join the conversation on Twitter.

Making the decision to go to graduate school is not an easy one. It is especially challenging if going to graduate school involves a completely new career change. This has been my personal experience, switching from mental health to business school.

At the beginning of October 2017, I attended my third face-to-face course in Paris. My focus in my PhD program is on entrepreneurship and innovation, but this course was focused on the future of work, which includes pivotal upcoming changes in organizations. As a mechanical engineer, I was very interested to see how my profession and work environment will change in the future. What I discovered during the course and the later final assignment changed my mindset and influenced how I will interact with upcoming megatrends (e.g. digitization) in an organization.

At ISM each MBA seminar provides many different topics, taught by very competitive professors from all around the world. Each seminar varies from one to another, complementing each one with relevant and applicable information. All students have their favorite seminar, which normally expresses their preferences. For example, in my case, I really liked the finance seminars since my minor was Finance and Accounting, so I already had knowledge in that area. However, I also realized I had other preferences, like when I took the Advertising and Communications seminar I understood how much I liked marketing and that I was actually good at it. This is why I started to apply to jobs that had marketing areas where I could learn and improve my skills.

The aspect of the classroom in DBA/PhD seminars influences the intellectual personality, productivity, and strength of all the participants. Given the digitization and globalization age, diversity of age, experience, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, and many other functional as well as physical attributes contribute to the beauty and richness of the environment for both learning and research. In fact, the ISM Paris doctoral seminars are aimed at sharpening the knowledge of the participants in terms of their research and area of specialty. Therefore, a diverse classroom has immense contribution to the needed problem solving, innovation, and creativity in research.

Being a PhD student at ISM is a unique experience for me. I attended the Strategic Human Resource Management seminar in Paris last month. It was a great opportunity to learn new human resource skills during face-to-face interaction. I exploited this chance to explore new horizons while meeting colleagues who came from all around the globe.

Once I completed my MBA in 2010, I decided to do a PhD. I had two main personal motives to make that decision:

Second, I wanted to have more work-life balance during my late career through teaching and consulting.

I have always liked the dynamic corporate life, competition, challenge and success. However, stress levels in today’s enterprises are extremely high, and strongly correlated with how senior you become. Budgets are limited, competition is fierce and uncertainty is high. Being passionate about what I do, I enjoyed meeting and overcoming these challenges. I enjoyed the rewarding feeling after a killer campaign, a new product launch or a successful presentation. I enjoyed working long hours and giving my job the biggest chunk of my time. However, I began to notice that this might not be the way I wanted my life to be forever, especially when I wasn’t running my own business or making $500,000 a year. It was just not worth it to continue like this for the next 25 years till I reach my retirement age.

Once I completed my MBA in 2010, I decided to do a PhD. I had two main personal motives to make that decision:

First, I wanted to learn and advance my career in marketing by differentiating myself from peers and knowing more about the subject matter.

I believed that a PhD would help me make better marketing, better management and better informed business decisions. Since my early childhood, I have always been a competitive learner. I enjoyed the learning process itself and enjoyed being at the top of my class and felt bad when I wasn’t. I continued to have this notion in my professional life as well. I always wanted to compete, take credit for good work and get promoted. So, a PhD made sense to “me” from competition, learning and career development perspectives.

It is common when academics do Master and Doctorate degrees to advance their careers in teaching or research. Also, many practitioners do MBAs to improve their business and management knowledge. However, it is pretty rare when a seasoned practitioner with a full-time job and many years in the industry decides to do a Doctorate degree. As an entrepreneur, a manager or a CEO looking for further career success, do you really need a Doctorate under your belt?

ISM life is a whole unique experience. It definitely stands as an international program where all the alumni are able to meet and get to know people from all around the world, from students to professors, and to open their minds to their classmates’ traditions and ways of thinking. In addition, there are many advantages that the program gives you such as travel or work (if possible) due to the flexible schedule of the seminars. While you’re studying at ISM, you should take some advice from students that have already lived the experience. Here is a list of things I would advise:

An abrupt and unaccountable change of moods will define Paris during the last couple of months. From weather craziness that no one can escape, to strikes whose objectives are never quite clear; they are just part of the city. These are the two most commented topics in any discussion with friends, family, or colleagues.

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