"What for?" was the question many people asked me when I started my Doctorate of Business Administration.
I was 36 years old, CEO of a manufacturing company, and a professor at a business school in Uruguay. Already married with three young children, a CPA, an MBA … and it was hard to understand why I wanted to complicate my life with a doctoral program. I think the answer changed over the last five years while I was advancing through the journey, and it will probably change in the future. I came back to that question every time I had to leave my children at home for the workshops; during the week ends I spent studying while my husband was dealing alone with the kids; in the hundreds of days I woke up at 4 am to make progress on my thesis; or when I was dealing with my survey questionnaires while I was at the hospital with one of my children for a heart surgery. "What for?"
The "politically correct" answer was not hard to find, because the best decision I could make was to do my research based on a professional project I had worked with in the last years. The synergies came immediately and made the process an enhancing experience for my academic journey and my professional improvement. That was motivating in the short term, but there was something else.
I always loved to study, I am naturally curious, and the academic domain, and especially research, is one I feel comfortable with. But again, I knew it was not only that. "What for?".
If you expect an answer you can use for your personal situation, I am sorry to disappoint you. Each candidate has to find an individual answer.
As Steve Jobs in his Stanford graduation speech said, every academic experience is a "dot" (and a doctoral program is a big one) in a professional journey that will connect with other previous and future dots, and one day all the journey will make sense to most of us.
And, if we are smart enough, we will make something big with it. In my case, that means using my abilities and knowledge to improve other people lives, to make a positive impact, and to contribute to a better understanding of the way we can achieve it.
In the meantime, what I am absolutely convinced is that my DBA had three big implications:
1. An outstanding personal experience. I had the privilege to share courses with people from all over the world. I had the chance to know them and, understand their realities not only through their personal knowledge but also through their research interests, and that was absolutely a mind-opening experience.
2. The DBA was an opportunity to discover a new professional path in the research area and acquire significant knowledge in the academic domains I could work with. It also gave me the possibility to open new professional opportunities. It was an opened-door in my professional life as a researcher and as a managing director.
3. At the beginning, I was really worried about the family balance, the absences during courses and my sleepless mood during the completion of the thesis. But now, I can see it was a huge lesson for my kids. They could see the importance of working hard for something, and persevering until completing it, and the relevance of self-improvement at every stage of our lives.
I will not lie. It is hard. It is painful. It is exhausting. Like every muscle we develop in our bodies, it hurts with hard work. But it is worth it.
And as people around me think now… I am just looking forward to seeing what´s next.
DBA graduate 2020