Moving the OCIS Student Site…

We are moving the OCIS Student Site to an external provider, so we can bring the students more diversified media, forums, and ways to connect, while maintaining the great information already available on the Blog.

Please join us at www.OCISPHD.com!

Kids and Doctoral Programs: The Challenges and Rewards

I was recently asked to discuss my experience with having children during the doctoral program in an effort to help other students contemplating the idea themselves.  This is because my wife and I celebrated the arrival of our son less than 7 months ago and have been adjusting ever since.  Don’t get me wrong, our son has been a blessing and I would not change anything for the world, but with his arrival our lives have changed in ways we never expected.

Prior to our son’s birth, we were told how time consuming having a child would be no matter what your path in life is, PhD student or not.  You never truly understand this statement until you begin living it!  Our son was born a few months before completing my second year in the program which also coincides with comprehensive exams.  So, I thought I would share some insights from our experience and open up the topic to others in the community as well.  We have also enlisted some additional comments from some students / recent faculty who have experienced this topic during their program as well.  Aaron Curtis recently began teaching at BYU Hawaii but juggled his doctoral program with 5 children.  Merete Hvalshagen is currently a doctoral candidate working through her dissertation while raising 2 kids.  Ben Collier is also a current doctoral candidate at Carnegie Mellon University with a 7 month old daughter.  I have included their comments to the questions below as well to provide additional insight.

Should I have kids in grad school?

While this is truly a question each person has to ask themselves, I will provide my two cents.  For me, it was all about timing or the lack thereof 🙂  Looking back, it was really challenging trying to complete coursework and take comprehensive exams with a newborn.  While I am not suggesting putting off having a baby, think about when you plan to have kids and be aware of the amount of time it takes during those first few months of life.

Aaron:

For us, it was more timing than if.  We knew we wanted more  and we didn’t want our kids spaced too far apart. It was more of an issue of my wife and I both feeling it was time to have another one.

Merete:

When you have started the PhD program, there are three options: Have children now, wait till you are under the tenure clock, or never have children. If your spouse is working while you are studying, but e.g. plan to take some time off when you are taking up a job, the second alternative might be OK. For me however that was not an alternative. And since I wanted children, there was really only one options for me.

Only one thing can prepare you for the experience of having children, and that is having children. It was very hard, at least for me, to imagine how I would manage both being a mom and a full-time PhD student. The only reason I thought I would be able to do it was because other people before me had done it. If they had done it, they why should I be able to do it?

In conclusion, I don’t regret having children during my PhD – I would do the same again. Luckily, though, I don’t have to do it again. I think having kids while doing a PhD is something one only would like to do once in lifetime  🙂

Ben:

You may be a graduate student if you plan your children around comprehensive exams.  This was the case with my wife and I, we waited until just after (2 months after to be specific) comprehensive exams to have our first child.  It is very difficult to know what to expect, our first 3 months were extremely difficult due to our daughter’s rather unusual sleeping patterns, and balancing research and family time during this period was challenging.  When my wife and I were recently discussing the most difficult periods in our life, without hesitation the first 3-5 months of my daughters life were the most difficult, I had trouble even coming up with a close second.  However, I love the quote from Tuesdays with Morrie about having children:

There is no experience like having children. That’s all. There is no substitute for it. If you want to have the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children.

As others have said, it is very possible and doable to have children in grad school, and I would not have done it any other way.  If you can plan the timing, I would highly recommend it, but the little things have a way of working themselves out over time.

The Need for Structure

I am now starting my third year in the program with whole new approach:  structure.  Although I was not completely unstructured before having a child, life was bit more flexible so I could put off some work until later that night or over the weekend.  Now, I have become very structured so that my days are planned out and I know exactly what time I have available each day.  After all, what is the joy of having children if you can never spend time with them?  Structure is especially needed with a working spouse since you will be sharing more in the parental duties.

Aaron:

Structure is important, agreed.  I think the underlying message here is that parenting (as is the case with marriage) takes time.  To take a page from Joe Valacich, if you add a commitment to your life, something else is going to have to give. The opportunity to raise a child becomes a sacrificed opportunity somewhere else.  You won’t have the same time as others, so you can’t expect to spend the same amount of time playing Wii or Facebooking and be able to put the same amount of effort into your research / teaching.  Carve out time for the family and give it to them wholeheartedly.  Carve out time for your work and give it everything you have. Trying to do both at the same time is about as effective as twittering during a doctoral seminar.

Merete:

My husband is also working. The positive is that we don’t struggle economically. The minus is that most practical stuff with kids fall on me, e.g. sick days, bringing to and from daycare, looking after them after daycare, keeping the household going etc, etc. Structure is a must, but it usually arises through trial and error. It’s like the bucket filled to the top with large stones, but then you pour in some pebbles, and then some sand, and then some water, and although you were thinking your “schedule bucket” was full at the beginning, you magically seem to fit a few more things into your schedule anyway. There is a limit, though.

Ben

I think I’ve had to learn the structure lesson the hard way.  Similar to Jeff, B.C. (before children) I was fairly flexible with my schedule.  If you can take a walk in the park with your spouse on a beautiful day, then finish your work at night why not?  While at times the flexible schedule can be a blessing (sick days, childcare issues, etc.) that allows you to help with the family, I’ve found I really need to structure my time, and work nearly solely on campus.  I used to enjoy working from a quiet study at home, but home is not so quiet anymore, and the daily commute to the office is worth the effort for uninterrupted work time.  Additionally, in finding a work flow to be able to process all the many “things” that are part of your life with work and children, I would highly recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen to create a time management/work flow that works for you.

Let’s get down to business:  the positives and the negatives

There are definitely pros and cons when it comes to having children during this stressful and hectic stage in our lives.  Let’s start with the cons first to get them out of the way.  One of the key issues I am dealing with now is time and sleep.  My wife works full time which means I have been responsible for taking and picking up my son from daycare then watching him in the evenings while my wife has to work.  This is extremely time consuming which emphasizing my previous points about structure.  Sleep is also an important factor to consider.  Let’s be honest:  YOU WILL LOSE SLEEP!  Aaron makes a good point about sleep, retention and critical thinking in that those will be affected.  Also remember, that babies do eventually sleep (or so I have been told 🙂 ).  Now for the pros.  No matter what achievement you have accomplished in the past or in the future, holding your baby for the first time will rank at the top.  It is an experience like no other and one cannot truly understand how it feels until they experience themselves.

Aaron:

Negatives: having children means lost sleep.  Lost sleep means poorer retention and sleep during the day, which impacts performance.
Positives: First, children are more important and rewarding than the peer review process, and their impact is felt more widely than a journal publication. They also love you unconditionally, something that is very helpful in the doctoral program. Second, a growing family puts more pressure on you to be productive and finish the program. Third, it’s good to have multiple efforts in your life so that if you’re experiencing a failure (i.e., poor test performance, rejected paper) you can still be succeeding on another.  I could go on, but these will hopefully do.

Merete:

Positive: Kids make your life richer (yes, all the cliches are true…).
Negative: Having kids means you have (much) less time to do work, that’s the simple fact. For me, that meant I had to adjust my expectations of what I could possible get done within a certain time frame. I therefore chose to take some extra time during my PhD instead of trying to get it done during those 4 stipulated years. A positive thing, however, is that I got a renew motivation for my work after having kids: now, the time I spend at my desk is really precious.

Ben

Positives: The positive side is so overwhelming that the costs seem negligible in comparison (but there are costs of course).  You will love holding your child, night or day.  The cliche that having children is life changing is an understatement:  it is hard imagine that this person who was not yet in the world a year ago has now become one of the biggest parts of my world.  Children bring joy, in their smile, laughter, in their play, and they will keep you young.

Negatives: I’m forgetting my favorite the parenting quote exactly, but it goes something like this:  “(1) sleep, (2) social life, (3) career:  you can pick any two of those now that you have a family.”  I find myself balancing that all the time, but no matter what you do you just won’t sleep the same.  Do your best to not only structure work, but put structure in social functions (a game night, date night, guys/ladies night) so that you see your friends and family regularly.

Concluding Comments:

So, here is my short answer to the question of having kids in graduate school:  It can be done.  It will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life as well as the most challenging!  These are just a few of the opinions gathered from graduate students tackling the work/life balance of having kids during the program.

Do you agree or disagree?

We would like to hear what the rest of the community thinks as well.

Future Stars – Peter Baloh

Peter Baloh is a lecturer and a research fellow at Information Management department of Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, the only EQUIS accredited school in South-Eastern Europe. He is active in the areas of Information Systems, Management of Technology and Innovation, Project Management and Knowledge Management, which are considered through the lens of successful implementation in various organizational settings. He has authored over 40 articles, which were presented at international conferences or featured in journals such as MIT Sloan Management Review, IEEE Software, International Journal of Information Management, Research-Technology Management, Journal of Organizational and End User Computing, Knowledge and Process Management, Strategic Outsourcing, among others. In 2008, he held a visiting professor position at Kyungpook National University in South Korea, where he gave a full 45-hour course on Knowledge Management Systems. He gave invited talks at universities in Australia (RMIT and Victoria), Singapore (Natl Univ of Singapore) and UK (Univ of Salford). Moreover, he transfers that knowledge from business practice and back to it. He has fourteen books-professional monographs to his name, and has founded and managed a niche consulting venture ‘Catch the knowledge’, advising top Slovenian companies in the areas of his research interests. We caught him at one of his stops in US and interviewed him.

Peter Baloh 1Name: Peter Baloh

Year of the PhD program: defended 3wks ago.

Explain your background which has led you to the PhD program. When I was seven years old, I got my first computer. I quite soon realized that computers are not fun just per se, but rather, something can be done with them, and that with that, one can realize other, non-computer related goals. I still see them as that – tools that can help achieving other (business related) goals. Maybe that is why I never strictly went for »one field«, but rather, my whole education is about combining IT (secondary school) and business (undergraduate degree). The »business side« of me always critically judges new technologies by »what business value can be generated and how«, while the »tech« side of me is the one that is fascinated by and wants to play with the »cool tekkie functionalities«. As far as the degree is concerned, I liked the idea of exploring that »hidden mystery« underlying everyday phenomena.

What research areas are you interested in? Information Systems, Management of Technology and Innovation, Project Management and Knowledge Management, which are considered through the lens of successful design and deployment in various organizational settings.

I can’t really pronounce your school’s name. What’s with all the L’s and J’s ?? Just replace the J with Y and read it out loud, there it is, Lyublyana, see, easy. It’s a great school, great geographical area, great reputation. We are one of the three schools in the central and south eastern european regions that have EQUIS accreditation (a mere 100 something business schools in the world have it). One of our main things is internationalization school – getting and sending as many academics and students IN and OUT… You know… requisite variety… ;)))

What do you like to do for fun? This is a good one. Basically everything I do in my life has the fun factor connected to it. I believe that this is what life should consist of and I believe that if you have fun while doing things, you can be good at what you are doing. This is my personal philosophy that I follow, thus, even whatever I do professionally, I try to have as much fun as possible. If you ask me what do I do when I take time off my work… I travel the world, usually together with my wife… I travel to see »beyond« the facades that media, taboos, or norms of this or other world created. I also try to hang around with my 10 month baby-son. He also travels with us, of course, but playing with him is way of exploring the universe as well. In a weekly routine, I also do fitness and sauna to relax from everyday stress.Peter Baloh 2

Just curious – how often do you blog?  I facebook daily and I update my ‘professional’ blog http://www.baloh.net whenever something worthwhile telling happens. That can be twice daily or once a month.

Mention some things that you have done that made your thesis writing easier. I tried to take as much break from work as possible, however paradoxical this sounds. I did things that are not connected to writing the dissertation. As once Peter Drucker said, when you are professionally involved in one particular area for a long time (and process of getting the PhD is a very long and very narrow project, with very small number of tangible milestones on the way), you better get a serious hobby or two. I found that working continuously on just the thesis, I got oversaturated by it, and my conscious mind didn’t want to cooperate anymore. I left it for a day, week, even a month, and then I made a huge progress in just a day or two. Another thing that was really worthwhile was talking to as much varied bunch of people as possible. I talked about my topic with senior and junior academics, I talked about my topic with students who attended my classes and I talked about it with senior executives. I talked about it with my friends. Now don’t get me wrong, this was not the only thing I talked about in the last 4 years. I just grabbed every opportunity that I could talk about it with someone who was interested. Why I think this was important?  It forced me to conceptualize what I was researching in many levels and from many different angles, and in my opinion, externalizing something that you deep down understand, is the key to really »understanding what you know«.

What do you do to make your PhD career successful? Talking. Visited as many doctoral consortiums as possible – ECIS, AOM-OCIS, IFIP, and talked about my research to my colleagues, senior researchers, and people from the industry at any occasion possible. I am glad that my institution is not one of those that see PhD as the ‘entry step’ to start writing books, papers, or attending conferences. PhD student needs to get connected and he/she needs to get in situ training in revision and conference process. These are all major parts of academic lives, so why not?  I understand the budgeting issues; however, I believe conference organizers could do much more to lower the cost of attendance. But this is entirely different issue, so let’s stay on the positive side of my answer and of this interview.

Peter Baloh 3

Closing thoughts? Don’t let your work overrun your personal life. There is that other side of life – believe in it and it does happen. 😉

Choice

Manging social and professional life is a difficult challenge for PhDs. We all are just busy. People say ‘don’t get distracted’ and/or ‘focus!’. These voices sometimes stay in our mind and we end up to feel caught in the middle of nowhere.

I, however, sometimes think that doing something you really want or you really like makes you more productive. Energy from enjoyment seems a lot more powerful than energy from obligation…What do you think?

Comprehensive Exams (and Peace of Mind)

Some of us are taking comprehensive exams this summer…and we are under the pressure. 😦

Does anyone want to share how to keep peace of mind..or how to effectively prepare for the exams?

Thanks,

Yukika

P.S. Here is the Origins’ on-the-Spot stress relief…at least a picture might help.

THESIS WRITING AND PROCASTINATION

Post comps is a period in the life of doctoral students where they have to manage their own time… and manage it poductively to get the degree in finite time… More often we fall in the trap of procastination. I hope many of us will be able to relate to following video clip. This was shown to us by one of our faculty members in  a seminar. Enjoy… and comments are most welcome.

PART-1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0YCoEu9KyE

PART 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbjxYsObKDM&feature=related

Is it my…?

What can I say…