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!
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!
Part Three: Interview with Mike Smith – Associate Professor of Information Systems and Marketing, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University
This interview began in part one discussing Dr. Smith’s graduate student experience and job search and continued in part two discussing Dr. Smith’s experience and advice as a faculty member. In this session we will discuss his perspectives on research.
Perspectives on Research
What is the “secret” of your productivity?
I’m a firm believer in treating this as a job. Our undergrad days have led us to believe you can work a twenty-hour day and that has to be twice as good as a ten-hour day. At least for me I’m not productive for more than ten hours a day. I think it helps to recognize that I only have ten hours to get a certain amount of work done and I need to intentional about keeping track of what time I am goofing off and what time I am working on the things I should be working on.
How would you describe the process from start to finish of one of your “typical” papers?
I tend to get the ideas that I’m most fond of from the press and the media. I tend to advise my students to look to questions the media is asking, as opposed to the two paragraphs at the end of somebody else’s paper where they talk about future work. You can be sure, that if someone tells you at the end of their paper that “future work should do” this list of things it means one of two things: either some referee asked them to do it but it was too hard, or it is a problem they are already working on.
Most of the topics that I have found most interesting have come from quotes in the industry that say “we think this is happening but we’re not entirely sure,” so start with that. For me it is about finding the right data to ask that question, and then trying to look at that data pretty quickly to see if it has any hope of saying something that is going to be interesting. We’re working right now on a project where we’re thinking about the question “if you take content off a legitimate digital distribution channel does that influence piracy.” The first thing I asked my student to do was take two or three popular pieces of content and just graph what piracy looks like, and if we see a spike the day after something goes off this channel we’ve probably got something we can publish.
I’ve really enjoyed some of the economics papers that start from just the pure descriptive statistics. Austan Goolsbee is extraordinarily good at this, if you read one of his papers it will say “Here is an interesting question, we got some data, we ran the simplest possible test on it to see what’s going on and it sure looks like something is happening. Of course that is a very unsophisticated test so we’re going to need to go and do X, Y, and Z. When we do X we see it, when we do X and Y we see it, and when we do X, Y, and Z we see it.” Building up from the simplest possible test suggests that there is something interesting going on here, and then you bring in the more sophisticated econometrics to tease that out.
I have gotten in the habit of starting to write my papers earlier as opposed to later. Once you found that there is something going on in the data, start writing the paper. I’m not averse to writing an abstract before I write the paper. I think that keeps me focused on what this paper is doing and what I expect to find. You’re obviously going to change that abstract a lot, but having that abstract in mind from day one is a helpful discipline. I frequently tell my students to go write an abstract of what they think this paper is about when they start a project.
All your papers seem use very sophisticated Econometric methods. How did develop your research methods’ skills, and how do you keep up on them?
It’s an important lesson for students to get as tooled up as possible during your course work, those are the skills that are going to carry you through to tenure. You can keep building on those skills but if you don’t have a decent foundation you’re dead. MIT forces you to do this, so I can’t attribute this to anything other than being forced to do it, but I’m glad I took some pretty tough classes because it brought me out with a set of skills that I could then build on. If you don’t have those skills to start there’s no way you can generate them “on the job” while trying to get tenure.
Many of your papers have become influential in policy decisions. Could you discuss the ways your research has been applied in the real world?
Again, the joy of this job is that you get to work on problems you find interesting. I have tended to gravitate towards problems that are talked about in industry journals. We had some influence on policy associated with peer-to-peer networks and that was just because I thought there were a bunch of interesting questions on how these networks should be arranged and organized and we went out and looked at those. I think we’ve had some influence on whether legitimate digital distribution channels cannibalize your physical sales or cannibalize piracy. I started off that paper comparing a quote from Steve Jobs who said, “You’ll never be able to stop piracy, what you have to do is compete with it”, with another person in the industry who said, “You can’t compete with free, that’s an economic paradigm that doesn’t work.” So here we have these two very bright, very prominent people saying completely different things. The question is what really happens in the world and those are the sort of topics I find fun. I also think they end up being more broadly influential.
In addition to your many journal publications, I counted about 5 or 6 pages of conference publications as well. Some professors seem to encourage heavy conference submission/presentations, and others shy away. What is your philosophy on the benefits of conferences, and what advice can you give on how to get the most out of conference attendance/presentations?
There’s obviously a balance. Getting more conference publications is not going to get you tenure, at least in IS, computer science is a little bit different. Going to a conference for me is either (A) there is a paper I want to work on and this is going to force me to work on it or (B) this is an important and influential conference and I want to make sure I’m getting my work in front of important and influential people. I’ve tried to be intentional about cultivating a set of people who are in the IS/Economics community so I go to the Workshop on Information Systems and Economics (WISE) every year, I go to the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS) every year, and then I’ve tried to go to other disciplinary conferences where there is some intersection. For example conferences like Marketing Science, or the International Industrial Organization Conference where there are people interested in work at the interface with IS who I can get my work in front of. But you need to recognize that going to more conferences, at least in IS, is not going to get you tenure, it’s all about “A” publications.
What research are you working on currently?
Right now we are looking at whether digital distribution channels cannibalize sales in traditional retail channels and whether digital distribution reduces piracy. The conventional wisdom today is that digital channels are going to cannibalize physical sales, but you are never going to recover from pirated products. We’ve tried to look for opportunities to study this phenomenon.
We started by collecting data on piracy, and collecting data on DVD sales at Amazon and waiting for an appropriate event. The event we used was NBC taking all of their content off of iTunes, which offers a great natural experiment. We have all these people who are cheerfully buying on iTunes and now we can see where they go.
The short answer is statistically none of them go buy DVD’s at Amazon.com, and a whole bunch of them go to piracy. There is about an 11.5% increase in piracy which is about twice as large as the number of sales that NBC was getting on iTunes. You can start to play around with a bunch of interesting questions such as why is it the case that consumers seem to choose between legitimate digital purchases and illegitimate digital downloads and not between legitimate digital purchases and legitimate physical purchases. We’re playing around with a bunch of topics that come out of those questions such as what other settings in which this might this be true, and other setting in which might this not be true, and what types of content are you most likely to buy vs. pirate.
Check back for part four of this interview. Dr. Smith will discuss his perspective on teaching and his thoughts on Information Systems as a discipline.
This interview began in part one discussing Dr. Smith’s graduate student experience and job search. In this session we will continue where we left off with Dr. Smith, and discuss his experience as a faculty member.
What was your experience like as a new faculty member? Would you do anything differently?
The hardest thing to learn I think is balancing your time, especially balancing your time between research and teaching. In particular, teaching a class for the first time is just brutal. It is very hard to learn how much material you need to bring to class to get through an hour-and-a-half. I would tend to bring about five hours of material for an hour-and-a-half class. I think a much better approach is to ask questions of the class to get discussions going. I think the students will enjoy it more, and paradoxically it is easier to teach that way. Learning how to teach is really hard, and there is no substitute for experience. If I could go back and do it all over again with what I know now, I’d have more time for doing research.
How did you balance your new teaching responsibilities with research early in your career?
I took a strategy from my consulting days. As a consultant you have to fill out a time card that says “what did I do today” and “which client gets charged for those hours.” To this day I keep a time card of the time I spend on classes and on research and on administrative tasks, and I try to be honest with myself that I can’t bill “goof off” time to anyone.
In the consulting world, partners frequently limit the number of hours you can bill to a client and I try to limit the number of hours I spend on administrative tasks per week to less than 4 and try to get in a certain number of research hours each week. The result is that you need to get your class planned in a limited amount of time — which is good because teaching can suck up all of your time. This is because it is frequently easier to plan classes than to write papers and we have a tendency to focus on what is easiest on our “to do” list instead of the “hard/painful” things. This strategy also gives me some accountability at the end of the day/week to look back on what I have done and evaluate how focused I was relative to my goals.
Congratulations on your recent tenure! Do you have any advice on thinking preparing for the tenure review now that you’re on the other side?
The letters are more important than you think. When you put your tenure case forward the Dean will send out letters to prominent people working in areas aligned with yours and ask them for their opinion about whether you should be granted tenure. Having those people be familiar with your work turns out to be pretty important. One of the things I was very intentional about almost from the first day on campus was having a list of potential letter writers and making sure that I met them at conferences and making sure that they were familiar with my work. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sending prominent faculty members who are interested in your work your paper and saying “I’ve just finished this paper, and it’s on a topic related to your research and I thought you might find it interesting. Here’s a two sentence summary of what I do, feedback is appreciated.” Ninety-nine percent of the time they won’t read the paper, but usually they will read the email, and recognize that it looks like you are doing interesting work in your area. I think it is also the case that you need to go out and shake hands at conferences. In a polite but intentional way, make sure that the prominent people in the field know who you are and know what you’re doing.
For the Dean to promote you to associate professor they will probably want to ask for letters from full professors, and to promote you to full will probably ask for letters from chaired professors. So that’s not a bad starting point to think about who are the full professors and who are the chaired professors who might be interested in your work and who might be able to say that you are doing outstanding work in this area. You should also cover both your core discipline and any relevant reference disciplines. In my case my work sits at the interface between the interface between information technology (IT), economics, and marketing, so I wanted to have a core group of IT faculty, a core group of economists, and a core group from marketing who were familiar with my work.
Check back for part three of this interview.
Dr. Smith will discuss his perspective on research.
Interview with Mike Smith – Associate Professor of Information Systems and Marketing, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University
Michael D. Smith is an Associate Professor of Information Systems and Marketing and co-director of the Center for Digital Media Research at Carnegie Mellon University, with appointments at the Heinz College’s School of Information Systems and Management and the Tepper School of Business. He received his Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering (summa cum laude) and his Masters of Science in Telecommunications Science from the University of Maryland, and received his Ph.D. in Management Science and Information Technology from the Sloan School of Management at MIT.
Dr. Smith’s research relates to analyzing structure and competition in online markets and substitution effects between legitimate digital distribution channels, piracy channels, and physical channels for media products. His research in this area has been published in leading Management Science, Economics, and Marketing journals and covered by popular outlets including The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Sloan Management Review, The New York Times, Wired Magazine, Time Magazine and Business Week. He also jointly conducted some of the first academic research into the social welfare impact of increased product variety in Internet markets. This work was cited in Chris Anderson’s bestselling, and artfully titled, book “The Long Tail.” (more bio)
We had a chance to interview Professor Smith about (1) his graduate student experience and job search, and (2) his faculty experience, as well as (3) his perspectives on research and (4) his perspectives on teaching and the field of Information Systems as a discipline. We will be breaking this interview into these 4 sections to give readers a chance to read and discuss them in smaller chunks.
Warm Up: 5 Fun Facts
What do you do in your free time?
I used to like to read, now the little free time I have, I enjoy spending with my wife and my kids.
How old are your children?
I have two boys, ages eight and ten, and a little girl who’s five, or five-and-a-half as she would point out.
What paper are you most proud of?
Probably a paper I co-authored with Erik Brynjolfsson and Jeffrey Hu called “Consumer Surplus in the Digital Economy.” When we wrote the paper, most of the discussion about the Internet focused on how consumers benefitted from the lower prices they could find online. We estimated the value consumers receive from being able to find products that aren’t stocked in brick-and-mortar stores, and found that the consumer surplus gains from increased product variety are about 10 times higher than the consumer surplus gains from lower prices on the Internet. Chris Anderson picked up on this idea in his “Long Tail” article and book.
I like the paper because it is rigorous, but it is also relevant in the sense that it is making an important point about the value consumers receive from Internet access.
What is your most memorable experience as a graduate student?
It might be getting the phone call that I had passed the general exam. I was pretty sure I had failed.
What times of the day are most productive for you?
I’m most productive early in the morning. I try to keep the thinking tasks for the morning, and the answering email tasks for the afternoon and evening.
Graduate Student Experience
Can describe what the process was like for you in your decision to get your PhD, and what lead you to come to academia?
Out of my undergraduate degree I went into a rotational job with GTE, it was sort of a management training program where they give you three different six-month assignments. In my third assignment we were trying to sell telecommunications products to large businesses. One of clients was the local school system, and we did some technology training for them. I led up the training, and after the training my boss said, “You’re missing your true calling, you really need to go back into academia.” I hope he was saying that because he saw something light up in my eyes when I got to teach, and then do detailed research. I’m forever grateful to him, because I continue to love academia in a way that I was not enjoying the work world. I was being successful and rising up, but I wasn’t really passionate about it. Being a professor is a job that I really love.
What was your experience like going through your PhD at MIT? How did you go about finding your strengths and weaknesses, and differentiating your research from other research on the market?
I went to MIT to interview and talk with the faculty and to get a feel for what the environment was like and had a chance to sit down with Erik Brynjolfsson who ultimately became my advisor. Erik has a famous paper called “Bundling Information Goods” that at the time was still just a early draft. During our meeting, he sketched the model on the board and explained what he was trying to do with it and I just fell in love with that type of research. It was one of those “wow, I really want to do that” type of experiences.
In terms of strengths and weaknesses, a colleague commented that I have “good taste in research questions.” I think this comes from wanting to do relevant research and working hard to keep up with both the academic and practitioner literatures. In fact, most of my research starts with a quote or a question from a practitioner outlet or the popular press.
What was your experience like with your advisor? Do you have any advice on getting the most from the advisee/advisor relationship?
The advising process is supposed to be a mentorship, or “learning a trade” type of experience. I would encourage students to pay attention to what their advisor does that’s gotten them to the place they are. Ask questions, and watch carefully. One of the many things Erik is good at is being very focused on “what question is this paper trying to answer” — and then staying focused on answering that question in the paper. He’s also fantastic at presenting his work, and I learned a lot from him that I still use today.
What was the job search experience like when you came on the market?
I came out right at the height of the dot.com bubble, so it was a very good job market, and obviously that’s not what students are facing today. The one thing I didn’t realize about the job market is that although it is mostly about finding a job, it is partly about publicizing your work to the market that will be evaluating your work six to nine years after that when you’re up for tenure. It’s partially about getting your work in front of the important people in your discipline so they can see it, and hopefully hire you. There were a couple fly-outs that I turned down that if I could go back again I would have taken. They were jobs that for location reasons I was not going to take, but in hindsight there was probably some benefit to going out and presenting my work to those folks.
How did you ultimately choose Carnegie Mellon over other opportunities that you had?
I was really compelled by Ramayya Krishnan’s vision for this place and his passion for Carnegie Mellon. I was fortunate enough to have offers from other great places, but I was really inspired by what Krishnan wanted to do here in terms of building a department that could work at this interface between business and public policy on technology problems. I have not regretted one bit of it. Carnegie Mellon has lived up to all of my expectations in terms of being an intellectually stimulating environment and in terms of being a great opportunity to teach really bright students, and Pittsburgh also has been a very good location for my family.
What advice would you give for students now heading out into a difficult job market?
Network. Faculty are busy. They will be getting hundreds of applications and you want yours to rise to the top. A conversation at a conference between you and someone on the faculty or a call from your advisor to someone on the faculty can make that happen.
You’ve also got to differentiate your work, and your passion for your research topic has got to come across in your job talk. I think it’s also important that your job talk be both rigorous and relevant. About 30% of the audience in your talk will appreciate the rigor — and using the right methods is a must to convince these folks that you belong at their University. The other 70% will mostly evaluate your presentation on whether the question is interesting and a useful contribution to the literature.
Obviously it’s a hard job market, but in selecting you should still place a high premium on a place that is going to let you do your research, and a place that is going to keep your teaching load as low as possible. But again, I don’t envy folks going out on the job market now; it’s a tough job market.
Check back for part two of this interview.
Dr. Smith will discuss his experience as new faculty member and his
thoughts on the tenure process.
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.
Name: 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.
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.
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. 😉
Yeliz Eseryel, Ph.D. Candidate in Information Science and Technology, Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool)
Year of the PhD program:
Fifth and the last year.
Explain your background which has led you to the PhD program.
Well, I have always been interested in research. I conducted my first research in high school. I went to a “School of Science” in Turkey, a high school with a heavy curriculum, founded to train scientists and engineers. I conducted a year-long study at a hospital on comparing three diagnosis methods for Acute Leukemia and won several awards with that study.
Despite my background in hard sciences, I got a college degree in Business Administration in Turkey (Middle East Technical University), Master’s in Information Management and an MBA in the US (Syracuse University). During and after my master’s degrees, I worked as an IT consultant and then as an IT project manager. Implementing enterprise-wide systems such as SAP, I truly felt the need for systems and approaches where the technology design, and business processes were aligned with each other and with the organizational structures (such as organizational culture, norms, and leadership). Roughly 80% of these implementations fail and there is tons of research on it, yet we still need to learn more. That was a strong motivation for me to go back to school to get my Ph.D. degree. It was a tough decision for me, because I really loved the challenges of IT project management, and identified with the role. But I am also very passionate about teaching and research, and I truly enjoy the academic environment.
What research areas are you interested in?
My dissertation research is on leadership dynamics in self-managing virtual teams. I specifically study Open Source Software development teams. I am conducting a longitudinal study and am hoping to continue following a number of teams for a few more years. At Syracuse University, I’ve been part of the Open Source Software Research Group, which is headed by Dr. Kevin Crowston. My advisor Associate Dean Dr. Bob Heckman and Dean Dr. Elizabeth Liddy are also part of the research group. We conducted a number of studies on task coordination, decision-making, leadership and group maintenance in Open Source Software teams.
Having said that, my overall research agenda focuses on the alignment of information technologies, business processes and organizational structures. Thus, I also expect to explore these connections in other contexts than open source teams as well.
What do you like to do for fun?
Well, there are many things I enjoy in life. I am a USTA 4.0 tennis player, and a decent volleyball player. I love to travel internationally, meet new people, learn their language, culture, and cuisine. I enjoy many forms of art. I try to catch the local art exhibitions, and go to museums when I travel. In fact, last year, I started to paint after many years. I really enjoy it. I regularly go to the concerts of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. There are other things I have tried, that I am not so good at for now; I learned a few languages, got my motorcycle rider’s license, started ballroom dancing, did parachuting and gliding, rock climbing, and hiking. Once I have time to get a bit of life, I would like to get better at ballroom dancing, languages and outdoor sports.
How do you do all that while doing your Ph.D?
Oh, I don’t. Did I tell you I love to eat? Ph.D. is an excellent time to practice that skill, I am an expert eater now… and I am only half-kidding there.
Joke aside, I can do only one or two things at a time. These last two semesters, I’ve been painting. In fact on April 20, some of my paintings will appear in an exhibition. Couple of years ago, I received an international grant extension from National Science Foundation (NSF), which allowed me to spend two months in Italy for research. So I figured, I am going to Italy, I might as well learn some Italian for a semester or two before I go. It turns out people don’t speak much English in the southern part of Italy. My broken Italian came pretty handy and allowed me to also make a good number of friends there.
Just curious – how often do you blog?
Pretty often. I have a blog (enterprisesystems.blogspot.org) that I use for teaching my Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) class. I teach in France, USA, Turkey and Denmark. I don’t use the blog every time, but many times it’s part of my course, and my students write their daily reflections after class on the blog. I also have my personal blog, but I use it less often since I started twittering. Twits are short (140 character-long) messages that you share with other twitters. My twits get automatically posted on my blog as well as updating my Facebook status. Lastly, I participate in an anonymous blog with a few colleagues.
Mention some things that you are currently doing which is helping to make your PhD career successful.
Well, I think a successful Ph.D. career is one where one (1) gets the skills one needs as an Assistant Professor, (2) conduct a solid dissertation study, and (3) graduate in a reasonable amount of time. I have strived for a successful PhD career by being active in all facets of academic life in the first four years of the program. I am pretty lucky in that the iSchool at Syracuse is an exceptional place. Being part of the Open Source Research group has been a hands-on way to learn about conducting research, grant-writing, and collaboration. At the iSchool, PhD students get treated like junior faculty. So I represented the PhD students in a number of committees such as the PhD committee, promotion committee and search committee, and even got a vote! I developed courses on Enterprise Systems and ERP at both graduate and undergraduate level, both of which got approved by the university senate and became regularized offerings. I taught at our executive program in DC, at our executive master’s program for EPA Lausanne. I also co-taught and am co-developing courses on information technologies, virtual teams and data centers. All of these experiences create a well-rounded profile and makes for a real academic experience.
To accomplish #2 on the success definition, I started thinking about my study early in the program. Being part of the open source research team helped me really understand my context. I also did an exploratory study in 2006. So far, the feedback I get from the doctoral consortia suggests that the reviewers find the topic interesting and they find the research design rigorous. To accomplish #3 on my definition, I have stopped everything else and focused on my dissertation in the fifth year of my program. So, hopefully it will work out and the result will be a good one. J
Discuss some challenges that you’ve encountered in your PhD career and how are you working to overcome them.
What I am trying to do now, is to keep a consistent, rigorous and efficient work habit. I’ve had that for my work in the industry, or as a student. Yet, when your primary goal is to write a dissertation, this is very challenging. For example for the last few months, I have been so excited to finish my data analysis and make sense of it, I had been waking up at 3am or 5am, energized to get started even after a long week. Then, once I solved the puzzle, writing it up is not as exciting for me and requires self-discipline. Having said that, it should be just as exciting to write it up, since, as Weick puts it, “How can I know what I think, until I see what I say?”
What are some issues that you would like to discuss/ask fellow OCIS members (i.e. some opinions on particular research areas, the PhD program, the job search, etc.)?
How do we, as researchers, make an impact on practice? And how do we make this impact NOW? This is what I would like to discuss. When I asked this question to some of the prominent researchers, they said “Well, you don’t, until after you become a full-professor.” Because of the requirements to get tenure, at the beginning of one’s academic career, trying to make an impact on practitioners becomes a career-suicide. Because of the length of time journal publication takes, sometimes what we say becomes old news by the time we say it. So the question is, how do we change the system to make a difference in the world with our research? It sounds like a tall order, but isn’t it why we do research in the first place?
Year of the PhD program: I am now pretty close to the end of my PhD. I will defend my thesis in Economics of Communication next month.
Explain your background which has led you to the PhD program. I graduated in 2004 in Business and Administration at Cattolica University of Milan. It seemed to me that time did just fly away so quickly. I thought not to be ready to leave the university context: I still wanted to spend my time studying, exploring new things, still wondering the reasons why of some phenomena. So I decided to begin a PhD.
What research areas are you interested in? Since I started my PhD, I have explored many issues that mainly refer to knowledge management, collaboration and communication dynamics also in emergency scenarios, analysis of individual and collective behavior of project teams interacting on-distance. More in detail, next month I will defend my dissertation on communication and collaboration dynamics in long-distance teams, which explores the mentioned topics in EU funded project teams. I am also managing a EU funded project exploring the ethical governance of ambient intelligence in society, so I am happy to approach also this new area of study!
What do you like to do for fun? I love cooking, people say I exteriorize creativity when I spend time in the kitchen…but for quality, please ask them! I also love reading and watching movies, relaxing on a big sofa! Swimming is my favorite sport, I used to participate in competitions but now the time left to train is not enough anymore L .
Just curious – how often do you blog? I have never posted on a blog.
Mention some things that you are currently doing which is helping to make your PhD career successful. When I began my PhD, I had the opportunity to start working at CeTIF, a research center of my University which explores organizational dynamics and technological innovation in the financial industry. I think that CeTIF, pushing me into the world of business, gave me the possibility to approach the “so what” issue: I started to understand and “concretely touch” the reasons why of what I was studying and getting closer to a company view, its needs and requirements, without leaving behind the theoretical background. Also, I have been working for three years on projects financed by the European Commission. I really love working and being in touch with the international environment: you can share issues and topics that are of interest at the moment and meet always new and interesting people.
Discuss some challenges that you’ve encountered in your PhD career and how are you working to overcome them. I think the most difficult issue to manage when you decide to start a PhD is the need for time optimization. It happened to me to be involved on many and – why not – different projects or issues. On the one hand this is good as the more you do the more you learn, but on the other hand it can also be dangerous if not properly managed. Sometimes you need to stop and think: “Am I going on the right direction? How can this be useful for my PhD career?”. I think it is really important to have well defined objectives that you can reach and also a good helmsman that can support you if necessary.
Please make additional comments here: I really appreciate the possibility you gave me to post an interview and I hope this is just the beginning of a multicultural and global OCIS phd students’ community!