The decision to purse a DBA was derived from a self-reflection and search for impact personally and professionally.
Webster dictionary defines “impact” as “the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another.” Over the years, it became apparent to me that the symmetric and sequential mode of thinking I had been exposed to from K-12 to MBA was losing its relevancy, impact, and sufficiency -- as a defensive and offensive tool in today’s ever-changing information warfare.
I firmly believe today (business, personal and professional) the battle is fought asymmetrically and synchronically therefore new analytic and problem resolution modes are needed to solve problems. Consequently, it became clear that obtaining a terminal degree was the only way to fill this knowledge gap and upgrade my skill set to ready myself to deal with today’s complex and gordian-knot business problems.
The next step was program selection and fit. Prior to explaining the process, let’s quickly visit the academic definition of social impact which proposes that the amount of influence a person experiences in group settings depends on (a) strength (power or social status) of the group, (b) immediacy (physical or psychological distance) of the group, and (c) the number of people in the group exerting the social influence (i.e., number of sources).
For strengths, I analyzed the social status of the ten US and non-US programs and examined their strengths through a set of qualifications metrics such as academic quality, accreditations, reputation, program flexibility, and more importantly its real-life business application (applied approach of theory to business problems). As it relates to immediacy, it was important for me to see how spread-out but united was the program alumni.
Lastly, was the social influence and in this context it was important for me to see how well recognized and well-published was the faculty. Very quickly it became apparent that GEM was on top of the list because of its triple accreditation and quality of faculty academic output.
My journey had begun. As a senior executive and veteran of hospitality industry, I was interested in exploring the entry of incumbents into an emerging field - lifestyle.
My research title was “Old dogs learning new tricks: cases of incumbent lodging companies entering emerging lifestyle.” My research followed a qualitative approach, an interpretive philosophy, elite interview data collection, and analysis with a multi-case grounded theory research strategy under a strategy-as-practice research lens.
The topic was very interesting to me primarily because this emerging field (lifestyle) was viewed by almost all incumbents as a transitionary fad and not an emerging trend until one incumbent developed a proof-of-concept and illustrated its relevancy and sustainability.
My research revealed a number of issues including the need for the incumbent lodging organizations to innovate, maintain an explorational role while placing balanced importance on the necessity for exploitational capabilities with dynamic capabilities at their core.
As I stated, initially the exploration of the DBA was a personal exploration and goal but it soon turned into a professional necessity and process of acquiring new toolkits and I am very glad to have started and finished this journey.
DBA curriculum required me to take courses in quantitative analysis which proved to be a career gift during the pandemic. I want to illustrate how the DBA degree knowledge impacted me and enabled me to solve a business problem.
As everyone is aware, COVID pandemic disproportionately impacted the hotel and hospitality industry in unprecedented ways. Maintaining revenue flow, under restricted travel conditions, became a survival mode but for our portfolio we needed to know where the demand is coming from? How it behaves? And can it be reliable?
So, I started to track a few critical quantitative and qualitative data points. Qualitatively, we gathered passenger counts, daily occupancy for the hotels, COVID cases and vaccination counts. Qualitatively, we gathered consumer sentiment via google, twitter and other modes and searched for impactful words and trends.
Running correlation, regression and creating scatter-diagram coupled with dissecting consumer sentiments and comments revealed that people feel safe to travel within 25-50 mile radius so long as the destination hotel has appropriate safety parameters in place.
With this data, we immediately acquired a military-grade thermal imaging camera to examine patron temperature at check-in and show the guests our commitment to safety. We next focused our digital marketing only on discovered radius. The combination of the quantitative and qualitative data enabled us to maintain occupancy and customer service supremacy, respectively, within our competitive set. I intend to use this newly acquired analytical skillset robustly in solving daily business problems and possibly publishing to exchange ideas.
In my opinion, the professional toolkits we have acquired over the years are losing their efficacy and all senior executives must learn to look at today’s problems through a newly minted lens. A DBA is an academic but more importantly applied lens and degree that will enable the candidates to examine complex problems both qualitatively and quantitatively.
I want to emphasize that the DBA curriculum and program is very different from that of the undergraduate and graduate set of courses and program.
Whether the objective is to pursue an academic career or enhancing an existing senior management position, a DBA will prove to be the most cutting-edge, relevant and impactful mechanism for knowledge acquisition and problem-solving.
Additionally, this degree will potentially open doors for corporate executives planning to enter into the world of academia and for academics to wanting to elevate their credentials with an applied terminal degree. You will find the journey very intellectually rewarding. Just do it!
Dr. Afshin Kateb - DBA 2019 Graduate
Chief Financial Officer, Nimes Real Estate and Nazarian Enterprises