Transitioning to Academia: DBA alumni share their career transition experience
DBA Graduate / Prof. Dima LOUIS
Assistant Professor & Academic Director
Grenoble Ecole de Management, France
When I enrolled in the Grenoble Ecole de Management DBA program in 2010, it was not at all with the intention of transitioning to an academic career, yet, as the saying goes - plans are meant to be broken.
I have always been torn between my interest in conducting research and my desire for experiencing the ‘real’ professional world. Having started a PhD program at the age of 23, right after obtaining my Masters degree, I decided to put it on hold in order to pursue a professional job opportunity.
My plan was to work for a couple of years in order to gain a professional experience that I believed would be very valuable for conducting research, and then resume the PhD program.However, the 2 years quickly became 20 as I was enjoying my work and I was progressing in my career.
Throughout my career, I took on different roles in HR Management and consultancy across different countries and different industries such as the financial sector, the airline industry, the automotive industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and primary and higher education to name a few.
My experience included HR strategy, resourcing, learning and development, performance management, employee engagement, talent management, succession planning, leadership development, and executive coaching.
While my work was overall rich and rewarding in many ways, I had reached a point in my career where I felt that I needed more and that the corporate world was not giving me the development and self-fulfillment opportunities I needed.
This is when the idea of pursuing a doctoral degree resurfaced. With family and financial responsibilities, stopping work and focusing on a full-time PhD program was no longer an option. Accordingly, the DBA was the perfect fit for me. What I hoped to get from my DBA experience, in addition to personal development and self-fulfillment, was gaining an expertise in my research topic, which I was hoping to later use in creating my own consultancy firm.
Yet another plan that was broken!
My DBA journey was instrumental in my decision later on to transition to an academic role. Although it was a part-time doctoral program, the quality of teaching allowed students to conduct research at a very high-level, and publish in academic journals if this is what they wanted.
As far as I am concerned, during my DBA years, I have participated in different academic conferences, was awarded a Harnisch Grant by the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School Affiliate, in support of my research, and went on to publish a paper in a 4-star journal and a case study book based on my empirical data.
In addition to the quality of academic training received, what made all this possible was the support I got from my thesis supervisor. GEM puts an extra effort into ensuring a strong match between the DBA student and the supervisor, and I will be forever grateful for all the support I received from my supervisor.
The stimulating and successful research accomplishments I had, coupled with an experience in teaching, as an Adjunct Professor, made the transition seem more and more attractive, and more realistic and achievable! So I started applying for academic jobs, and after several rejections, I finally got the YES I was looking for.
I have been a full-time faculty member for 4 years now, teaching topics that I am passionate about such as Leadership Development, and working in parallel with a number of colleagues on several research projects. Every day, I feel that I am learning something new, and this is extremely motivating for me.
I have also been entrusted with the role of Academic Director for the DBA program since 2020. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity as it allows me to put into practice the skills and competencies that I have acquired in my previous management roles and to have a good balance between teaching activities, research projects, and institutional contributions.
I am looking forward to the years to come, where more plans will be broken and new dreams will be realized!