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Thread: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

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    Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

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    Hi everyone, this is my first time posting in this forum. The level of support available from folks in this chatroom is so high, so I decided to post a thread to see if I could ask for some guidance/ advice from folks! Thank you in advance for your support!

    Long story short, after working for a few years in the financial sector, I have decided to apply for a PhD program and embark on an academic career. I have always wanted to be an academic, but d
    ue to financial reasons (supporting family etc), I couldn't take five years out of my life to be a grad student, and had to stay in the industry in order to make money. Now that I have some money saved up, I have decided to give PhD a shot!

    Because I'm away from academia for awhile now, I feel like I want to give myself about 2-3 years to improve my profile. Turning 32 this year and will be 34 when I submit my application. I am thinking that I might retake some calculus, maybe linear algebra courses to refresh my math skills. I also want to also start reading journal articles and try to get involved in research to get some research experience, and hopefully a good letter, but I don't know how best to approach this. My question to folks is, if you have had 2 additional years to make your application stronger, while you're working full-time, what would you have done?

    Here is a profile to give folks a better sense of my background:

    Test Scores
    (GMAT/GRE): (Expired, used this to apply for policy masters awhile back) Q 167, V 160, AW 5.0

    Undegrad GPA: Big 10 Pure Mathematics & Economics, 3.64. Couple of Cs but they were difficult math classes.
    Graduate GPA: HYPS Public Policy (concentration in Economics), 3.64.
    Research Experience: 2 years working in an economic research think tank focusing on consumer finance
    Teaching Experience: taught an advanced microeconomics course for a summer program at HYPS couple of years ago
    Work Experience: Prior role as a financial regulator in a developing country (for three years). Currently a data scientist at a large US bank working on payment technology

    Concentration Applying to:
    Still deciding. Seems like Applied Economics is the best fit for now. Outside of that, I have been reading journal articles from professors in Innovation & Technology, and can see myself involved in the topics there (as a result of my current job i'm now deep in the world of payment technology, fintech, cryptocurrency etc)

    Number of programs planned to apply to:
    Undecided. Will likely cast a wide-net. I will try to shoot for the moon but am happy with a mid-low tier admission as long as placement into universities is good

    Dream Schools:
    the usual ones

    What made you want to pursue a PhD? If I apply at 35, I most likely will graduate when I am 40. I am now quite certain that I want to live next 20 - 30 years of my life as an academic

    Questions or concerns you have about your profile? I don't have any academic reference letter/ recommendation letter at the moment, hence I am giving myself some time (2-3 years) to get connected with universities, but not sure how best to approach this...

    Any additional specific questions you may have: How can I best use these two to three years to prepare for an application

    Thank you folks for your thoughts and suggestions!!

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    Re: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

    If you are interested in applied economics maybe you could check out strategic management (although I think everyone should .. ) - the job market is much better than econ and you can work on a lot of similar problems

    The "flagship" journal for this field would be Strategic Management Journal -- you can take a look at some articles and see if you'd be interested.

    2-3 years is plenty of time. I would 1) try to reconnect with professors from your master's (the closer to your future specialization, the better). But another avenue could be potentially leveraging your current position in a bank: it is not uncommon for banks to share some data for research -- if you could access an interesting database that you could use in collaboration with a professor on a research project that would be great preparation for a PhD plus give you a a recommendation letter or two. That would take some balancing on both sides: 1) getting permission from the bank 2) finding a professor that would be a good fit to work with <- both of these things mean you;'d need to come up with an idea of what field you want to work in IMO

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    Re: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

    Thanks so much for the suggestions! I have never thought of looking into strategic management. Took a brief look at some abstracts from the Strategic Management Journal. I'm curious to see what sort of methods are used in that space to measure the impact of, say, management strategy change in an organization. Stuff like those seems like it's harder to find data to quantify relative to, say, mortgage payment or income for example.

    For now, though, I find myself drawn to papers about two-sided markets and network effects, partly because I'm in the payment space. For one specific professor I read three of his papers! Do folks think it's a good idea if I write write a short paper to explore an extension of his idea? I don't know where this would lead to, maybe later as part of application material? I can see this strategy backfire though, it could be a terrible paper. But i guess it's a good step to show that I am serious about doing research?

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    Re: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

    Well, like I mentioned: could you get the data? If so, you could approach the professor and say I have data on X, I thought it could be an interesting extension of some of the work you have done. Would you be interested?

    Quote Originally Posted by hhy View Post
    Thanks so much for the suggestions! I have never thought of looking into strategic management. Took a brief look at some abstracts from the Strategic Management Journal. I'm curious to see what sort of methods are used in that space to measure the impact of, say, management strategy change in an organization. Stuff like those seems like it's harder to find data to quantify relative to, say, mortgage payment or income for example.

    For now, though, I find myself drawn to papers about two-sided markets and network effects, partly because I'm in the payment space. For one specific professor I read three of his papers! Do folks think it's a good idea if I write write a short paper to explore an extension of his idea? I don't know where this would lead to, maybe later as part of application material? I can see this strategy backfire though, it could be a terrible paper. But i guess it's a good step to show that I am serious about doing research?

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    Re: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

    Quote Originally Posted by StrategicMGMT View Post
    If you are interested in applied economics maybe you could check out strategic management (although I think everyone should .. ) - the job market is much better than econ and you can work on a lot of similar problems

    The "flagship" journal for this field would be Strategic Management Journal -- you can take a look at some articles and see if you'd be interested.

    2-3 years is plenty of time. I would 1) try to reconnect with professors from your master's (the closer to your future specialization, the better). But another avenue could be potentially leveraging your current position in a bank: it is not uncommon for banks to share some data for research -- if you could access an interesting database that you could use in collaboration with a professor on a research project that would be great preparation for a PhD plus give you a a recommendation letter or two. That would take some balancing on both sides: 1) getting permission from the bank 2) finding a professor that would be a good fit to work with <- both of these things mean you;'d need to come up with an idea of what field you want to work in IMO
    Completely agree with StrategicMGMT. (disclaimer: I am also a strategic management person so I might be a little biased ). The market is much better and I think a lot of your interests align pretty well with this discipline.

    There are many archival data sources that provide access to things like strategic change. I am working on a paper now on strategic nonconformity with data derived solely from archival sources. Access to unique data from your workplace could be very valuable as well. Social Network theory/analytic tools are also pretty popular in the management domain.

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    Re: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

    Quote Originally Posted by StrategicMGMT View Post
    Well, like I mentioned: could you get the data? If so, you could approach the professor and say I have data on X, I thought it could be an interesting extension of some of the work you have done. Would you be interested?
    It would be interesting! I do have access to a lot of data as a result of my work, and thinking creatively about using the data to answer research question is in itself a fun activity to do. The not so fun activity, and one that would take a lot of time tho, is going through the bureaucratic hurdles to be able to share data with someone not employed with the bank, and for a purpose that is not aligned with the team's goal.... but something worth noodling on.

    I'm excited to see two people mention that strategic management align with my interest! Honestly have never been exposed to this field before and am excited to explore

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    Re: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

    Quote Originally Posted by hhy View Post
    It would be interesting! I do have access to a lot of data as a result of my work, and thinking creatively about using the data to answer research question is in itself a fun activity to do. The not so fun activity, and one that would take a lot of time tho, is going through the bureaucratic hurdles to be able to share data with someone not employed with the bank, and for a purpose that is not aligned with the team's goal.... but something worth noodling on.

    I'm excited to see two people mention that strategic management align with my interest! Honestly have never been exposed to this field before and am excited to explore
    The first problem of sharing data with someone not at the bank is something that many researchers have addressed in past -- so there are ways. I think it is about the approach and actually highly contingent on the second point you bring up -- something not aligned with the teams goal.

    If you are considering strategic management, your DV will almost always be firm performance or something closely related -- I think you can come up with some broad performance-related implications/questions that in fact are aligned with the teams goal. When I am trying to access proprietary data, I first come up with a plan: what am I trying to do, what do I expect I will find (or hope to find), and what are the broader implications. I then approach and pitch my idea and gauge reception. If they are interested it is either move forward or negotiate terms (e.g., how much do I need to anonymize, an offer to provide a confidential/proprietary report and summary at the end, as a last resort: allowing them to review any manuscript before submission [should not be the case if they agree to anonymizing]).

    Trying to secure data now would be incredibly, incredibly valuable when you do your PhD. In fact if the data is something unique or would be difficult (or impossible) for an outsider to obtain, you would be 2-3 years ahead of many PhDs. Securing good data is paramount to a successful PhD in my opinion and it is very difficult.

    You may also consider trying to get "older" data -- eg, for a 5 year period ending in 2017/8 or something. Maybe that would make the bank more willing to share. Or maybe you want to get data that uses the financial crisis in 2008 as a natural experiment. There are lots of opportunities. I don't know your relationship with your manager, but if it is good, and you can feel comfortable letting them know you are interested in a transition to academic research in the future -- I think getting the data alone would actually be a great asset for your PhD application.

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    Re: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

    Quote Originally Posted by StrategicMGMT View Post
    The first problem of sharing data with someone not at the bank is something that many researchers have addressed in past -- so there are ways. I think it is about the approach and actually highly contingent on the second point you bring up -- something not aligned with the teams goal.

    If you are considering strategic management, your DV will almost always be firm performance or something closely related -- I think you can come up with some broad performance-related implications/questions that in fact are aligned with the teams goal. When I am trying to access proprietary data, I first come up with a plan: what am I trying to do, what do I expect I will find (or hope to find), and what are the broader implications. I then approach and pitch my idea and gauge reception. If they are interested it is either move forward or negotiate terms (e.g., how much do I need to anonymize, an offer to provide a confidential/proprietary report and summary at the end, as a last resort: allowing them to review any manuscript before submission [should not be the case if they agree to anonymizing]).

    Trying to secure data now would be incredibly, incredibly valuable when you do your PhD. In fact if the data is something unique or would be difficult (or impossible) for an outsider to obtain, you would be 2-3 years ahead of many PhDs. Securing good data is paramount to a successful PhD in my opinion and it is very difficult.

    You may also consider trying to get "older" data -- eg, for a 5 year period ending in 2017/8 or something. Maybe that would make the bank more willing to share. Or maybe you want to get data that uses the financial crisis in 2008 as a natural experiment. There are lots of opportunities. I don't know your relationship with your manager, but if it is good, and you can feel comfortable letting them know you are interested in a transition to academic research in the future -- I think getting the data alone would actually be a great asset for your PhD application.
    Thanks for the great advice! I think this is applicable across discipline even if it is not for strategic management. Good news is I have 2 to 3 years to scout out different types of data within the bank, form connection and test out appetite for research. I imagine if I am a full-time student, approaching certain teams to offer research service (maybe for free?) may open doors to collaboration. This is a good idea to keep in mind.

    Say, I know you and the other folk are very enthusiastic about Strategic Management, which I am eager to dive into.. just not too excited about doing research on firm performance at the moment (tongue-in-cheek). What do folks know about Business PhD concentrations in Technology or Innovation? The thing that draws me towards the technology subdiscipline, more than strategic management, is the option to elect economics courses (micro and applied econometrics) as the core training, and the professors' research shows this (lots of economic theory in application to technological innovation like bitcoin). Strategic management seems to only touch on economics slightly, and also uses techniques in psychology and sociology to inform research. Obviously I believe anything that is not economics in social science is garbage (I am joking!!!) But how much of my statements are true vs ignorance? I am also concerned that not many schools outside the top ones offer this concentration or carry these kinds of research, which could affect placement later. I could also be just thinking too much.

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    Re: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

    Quote Originally Posted by hhy View Post
    Thanks for the great advice! I think this is applicable across discipline even if it is not for strategic management. Good news is I have 2 to 3 years to scout out different types of data within the bank, form connection and test out appetite for research. I imagine if I am a full-time student, approaching certain teams to offer research service (maybe for free?) may open doors to collaboration. This is a good idea to keep in mind.

    Say, I know you and the other folk are very enthusiastic about Strategic Management, which I am eager to dive into.. just not too excited about doing research on firm performance at the moment (tongue-in-cheek). What do folks know about Business PhD concentrations in Technology or Innovation? The thing that draws me towards the technology subdiscipline, more than strategic management, is the option to elect economics courses (micro and applied econometrics) as the core training, and the professors' research shows this (lots of economic theory in application to technological innovation like bitcoin). Strategic management seems to only touch on economics slightly, and also uses techniques in psychology and sociology to inform research. Obviously I believe anything that is not economics in social science is garbage (I am joking!!!) But how much of my statements are true vs ignorance? I am also concerned that not many schools outside the top ones offer this concentration or carry these kinds of research, which could affect placement later. I could also be just thinking too much.
    It is probably a bit of a an overstatement that the DV is always firm performance. Innovation is a booming research area that falls under the strategy umbrella too. It may be more accurate to say that the unit of analysis in strategic management tends to be the firm and related firm level outcomes (although we also frequently look at industry level (social movements) and individual level (CEO/Board/TMT) outcomes as well).
    There is wide variation in strategy programs and many do place a heavier emphasis on exactly what you're looking for (Tech & innovation) with heavy econ based training. I suffered through econometrics as an undergrad and had no interest in pursuing that any further so I am not as helpful on that end but I have many contacts who selected more econ-rigorous strategy PhD programs.
    You may want to look into Information Systems, operations management, or supply chain management PhD programs. Are you 100% focused on getting a tenure track job as a professor?

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    Re: Applying in 2-3 years. Any advice to improve profile?

    Quote Originally Posted by BCB View Post
    It is probably a bit of a an overstatement that the DV is always firm performance. Innovation is a booming research area that falls under the strategy umbrella too. It may be more accurate to say that the unit of analysis in strategic management tends to be the firm and related firm level outcomes (although we also frequently look at industry level (social movements) and individual level (CEO/Board/TMT) outcomes as well).
    There is wide variation in strategy programs and many do place a heavier emphasis on exactly what you're looking for (Tech & innovation) with heavy econ based training. I suffered through econometrics as an undergrad and had no interest in pursuing that any further so I am not as helpful on that end but I have many contacts who selected more econ-rigorous strategy PhD programs.
    You may want to look into Information Systems, operations management, or supply chain management PhD programs. Are you 100% focused on getting a tenure track job as a professor?
    Yes I am. I have a path to go in my current workplace, but I want to spend time doing research and teaching instead. I think it's more enjoyable to spend time thinking about research questions, like how technology affect different aspects of markets and society. If anything, I feel like I can always fall back to corporate jobs after my PhD.

    I notice the sample thesis/ publications on Information System, particularly at NYU Stern, is very much aligned with what I want to pursue at the moment. Thanks for the tips! I think this opens doors to similar programs at other universities.
    Last edited by hhy; 01-10-2020 at 03:55 AM.

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