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Thread: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

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    Question PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

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    Hi All,

    Bit of a long post thanks to anyone who reads. I am seeking advice on how to spend a year between my MBA program and grad school.

    Before I begin here's where I am at:

    Undergrad school: McDaniel College (2009-2013)
    Undergrad program: Computer Science, minor in Mathematics
    Undergrad GPA: 2.99

    Graduate School: unranked business school at University of Baltimore (2015-2020)
    Graduate Program: MBA
    Graduate GPA: 3.9

    GMAT: Not within past 5 years.

    Research History: I am working with my advisor in my program to design a research topic in the fall. Hoping to nail down what the topic is by the end of next week. I anticipate it will be a study of how disruptive innovation has affected the landscape of a particular cloud based system, and I hope to draw conclusions about how companies are handling disruptive innovation in modern times based off my findings. This will be for academic credit, but I hope to create something that is capable of being published.

    Teaching experience: None.

    My Spiel (feel free to skip to questions below):

    Although it was always in the back of my mind, I never really anticipated on getting into academics. I currently serve as an assistant CTO for medium sized MSP/MSSP my family runs. Up until about a year ago I had full intention to take over the company when my dad retires. Currently, I manage a small team ,and I work directly with our clients to help them determine which technologies to implement in their businesses. After some soul searching and a few trips to an occupational therapist, I have decided some of my proudest achievements and relationships were academically based, and I am deeply interested in pursuing this further.

    Unfortunately, I don't feel like my academic resume matches my enthusiasm for it currently. I was very blessed to have gotten a taste of what it was like to be part of an academic cohort in my undergrad, but my GPA definitely does not reflect that because the first half of my undergrad was spent partying. After undergrad, I started working immediately for my folks. Around 3 years in to work, I started my MBA program at UBalt. I did not apply to any other programs because I could walk to that school from my house, and I was mostly pursuing the degree for a piece of paper, and I had a tremendous amount of pressure to pursue technical certifications which I have never particularly enjoyed. The MBA program was a good excuse to avoid those.

    Fast forward to today, and I have fallen in love with the study of digital innovation. With COVID19 having us all working from home, a lot of my daily tasks at work have been mitigated. I have used my spare time to take a deep dive into digital innovation as an academic study, and I have read 50+ academic publications since the start of COVID19 on the topic. I have been jotting down my takeaways on the ones that seem most relevant to the paper I want to write in the fall.

    I am gearing up to apply to PhD programs. I am graduating from UBalt in the fall, but I will not be applying for programs December 2021. I need to take a year off because my FiancÚ is stuck at the hospital where she works her until then, and her presence is vital to my success in any program I am in! So until then I am stuck in Maryland.

    I am faced with the decision of how to spend that year. I have been transparent with my folks about my decision to leave the company. I do have the option to work part time and use the remaining time for academic pursuits.

    I really love technology, and I am really grateful my career gave me the option to work closely with CEOs and implement some really cool projects, but I am excited to be able to analyze how businesses use technology in a different lens. Additionally, I am excited to be part of an academic community again. My MBA program has been at night, and it has not quiet scratched my academic itch that I got a taste of in my undergrad.

    My Questions:

    Anyway, if you all had a year to kill between grad school and PhD, what would you do? I think I want to spend it doing part time research, but I am not sure if that is better than being a full time research assistant. The finances will work out to be similar on my end, as part time at my current job is comparable to full time as a research assistant. Perhaps I could do both and work as a research assistant for half the year?

    How would you prep for the GMAT if you had to do it again? What courses would you take on it?

    What programs would you recommend me look into? I really want to study the way companies handle digital innovation is evolving, but I haven't dived in quite deep enough to find what programs are a fit for me. I don't think my academic resume is that great so telling me I won't get into a top ten school won't hurt my feelings.

    Finally, I don't have any formal teaching experience. Is that a big deal? Is it a good use of my time to change that? I think I would love sharing ideas with students, but I have not tested that theory.
    Last edited by isaacwolinski; 05-19-2020 at 06:45 PM.

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    Re: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

    I'm not in Information Systems, so I'll only be able to answer more general questions. As usual, sorry if I sound harsh, but I prefer to be blunt because then you can improve your profile until your application.

    I think one of the most important things is to find ways to show that you are as enthusiastic and in love with the idea as you are saying you are. It's easy to say that you are enthusiastic, it's harder to provide evidence of that.

    Part of that is also showing that you actually understand what you are getting into. Like, you wrote that some of your "proudest achievements and relationships were academically based," but I have no idea what you mean by that.

    Maybe it's academically based, but not what we expect to see in a PhD application. If you're proud of your academic achievements, but those achievements have little to do with academic research, it doesn't sound good to me. A lot of people love studying but would hate doing academic research, a lot of people are proud of their undergrad degree or their MBA degrees but that's very different from a PhD, for example. Acquiring knowledge, applying knowledge, and creating knowledge are very different from each other.

    You wrote a lot of things. But a lot of them are not related to academic research. I don't see the topic of interest clearly defined, I don't see your motivation to do academic research, I don't see methods you'd focus on, etc.

    For example, you wrote you want to study "the way companies handle digital innovation is evolving." That's so vague that is hard to understand, trust and feel that you are passionate about a topic of research. It's like saying that you love a woman because of "the way she is." It's too vague, doesn't tell much, it's not convincing. Write down the research questions you'd like do pursue, use the concepts you've been reading in those papers.

    You can read thousands of academic papers, but still just be studying. A school will not accept you just because you can read papers and write down takeaways. You gotta show you can do what you will be expected to do during a PhD.

    So far, what you wrote doesn't seem convincing to me, at least not for a PhD application.

    I want to see you talking about academic research. What you did, why you did, what you can do, how ready you are for it. Things that can make you stand out among so many strong applicants.

    I don't want to see you talking about your family business, your MBA, or even your love for digital innovation. Unless you can really connect those things to academic research. Ok, you love digital innovation. So what? That's probably true for almost every applicant for a PhD in information systems. I'd be surprised to see an applicant for this field who hates digital innovation.

    You gotta give school a strong reason to accept you, and I still don't see that here. Why are you better than the other applicants? Why are you better for the position that they have? Why should they invest time, money and effort in you, and not another strong applicant?

    ____

    Now, regarding the GMAT. I would do the same thing, if I had to take it again, since I got a score that was much better than I expected.

    GMATPrepNow, official GMAT books, Manhattan Prep books. Take all simulation tests I can find, without trusting their scores. Study not only the context, but also strategy (e.g., time management, detect questions to skip, how to recognize and avoid traps). Slow and steady, until I feel I'm really ready to take the test.

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    Re: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

    BrazilianPhD,

    Thank you for the reply. I was looking for complete honesty in a reply, and I am glad I got it. I am absolutely still in the discovery phase here. There was a lot of fluff in that post, and I grateful you dissected it.

    To be frank, I am only at the beginning phases of learning what it means to do academic research and to create knowledge. Fortunately, I feel like I do have some time to discover and test if that is something I am interested in pursuing. From your recommendations it seems that is what you think is most important too.

    My MBA advisor recommended me some literature on research methodologies for over the summer, and we have submitted an application to work on a project in the fall. I sent him similar sentiments as I posted here (to study "the way companies handle digital innovation is evolving"), and his reply was remarkably similar to yours. In choosing a research topic to discuss for the fall, he recommended I start with something that keeps me (and my family) up at night. With that recommendation, I will be investigating a cyber security issue related to my family's company's industry. I am hoping that will get me closer to answering "What you did, why you did, what you can do, and how ready you are for it." It might take me some time to clearly define a topic of interest, but I will actively work on that, and if nothing is there, perhaps I should consider a different path.

    That being said, I do have a question still. If you had a year before PhD to prepare yourself to become a better academic researcher, how would you do it?

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    Re: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

    BrazilianPhD,

    Thank you for the reply. I was looking for complete honesty in a reply, and I am glad I got it. I am absolutely still in the discovery phase here. There was a lot of fluff in that post, and I grateful you dissected it.

    To be frank, I am only at the beginning phases of learning what it means to do academic research and to create knowledge. Fortunately, I feel like I do have some time to discover and test if that is something I am interested in pursuing. From your recommendations it seems that is what you think is most important too.

    My MBA advisor recommended me some literature on research methodologies for over the summer, and we have submitted an application to work on a project in the fall. I sent him similar sentiments as I posted here (to study "the way companies handle digital innovation is evolving"), and his reply was remarkably similar to yours. In choosing a research topic to discuss for the fall, he recommended I start with something that keeps me (and my family) up at night. With that recommendation, I will be investigating a cyber security issue related to my family's company's industry. I am hoping that will get me closer to answering "What you did, why you did, what you can do, and how ready you are for it." It might take me some time to clearly define a topic of interest, but I will actively work on that, and if nothing is there, perhaps I should consider a different path.

    That being said, I do have a question still. If you had a year before PhD to prepare yourself to become a better academic researcher, how would you do it?

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    Re: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

    There are a lot of productive ways to spend a gap year... you are clearly very interested and motivated. I wouldn't overly stress yourself out--start working towards a mindset of "I'm going to commit at least 1 hour per day doing something that gets me closer to PhD acceptance." This could be applying for internships or research opportunities, working on PhD program apps, etc.

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    Re: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

    In terms of GMAT preparation--first you need to develop/review your overall comprehension of what comprises the examination.

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    Re: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

    The other factor to consider is simply just the # of application packages you are willing to put together?

    Interesting article here on the near-linear relationship btw # applications submitted and applicants' chance of attaining at least one offer of admission:

    https://www.graduateadmissionsinsight.com/post/multiple-grad-school-apps-impact-on-acceptance-rates

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    Re: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by isaacwolinski View Post

    That being said, I do have a question still. If you had a year before PhD to prepare yourself to become a better academic researcher, how would you do it?
    I see two main possibilities here.

    1 - If there is some knowledge or skill that is critical for the type of research you intend to do, but you still don't have it.

    For example, if you are expected to know how to design surveys or if you are expected to know how to code in R, but you don't have the necessary knowledge yet.

    You don't necessarily need to become an expert, since that's something you will work on after you start a PhD. But learning something that is critical will give you a head start, show that you know that's important for the research you will do, and that you're putting effort into it.

    2 - Research experience.

    Getting more experience with research experience is helpful in many ways. To understand what is academic research, refine research interests, provide evidence to schools that you are really into academic research, get stronger letters of recommendations, etc.

    The best way to learn about academic research is doing it. No matter how many articles you read, how many courses you take, you will only really learn when you do it.

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    Re: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

    Thank you both for your replies.

    Marcus-- I am absolutely spending at least an hour a day. I will keep in mind this is something to chip away at rather than necessarily "figure out." I am considering applying to 15-20 schools. Do you think that is wise? I am working on creating a spreadsheet of my interested schools, their rankings and associated requirements (as well as average GMAT), what type of research the professors are doing there, and other notes.

    BrazilianPhD, I am not sure there are any type of skills that are critical for me to have at this time. I do think I could pick up R pretty quick if I found it useful. I definitely could use more experience though, and to that end, more people willing to writing a recommendation providing evidence there. I will start there.

    Cheers!

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    Re: PhD in Business Information Systems Applicant Seeking Advice

    I would suggest research related internship and job opportunities. Both would demonstrate a good intent of you persuing a research career in academia.

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