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Thread: I would love an Evaluation! Management/OB ‘22.

  1. #1
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    I would love an Evaluation! Management/OB ‘22.

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    Test Scores (GMAT/GRE): I took the GRE. 168V, 170Q, 5.5AWA. (98th, 96th, 98th respectively— though Q tops out at 170!)

    Undergrad GPA: 3.805 / 4.0. Slightly more skewed to first two years, but not by much. Bachelor’s in Business Admin, Real Estate.

    Graduate GPA : 3.4 / 4.0. Condensed graduate education into a year, and my grades were slightly dinged because of the overload. MBA with Management Concentration (18 credit hours for teaching credentials).

    Both undergrad and grad came from the same R2 USA State School.

    School Notes: Part of the reason they came from the same State School is because of geographic constraints. I graduated high school at age 12, then got my Bachelor’s at 17, and MBA at 18. So, my parents needed me nearby. And nearby meant I couldn’t attend super-prestigious university. (Yeah, the stories about young graduates are romanticized. Most universities don’t want young attendees because of insurance risks. So, they try to get you to stay near Mom and Dad.)

    Experience Profile: Instead of breaking experience down, I’d rather explain my profile. I’ll start by explaining I don’t really have teaching experience outside of some tutoring. With regard to “research” and “work”, it gets infinitely more blurry.

    I’ve been in the field about 10 years. During that time, I did a lot of consulting. Specifically, I hold the highest ranked valuation license in the USA and I consult for discounted cash flows and rent studies projects. Both of these involve being able to research a market, model trends properly, and explain them to clients in written reports. I also specialize further in boutique hotels and aquatic property, but that’s splitting hairs.

    In the last 3-4 years of my career, I developed a hunger for societal change. So, I transitioned into doing less financial consulting work and more political consulting work. Specifically, I developed the world’s first neural networks for political micro-targeting. My bots are successfully able to determine if any specific person will vote in any election and who they will vote for. They had a very successful 2018 and 2020; I developed the theory and tested them in live races that I managed. I’m a strong believer in social justice movements and used them to elect Florida’s first open lesbian for Mayor.

    So, I don’t know how “research” is measured vs “work”— but I certainly can theorize new technologies, code them, use them, and measure the results.

    Bonuses: Two of my LOR’s will be written from former undergraduate professors, who both claim they are honored I’d consider them and plan on writing the strongest recommendations they can. The third will come from the aforementioned sitting Mayor.

    Concentration Applying to: I strongly want to study the intersect between AI tools and OB. I find, just like with the software I developed, that real magic happens when cross pollination is prioritized.

    Number of programs planned to apply to: At least 20. I need to get in for 2022.

    Dream Schools:
    Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Kellogg, Booth. (Almost in order)


    Other Questions:

    What made you want to pursue a PhD?

    I enjoy breaking barriers or empowering others to break barriers. But the reality is that there’s a hard limit that exists for truly groundbreaking new theories/things. If you don’t have the institutional support or the right letters behind your name, you’re not going to shatter kinds of ceilings I enjoy smashing.

    So, a PhD will give me that. A school like Stanford, equipped with a behavior lab, means I could create databases of traits and actions that could lead to equations that let us predict future behaviors. This is what I did with my politics software and it’s the style of stuff I’d like to continue into the future.

    Questions or concerns you have about your profile?

    It’s not really a traditional profile. But I don’t know what I can do about that…

    Any additional specific questions you may have:

    Do you have any better ideas for schools?

    I don’t really have a circle of academic friends around me, so if you’ve made it this far, I truly thank you for your time.

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    Re: I would love an Evaluation! Management/OB ‘22.

    Before I start, I'm in marketing, not OB. But my research has some connections with OB.

    As you said, not a traditional profile. You need to really think how you're going to sell your application.

    You're smart and you can get things done. That part is good.

    However, the focus of a PhD is usually academic research. And your profile often suggests that you are someone to work in industry or government, not academia.

    Sure, university resources can help you to get what you want. But is that what universities are looking for? A PhD is like a job. When you look for a job, saying that you want to use the company's resources for your own benefit, for your own ideals, is not really a good selling point. What do you have to offer?

    For example, prediction is something very strong in industry. And, in that case, people are happy as long as your predictions are good. But, in academia, we are usually more worried about establishing causality and developing the theoretical explanations. If you say that you want to predict things, I think many professors will tell you to stay in industry.

    Helping to elect a mayor is not what we do, it's usually for people outside academia. It's an amazing accomplishment, but not academic research.

    You also sound like someone who hungers for fast major changes in the world, to have a big impact. People may get worried about you feeling frustrated with the slow pace of academia, the very narrow contribution and focus of our projects, the more abstract stuff that we sometimes study forgetting about the real world, and all the dead ends that we face in academia. It's easy to feel frustrated when things are moving very slowly, or not moving at all, when you could be out there making the changes in the world that you seem to crave.

    You enjoy breaking barriers, but academic research is usually about filling small cracks instead of breaking barriers. Schools can admire your profile, but conclude that they won't be doing you any favors by accepting you to a program if they think you would be unhappy working with academic research.

    So, my recommendation is to really understand what is academic research (specially in your field), how that is different from the things you have done. And then see how to convince schools that you really want to leave all that stuff you have done before to follow a career doing academic research. Or, if you don't want to do academic research, find the programs which are ok with that (many aren't).

    And your research interests seem very vague. "Intersect between AI tools and OB" doesn't really tell us much. I have no idea what variables, concepts, theoretical frameworks, motivate you. And, depending on what happens during your PhD, your advisor may conclude that you should use something else instead of AI. Usually, you don't choose a tool before you deeply understand the problems you're trying to fix. I've seen professors complaining about too many people wanting to use things like machine learning (because that's what they know how to do and how trendy that is, for example) instead of developing a wider and stronger tool kit.

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    Re: I would love an Evaluation! Management/OB ‘22.

    This was way more than I was ever expecting and it’s all great feedback. Thank you for the thoughtful reply.

    You’re right, I’ve got to work on developing my selling points. To address specific feedback:

    1) What do I have to offer? Wow. That’s a hard introspection. I think that answer is something like “if you give me a goal, I will figure out if the goal is possible, how we get there, and then perform the tasks to achieve it.” I guess, if I picked a Real Estate/Poli-Sci PhD., I would be able to align sub-skills better.

    2) Yes, you’re correct about how industry enjoys ‘results’ of prediction more than how I got there. But that’s exactly the part I personally find unfulfilling. For example, in my previous real estate consulting work, the only folks who cared about how or why my opinions were developed were found in the courtroom. Everyone else was “what’s the number???”

    3) I am worried about the slow pace of academia, but I also understand that most projects are a several year affair no matter what. My politics software was a 3 year adventure, for instance, and there were months of slow burn or failure sprinkled in.

    4) I’m glad you called out my interests being vague. I’ve thought about your major, marketing, a lot, since my prior work is at least tangentially related. But I lack the psych background for it. So, I picked Management/OB because of the topics like social influencing, broader tech integration, and understanding how emotions and employee competitiveness affect volunteer-based organizations (where traditional reward structures are not available).

    5) I’m not trying to put the cart before the horse with regard to tools vs ideas, but it’s hard when I receive feedback of “have an idea of what you want to do and how” (not from you, obviously, just others) when I would rather experience it for a little bit and then make the choice.

    I’m badly burned on industry at this point. Before I left B-school, my professors pleaded with me to consider a PhD with waived requirements at my R2. I knew better and I regret not listening to folks who were wiser than me. I spent almost a year of my life studying for the GRE because I really want this. Trying to stay optimistic, I hope there’s time to fix and refine my profile before ‘22 applications.

    Do you have any resources (or examples from your own history) on how you developed your research interests? Mine *are* vague right now, because they’re under developed. That doesn’t mean they aren’t in my head somewhere, it just means I need to tease them out.

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    Re: I would love an Evaluation! Management/OB ‘22.

    I'll push you a little hard, ok? Some professors may be harsh, so I think it's good to be ready for hard questions.

    And I'll use examples from other fields, to avoid influencing you with bad information about OB.

    About (1).

    You wrote that “if you give me a goal, I will figure out if the goal is possible, how we get there, and then perform the tasks to achieve it.”

    Remember that a PhD is about research. It's often something that several of the best minds in the world have been trying to do without success. So, it's not so easy to believe that you will accomplish what so many people haven't accomplish just like that.

    For example, finding a cure for cancer is a goal in research. Not many people would believe that you (or anyone) would be able to just figure out if the goal is possible, how to get there, and then perform the tasks to achieve it. It might sound arrogant or naive to say that you will solve the problem of finding a cure for cancer like that.


    About (3)

    Ok, your politics software took 3 years, but at least I assume people used that at the end.

    The results of academic research are not like that. If you are really successful during your PhD, you will publish your paper (not every PhD is able to accomplish that). Very few people will read your paper. Maybe your paper will be useful for the research of other people, who will also take years to publish their own papers based on your paper. Maybe over time your paper will influence other researchers and other papers. But it may take decades for you to feel the impact in academia. And even longer for the impact to be felt outside academia.

    For example, Daniel Kahneman started his work on cognition in the 1960s, but my feeling is that it's just now we are starting to see the impact of his work outside of academia. And we are talking about a Nobel Prize winner.

    About (4)

    Not sure why a lack of psych background would be necessarily a problem for marketing. Given your profile, I suppose you would be applying to quantitative marketing or marketing strategy, not consumer behavior (which is the marketing track really closer to psychology).

    About (5)

    You should at least have an idea about what you want to do and how.

    Imagine again that we have a school working on a cure for cancer. The school wants an applicant who wants to cure cancer. They don't want someone who "would rather experience for a little bit and then make the choice."

    If they accept someone who isn't sure about research interests, and that person decides that they would rather find a cure for Alzheimer instead of cancer, then it's a big problem for both the school and the student. Because the school has no use for someone trying to find a cure for Alzheimer, and the student won't be able to pursue their newfound interests at that school.

    PhDs tend to be very specialized. Usually, what Stanford does is quite different from what MIT does, for example. Stanford doesn't want to accept an applicant that should be at the MIT, and vice versa.

    Again, a PhD is like a job. You need to fit the job position the school has open. Not many jobs are looking for people who still want to experience for a little and then make the choice. They prefer people who have already made the choice that is better for the job.

    Research fit is often considered the #1 factor to choose a PhD program. And, without knowing your research interests, it's hard to judge research fit.

    Being badly burned on industry is a good reason to leave industry. It's still not a convincing reason to move to academia.

    My research interests were developed during my corporate career. I worked mostly in corporate finance, but also had some experience in marketing. And, during my career, there were some problems that I was not able to solve, questions that I was not able to answer. Usually related to the marketing-finance interface. So, my research interests are related to things like market assets (e.g., brand equity, customer equity) and return of marketing investment.

    My masters was also important to develop my research interests, or at least understand them from the perspective of academic research. For example, finding the papers and researchers that are the main references for me. When I read a paper and think: "well, this is exactly the type of thing I would like to do."

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    Re: I would love an Evaluation! Management/OB ‘22.

    Vyndian - you have a great profile! I would be surprised if you don't get a few acceptances given your stats and background.

    A few suggestions:

    1 - To flesh out your research interests, consider focusing on the "Future Research" sections of the papers that interest you most. What are the unanswered questions related to the topics you find most fascinating? How might you be able to build on existing research of faculty at your target programs?

    2 - When you consider where to apply, keep in mind that research fit matters a lot more than general university reputation, or even business school reputation. The alignment of your research interests with faculty is what matters most. When I see someone applying and they give a laundry list of top schools that don't appear to have a clear thread (ex: top professors in XYZ), I fear they are approaching applications more like undergrad or an MBA, where "rank" matters a lot more. For example, Booth doesn't have a particularly strong OB/management area...

    3 - Is your goal to become a professor at a b-school after your studies? If so, make sure this is front and center in your application!

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    Re: I would love an Evaluation! Management/OB ‘22.

    Quote Originally Posted by agilist View Post
    Vyndian - you have a great profile! I would be surprised if you don't get a few acceptances given your stats and background.

    A few suggestions:

    1 - To flesh out your research interests, consider focusing on the "Future Research" sections of the papers that interest you most. What are the unanswered questions related to the topics you find most fascinating? How might you be able to build on existing research of faculty at your target programs?

    2 - When you consider where to apply, keep in mind that research fit matters a lot more than general university reputation, or even business school reputation. The alignment of your research interests with faculty is what matters most. When I see someone applying and they give a laundry list of top schools that don't appear to have a clear thread (ex: top professors in XYZ), I fear they are approaching applications more like undergrad or an MBA, where "rank" matters a lot more. For example, Booth doesn't have a particularly strong OB/management area...

    3 - Is your goal to become a professor at a b-school after your studies? If so, make sure this is front and center in your application!
    Thank you for your thoughts, agilist! That’s some super positive energy.

    Also, you have some really great ideas. I’ve also been giving a lot of thought to @brazilianphd’s responses regarding my research interests. I mentioned earlier how I’d like to help volunteer based organizations develop better reward and retention systems. Most of the research in this field is pretty old— from my google scholar searches, I didn’t find much that was post-1995. So, I’m going to sketch out my profile to see how I can craft a narrative around this.

    The idea to look at Future Research is really A+. When I built my politics software, called VoteFlipper, I also wrote about future research areas for it if I decided to pick up the project again. So, I definitely feel a little dumb for not thinking about that for major publications!

    RE #2:

    You’re completely right about school choices. Before I wrote this post, I was going off of MBA rankings rather than PhD ones. In the last few days, I’ve learned about the UTD rankings and I now have a very different top 40 list using the 5 management journals as selection criteria. Booth doesn’t even place. (But I also included Booth because one of my LOR/former professors strongly suggested Booth as a culture fit). From this new top 40 list, I’m whittling down by location and soon plan on breaking down the faculty and their publications.

    RE #3:
    Yes! I will absolutely make sure that it’s front and center. I know I shouldn’t talk about teaching as much as research in the context of being a professor. But a life in academia is my end-game at this point and I don’t see that changing again.

    What somebody wants when they’re 18 is different what they want at 30. But at 30, I have significantly better understanding of what I want the next 30-35 years of my life to be.


    Also, @brazilainphd: I’m reading more journals to figure it all out! Research, research, research, hah!

    Thank you both for the continued conversation!

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