My DBA Journey - The First DBA Seminar

The first blog post from February ended with a promise, and I quote “Next time, I will write the post together with my supervisor just to test the thickness of my academic skin.”

Riitta Lumme-Tuomala, 08.04.2014

The first blog post from February ended with a promise, and I quote “Next time, I will write the post together with my supervisor just to test the thickness of my academic skin.” So be it. I have invited Professor Henrikki Tikkanen to answer some questions and to share his views on what has happened so far on my academic path. In his world, this fascinating world of academic research, I am, after all, a dilettante.

Dr. Henrikki Tikkanen is a full professor of business administration, especially marketing, at Aalto University School of Business, Finland and Stockholm Business School at the University of Stockholm, Sweden. He is also the academic director of the Aalto Executive DBA program.

Before we give the “floor” to him, let me tell what has happened since we last met. In addition to a number of hours spent in the library studying, searching, and writing, Aalto EE’s first ever DBA research seminar took place in March in Singapore. For two and a half days we discussed, learnt (at least I hope so), presented, and critiqued. The agenda was interesting and, to be frank, a little bit intimidating at first sight. My original questions kept coming to my head; am I able to do this? Is my “academic skin” really thick enough already, and will I be able to present anything worthwhile to my fellow DBA participants, let alone the esteemed professors?

To get the background to the seminar discussed here, I asked Professor Tikkanen to share his thoughts about the objectives and the purpose of the DBA seminar together with the outcome and the highlights of the seminar from his point of view.

HT: "The Executive DBA research seminar is held for the DBA candidates twice a year. Each seminar lasts 2,5 work days. It consists of lectures and presentations about philosophy of science, management theory and research methodology by the professors of the program, and research plan or paper presentations by the DBA candidates. The main objective is to advance each student’s research plan towards the first version of the DBA thesis manuscript. The main working method is discussion and argumentation – the presentations themselves are kept quite brief. The small group size allows for rather deep reflections and discussions to occur."

In addition to what was said above, it was very interesting to see how the DBA group started to take form and how every student, regardless how far she/he was in the actual studies, got a lot of views and answers to relevant questions related to one’s own DBA thesis topic. The atmosphere was very relaxed, constructive and even enthusiastic. Starting an education to become a professional researcher can be frightening with a lot of new concepts, theories and methods to be learned. However, the aim of the DBA seminars is to offer concrete support and guidance for the individuals in their learning journey.

For me the seminar was an interesting experience from many points of view. First, getting to know my peers in this program was important. We are very much working on our own most of the time and on very different topics, but the general experience is presumably more or less the same, and so are the moments of frustration, despair, and exhilaration. Getting my peers’ viewpoints in addition to those of the professors on my topic was invaluable, and gave very much the building blocks to go further. We all got loads of additional tasks, but also tools and tricks to organize one’s time (that is both challenging and absolutely necessary, the learning curve for me has been steep, I tell you). All of us received a lot of advice as to the approach our research topics; how to look for and classify articles, where to go for books, how to find the right people to interview etc. The theories, philosophies, and research methods filled my head and “incarnated” in my dreams during the nights. We started to use words in our speech and discuss databases and applications we did not know existed before these fascinating days. Thus Mendeley is one of my best pals now, will tell you more later…

If I was convinced and – if academia allows the word in this context – thrilled about my topic, talent management, before the seminar, I am even more so now. Getting so many viewpoints, research method clarifications, and philosophies to lean on, gave me a lot to work with. Painfully aware of the fact that I have so far taken baby steps, or not even them, I am ready to dive deeper.

What does my supervisor think about my topic, and my work so far? Let’s ask him!

HT: "Riitta’s topic – strategic talent management in different organizational contexts from corporations to not-for-profits – is timely and interesting. She also has a lot of enthusiasm about her topic, which indeed is an important prerequisite for success in one’s own research project. As she has just recently started in the program, she is in the phase of reading a lot of existing research papers and trying to find the own angle to the phenomenon of interest. I think she is progressing very well in this respect. As the Aalto Executive DBA is a part-time program most people do alongside with their work, it is important to allocate enough time to the project already in the beginning (ca. one full day per week). I think Riitta has been successful in this respect as well."

Well, thank you, Professor!

Blushing, and happy, I leave you now. Just to tell you more in a couple of week’s time. Until then, be curious, enjoy the spring and take care!


Riitta Lumme-Tuomala is Head of Growth and Director, Russia and Talent Management at Aalto EE. She is also an Aalto Executive DBA candidate.

All My DBA Journey blogs by Riitta:

Currently reading: Aalto Leaders' Insight: My DBA Journey - The First DBA Seminar

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