"Studying in the DBA Program Is Tailored to Be Very Flexible"

DBA Candidate Marko Hoikkaniemi has extensive experience from retail. The Aalto Executive DBA program for experienced professionals has opened up new career possibilities for him.

Photo: Studio Lindell

Marko Hoikkaniemi, 29.07.2022

I have always enjoyed studying, which is supported by my core values – curiosity, openness, courage, and honesty. My thirst for knowledge is constant and I have always wanted to evolve.

When I was working as a K-retailer, I was particularly interested in digital marketing. I studied the subject in the Menestyksen tekijät training program intended for K-retailers and organized by the University of Jyväskylä. I was looking forward to the lectures of Lasse Mitronen and Heikki Karjaluoto.

During my studies, my thinking became clearer and broader, and I realized I wanted to expand my management work. I started thinking of a research idea and refined it on paper.

I contacted Ulla-Maija Uusitalo, the then program director of the Aalto Executive Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program. My research plan was approved, and Lasse Mitronen agreed to be my supervisor. Soon after I was accepted to the program.

Now I study how customer value can be built through digital marketing at the different stages of the customer journey in a grocery store.

My enthusiasm reached a new level. While working, I had many great discussions on the subject with retailers, staff, and customers. My work was directed toward the world of retail and practicality was strongly present from start to finish.

A program for experienced professionals

Studying in the DBA program is tailored to be very flexible and to be carried out alongside a day job. At the same time, it is very much up to you: you have to make time for studying and you need to be active in acquiring information.

Theory and practice are combined and immediately applicable to the development of the organization."

Support and guidance are available at all times according to everyone’s individual needs. Studying is communal, respectful, and forward-looking. This mindset suited me particularly well.

During the journey, I reviewed many doctoral dissertations and scientific articles and assessed them on the basis of the tasks assigned. At the same time, I was doing my own research and completed the mandatory 60 credits in the DBA program.

Aalto Executive Doctor of Business Administration is a doctoral degree program for experienced professionals. Participants are expected to have leadership experience and willingness to invest significantly in the development of professional practices in areas of interest.

The program provides employers and participants with significant practical benefits without compromising academic requirements. I think the program is particularly well suited to the world of retail, since there are numerous topics to explore. What makes the retail sector special is that there is plenty of data available. Therefore it is essential to be able to identify and find the right data.

Combining theory and practice

DBA graduates usually work as managers or experts in the private or public sector. Research within the DBA program – a doctoral dissertation that is examined at a public defense – is usually strongly related to business and management work. For example, DBA candidates can carry out an extensive research project for their own employer.

In this way, theory and practice are combined and immediately applicable to the development of the organization. I think this is one of the program’s strengths. Strong substance and the intention of taking theory and practice forward serve both the author and the subject of the research. Grocery stores, for example, benefit from being able to put the lessons and insights into practice immediately.

Now as a business teacher, I have the skills needed for the position and the opportunity to move forward in my career."

Compared to more scientific doctoral programs, DBA studies and the dissertation emphasize the practical application of theories – developing and testing a completely new theory is not necessary. The main subjects of the Aalto Executive DBA program are strategy and marketing, but all multidisciplinary research topics related to management are valid.

In my case, the DBA program has been useful due to the fact that now as a business teacher, I have the skills needed for the position and the opportunity to move forward in my career. The possibility to go back to being an entrepreneur is still there and my competitiveness has definitely improved. There is now more professional interest in me than there used to be.

If you are enthusiastic and considering the DBA study path, I recommend contacting the program director, Patrick Furu. Studying is always worthwhile and there is always a next level to get to.

Marko Hoikkaniemi is a professional in the retail sector who has worked as a K-retailer in the past. Hoikkaniemi is currently completing his DBA thesis in the Aalto Executive DBA doctoral program. Read more about the program

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