Coming to HBS was a natural extension of my studies and career. As an undergraduate student, I learned what it meant to be a scientist and had my first exposure to social science research. When I moved into my first career as a nonprofit management consultant, I found myself in the middle of a new and incredibly fast-moving field of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. Lots of important work was happening, but very few people were stepping back and thinking about what we might be able to learn from it. I have always thought that I would like to pursue an academic career, and this was the perfect opportunity to study something timely and important.
My research interests
The topic for your research is one of the most important choices you make as a doctoral student. When I came to HBS, I had a pretty strong hypothesis that I wanted to study "hybrid" organizations that combine aspects of for-profit and non-profit organizations. In my first year, I started reading deeply in a field of organizational sociology called institutional theory. Later, an entrepreneurship seminar made me realize that entrepreneurship would be an important setting to study the hybridization of institutions. Now, my primary research project is a large-scale study of how entrepreneurs enact and combine organizational institutions. So, the phenomenon I am studying is essentially the same but the way that I think about the problems has been completely transformed.
About the Management Program
What makes the DBA Management program here unique is that it is equally, deeply rooted in theory and practice. The underlying philosophy is that in order to advance knowledge, you need to be both deeply embedded in a scholarly discourse and be able to interpret what is happening on the front page of the newspaper. My colleagues are all working on topics that are relevant to managers, and typically do so using multiple types of data. We are also all somewhat interdisciplinary - we each have a disciplinary "home base" that anchors our research and defines our scholarly community, but we share the belief that learning comes from bridging theoretical silos.
The HBS Experience
HBS is a special place to be a student for all the obvious reasons - terrific faculty, constant connections to practitioners, and access to Harvard University. On any given afternoon, it's possible to be in the office working with your classmates, at an event or speaker with the MBA community, or alone working in any of a number of spaces on and around campus. It's a beautiful and inspiring environment to grow your ideas.
The other thing to mention is that HBS is very, very entrepreneurial, from how you choose your advisors to what projects you work on, to whether you choose to engage in additional activities like teaching. This can be challenging but if you're willing to invest in meeting people and learning about what they are doing, the opportunities to work across boundaries and plan out your own path are limitless. I believe this is pretty unique.
Advice for prospective HBS doctoral students
Think about whether you are willing to go in the unexpected places a doctoral program might take you. Part of creating new knowledge is that you can't completely plan where your research will take you - so you and your work will be much better off if you're open to that! Bring your energy and passion for answering a question, and HBS will give you the tools to be successful.