“In research, we have to be fairly narrow in order to be precise, but if you keep an eye on the big picture and know which piece of the puzzle you are filling-in, that can keep you motivated.”
During my undergraduate degree, I worked at a public accounting firm to get experience towards my Chartered Accountant designation. Toronto is a hub for mining company headquarters, so I had several large clients in the extractive sector. In meetings where we asked the clients about financial risks, they never failed to mention stakeholder relations, obtaining (and maintaining) their ‘social license to operate’ and their concerns over environmental liabilities. This was fascinating to me, as was their widely disseminated corporate social responsibility reports, where I realized they were devoting significant time and resources to gather and report on metrics relating to their environmental, social and governance matters. I realized that not only did financial reporting matter, but a whole new set of information was being communicated to investors. When I started my Master’s degree, which was mostly course-based, I wrote a research paper on corporate social responsibility. My advisor gently introduced me to the possibility of academia, but I decided I wanted to work a bit more, and to understand the phenomenon more intimately. Two years later, I felt ready and decided to take the leap. HBS was a natural fit for me – a place where research is phenomenon-driven, and where the pioneers of sustainability research reside.
A large body of research shows that regulation relating to financial reporting has capital market effects. I am interested in whether mandatory reporting has ‘real effects’ on the behavior of firms and managers, using the setting of nonfinancial reporting to study this question. I am also interested in how broader national-level objectives relating to climate change can be achieved through transparency regulation.
Accounting & Management Program
The program here at HBS is unique because I get a multidisciplinary approach to research, which I appreciate tremendously. I love sitting among all of the doctoral students in Cotting; the ideas, insights and perspectives that I pick up from informal conversations have helped me think more broadly about my research and what piece of the puzzle I am contributing to. I think that’s key – in research, we have to be fairly narrow in order to be precise, but if you keep an eye on the big picture and know which piece of the puzzle you are filling-in, that can keep you motivated.
The HBS Experience
There are so many incredible opportunities here! Whether it’s taking classes taught by famous professors, speaking to executives about the issues facing their organizations, or attending speaker series featuring CEOs of multinational corporations, you cannot possibly do it all. There are simply not enough hours in the day! Research, especially for your sole-authored work, requires hours upon hours spent alone, reading, writing and thinking. In a place rich in action and opportunity, you might feel as though you are missing out. On reflection, I think this is a relatively good problem to have because in the moments when you need it, there are many opportunities to get inspired and re-connect with the realities of business.
The best part of my experience has been the network of support that the doctoral community has, which I did not at all anticipate! I feel very lucky to have the most wonderful cohort of students – who have become some of my closest friends – to experience the joys and challenges of research with.
I have also found an incredible mentor and teacher in Professor George Serafeim. I am inspired by George every day, not only because he is a brilliant researcher, but because he has shown me firsthand how research can actually advance business practice, rather than research merely describing business practice.
My goal is to work at a top business school with an energetic, innovative group of accounting scholars, driving forward my research agenda while teaching the next generation of business leaders.
Advice for prospective HBS doctoral students
Being an academic is an entrepreneurial venture. Think about whether you are willing to take on risk, be (almost) entirely in charge of your time, and be unwaveringly disciplined about meeting deadlines and goals that you set for yourself. While academia provides a lot of freedom and flexibility, make sure you are aware of your limitations so that they don’t impede your success.