Srinivasan Ananthraman has 15 years of practical experience in the field of patents. He was eager to use this experience for research in patent economics and come up with breakthrough solutions for innovators, academics and policymakers. There was one catch, however: he wanted to combine this research with a fulltime job. Luckily the AMS PhD Program for Executives came to the rescue.
Did you choose the AMS program purely for reasons of convenience?
This program is one of the first of its kind offered by an AACSB-accredited institution in the western hemisphere. Unlike a Doctorate in Business Administration, this is a doctoral degree that requires the candidates to make a significant theoretical contribution (because theory informs practice and not vice-versa). At the same time, being an executive program, you only have to be on campus for very short periods of time. So, it’s an enviable combination of significance and convenience.
I was attracted to the AMS program by other elements as well, such as the freedom to choose a research topic of relevance to my profession, the teaching by world-class academics and scholars, and the sterling reputation of AMS as a top-notch business school.
And did the AMS program live up to its expectations?
Absolutely, the pedagogical approach designed by AMS for executive PhDs is just great. It starts with the very basics in the first few modules, which helped me to gradually transition from a novice to a skilled academic researcher. The tempo builds up slowly and before the end of 18 months, I was ready to write a compelling research proposal. Then, the program structure allowed me to take a deep dive into research and do “the real stuff”. The lectures and modules continued throughout my research so that I could reflect on the shortcomings of my work and seek expert intervention at all times.
What’s more, the support staff at AMS turned out to be truly invaluable. You get a pool of designated people to rely upon outside the teaching faculty. In this way, you can very efficiently address all your non-academic needs related to the program.
In spite of all the support, combining work, private life and getting a PhD still can’t be easy?
When you enroll in the program, you need to be well aware of the fact that you’re expected to spend quality time on research. Being able to choose a research topic closely related to your professional experience, gives you a good head start, but still, the combination with a full time job is not easy. I tried to spend 15 to 20 hours every week on research. This is the unwritten rule: full-time PhD students are expected to spend 40 hours per week on research; part-time candidates ought to invest half as much time, at least.
You also need to bear in mind that you need to invest quality time to get optimal output. I spent at least two hours of uninterrupted research time per weekday. Typically, I would do this in the early morning (tranquil) hours. On weekends, I had the luxury of putting in 3 to 4 hours of research time. In this way, I was able (and willing) to spend the required 15-20 hours per week on my PhD and I even managed to complete my PhD ahead of schedule. I didn’t have to make any big sacrifices in my professional or my personal life, simply because I had a dedicated and non-interfering schedule for research.
So how do you look back upon your PhD journey?
The whole experience was incredible, humbling, and liberating. It made me realize that what we practitioners know is only one part of the story, there is so much more to be learned. It taught me the biggest lesson of being open-minded and curious about the phenomena around us in the social world. I am more of an analytical person, but this program has brought into my mindset two massive new dimensions of critical reasoning and conceptual understanding. The spectacular success of this program in itself already shows that learning is a continuous process, irrespective of your age. It’s never too late to get a PhD!