The journey of a PhD, through the eyes of our Academic Director




When I was in my thirties, I made one of the most important decisions of my life. At the time, I was a managing director and I liked my job, yet I felt something was missing. And I was right. Now, I am a professor and I love my job, I love writing. I love being the academic director of the PhD program for executives, as it allows me to be part of exciting PhD journeys, similar to the one I was once on. I am surrounded by people who share similar dreams and passions. But most importantly, everything makes sense now: every step of my PhD, every talk with my supervisors, every round of revisions, everything I went through along the journey toward my PhD makes sense. When I wrote my PhD at a state university, things weren’t as clear and I had to learn the hard way. But in retrospect, all the struggles were worth it. The journey changed me, changed my life, changed my perspective. I feel different, my life is different.

"The journey of the PhD changed me, my life and my perspective"

How I experienced my PhD

The important question is: would I do it again? The answer is yes, but I would go a different route. I chose the hard way. I quit my job and became a normal PhD student, which caused me to experience a major culture shock. Suddenly my past career in the private sector was worth so little.

The ‘currency’ changed – my working life was not about projects, revenue and clients anymore. Everybody was talking about publications, revisions, literature review, theoretical frameworks and research questions. My colleagues at university knew how to engage in this game, but I did not. I struggled. I could not rely on what I was used to: talking to clients, presenting figures to the board and turning projects around. All of this meant very little at a state university. I had to work my way up again, and it felt as if I had to push a rock over Mount Everest.  

Before, as a managing director, I was used to quick responses, to fast moving decisions, to react to crises and to succeed. For my PhD I had to learn how to apply my skills in a different way. I have always been persistent, I have always been ambitious, I have always wanted to learn more and understand the deeper meaning. On my PhD journey I had to learn how to be patient, how to keep digging deeper, how to ask different questions. I had to comprehend giving, integrating and coping with academic feedback.

steffi speech social

What are the advantages for you?

And what about you? Should you write a PhD? Yes, of course! I love this executive PhD program because it gives successful managers and executives the chance to start an exciting PhD project without experiencing a culture shock. You can continue your career while getting to know the academic world. You can be embedded in a vibrant research community of people with similar experience. You can engage in our management school community that offers executive education and appreciates management experience.

Antwerp Management School and the University of Antwerp tailor-made this program to the needs of executives and managers. You will receive a regular PhD degree from the University of Antwerp. Our PhD candidates enjoy the best of both worlds. You can draw upon your job experience and translate business problems into academic research. This program offers all the things I was missing in my PhD journey: engaging with peer managers, developing academic skills, developing a research question that is based on previous job experience.

I speak from experience. I see how our candidates enter the program. Great people with a lot of experience. And I witness how they become academics while remaining in their successful careers. With a sense of pride, I listen to their academic presentations, I commend their work and I see how the process is changing their lives as well. After they graduate, the doors are wide open to become an academic – or to engage in the vibrant business school community. Besides other job opportunities, an executive PhD opens the door to your personal academic journey, to your life-changing story.

Let us bounce ideas off each other and write a new chapter together!