Another major advantage of the Case DM program is its rigor. Whether students decide ultimately to stick with the DM or pursue a PhD, Case expects all of us to produce serious academic papers, and the faculty give us the intensive training in both qualitative and quantitative methods to be able to do so. My work focuses on the growing realization that a small number of “stars” seem to create the vast majority of value in fields as diverse as sports, acting, and even business, and that the results of human behavior frequently appear to follow power laws rather than normal distributions. (Think the 1% in economics, where a small number of people accumulate the majority of the world’s wealth). The idea for my work came from a class that Professor Richard Boyatzis taught in the first semester of the program. I need a very strong grounding in quantitative methods for the statistical part of my work, and also a strong grounding in qualitative methods in order to get “under the hood” and understand what really differentiates stars. Fortunately, the DM program equips us with both.
Case also expects us to submit to top academic conferences, and the most common one is the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, or AOM. This past August, I presented my paper “Competencies, Clusters, and Star Performance at a Leading Private Equity Firm” at AOM, which took place in Anaheim, California.
The conference was a great experience for a number of reasons. One is the ability to present your work. First, not every paper gets accepted to AOM. (I believe about ½ do). Each submitted paper is reviewed by a number of peers (i.e., professors or other doctoral students). The people who reviewed mine provided some very useful comments that I incorporated into the final version of my paper, which was then published in the Journal of Private Equity. The actual presentation day is also a fun chance to showcase your work to other academics and to get helpful advice and feedback. I should also mention that some of my fellow Case students attended my presentation and me theirs and we were a great support network.
Another benefit of AOM is the ability to participate in Professional Development Workshops, or PDWs. Among the PDWs that I attended were a session called “Halfway There” for mid-program Organizational Behavior PhD students, and another one on multilevel modeling, which is a topic in which I am particularly interested. The Halfway There PDW was a very useful opportunity to listen to doctoral students from other schools discuss their research, and also to get some tips from the people who led the session, who are more advanced in their academic careers. The multilevel modeling PDW was a great chance to hear from some of the major “methodologists” who study the impact of one level of an organization or industry on another (e.g., employees on companies on industries or vice versa), and to talk with other people who are conducting projects that are similar to mine.
AOM was also an exciting networking opportunity. I was able to meet professors and other students who have interests that are similar to mine, discuss ideas, and also to learn more about moving from the practitioner world to the academic track.
One more note on conferences: I have become a regular conference presenter and attendee, beyond just AOM. Since starting the program, I have presented at the Engagement Management Scholarship Annual Meeting (the conference of executive doctorates), to the Emotional Intelligence Consortium, at a symposium on stars and outliers held by the Strategic Management Society, and at a number of practitioner conferences for “real world” folks. I probably present more than most students do, but I highly recommend it. The specialized events such as the emotional intelligence meeting and the stars and outliers symposium were particularly helpful, in that they allowed me to subject my work to the critical gaze of experts in my field, and the practitioner conferences have also been extremely helpful in ensuring that my research is useful in the real world. (Keeping our research useful is another primary goal of the Case DM program).
In short, I am a big fan of the Case DM program, and couldn’t be happier to be part of it. If you are a practitioner considering a doctorate and are looking for real rigor, I would argue that this is the best program to choose. And if and when you do enroll, seriously consider spending time at the major academic (and practitioner) conferences in your field.