What are some dissertation topics in business

Sociology: After completing a doctorate in business

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How do you actually get to BMW in Munich with a degree and a doctorate in social sciences / sociology and how do you benefit from a doctorate outside of the university? I gave that to Dr. Josef Köster, Team Leader Customer Segmentation, Customer Foresight and Innovation Studies BMW Group Munich, Germany, asked. Here are the answers and at the very end a very important recommendation, especially for doctoral candidates in the social sciences (the recommendation is at the bottom, is also interesting for other disciplines!).

Dr. Josef Koester

As a sociologist for BMW?

I am perhaps the only sociologist at BMW who actually does sociology. Actually, I've been doing what I'm doing for far too long. At BMW, as at many other large companies, job rotation is the order of the day, and looking for a different position about every three years is the norm. I have basically been in the same position for 14 years now, the scope of duties has only been expanded several times and I've developed from a lone fighter to a team leader. The reason for my long stay is substantiated: I am responsible for the “more general” topics within market research; I do less research on specific customer feedback on our products or brands, but am interested in fundamental developments on the customer side: How do mobility preferences develop, what significance does the car have in a society, how can a society be socio-culturally segmented.

On which topic did you do your doctorate?

I did my doctorate in sociology, my topic was: “Modern forms of privacy in the context of new social structures. A quantitative exploration ”. Here I have examined the extent to which “forms of privacy” (i.e. forms of household composition and intimate relationships beyond traditional marriage) are (reciprocal) dependent on socio-cultural segments of society (in this case: a modified model of the Schulzeschen experiential milieu). So, a topic that had little to do with my later career in market research.

What was your motivation for doing your doctorate?

After a short period in which I was toying with a career in science, I had already planned to go into market research (with a preference for the automotive industry) after graduation. The offer from the professor who supervised my thesis to fill a position for my doctorate with me, and the fact that I felt very much at home at the university, led to this stopover. So I was in the right place at the right time, otherwise I would not have received my doctorate.

Did you already have an alternative to doing a doctorate?

Without a doctorate, I would have gone straight to market research. I would not have needed a doctorate, at the end of my studies I had the opportunity to do a doctorate, the topic interested me and so I first did my doctorate.

To what extent did your doctorate prepare you for your future work?

Specifically, the doctorate - little! I learned what qualifications I needed professionally during my studies. However, my doctoral topic helped me to get my current position at BMW after starting my career in a market research institute (thanks to my doctorate I was recognized as a customer segmentation specialist), and the title certainly didn't hurt either the hiring or the classification ...
I chose my doctoral topic myself; my doctoral supervisor no longer had any great research ambitions at the time, concentrated heavily on administration and teaching and let me do it. A stroke of luck, I would say ...

Which key competencies did you acquire during your doctorate that you subsequently used in your job?

Keywords: project management, communication, frustration tolerance.
I learned to think and work independently during my doctorate. That was important in my job afterwards. The ability to communicate was a third priority in my doctorate, but it was central to a position as a market researcher afterwards. I learned project management during my doctorate, and you can't do without it at work, otherwise you will sink into chaos there too.
Frustration tolerance: they say you need that. I am a lucky exception in that I never had to deal with any significant bursts of frustration and also never (after all I know about other projects, very unusual) had to struggle with doubts about the meaning and relevance of my work.
Small recommendation: Calmly compare with the dissertation topics or the completed doctorates of others (cleverly not with heads like Niklas Luhmann) - but with others! It doesn't have to be a Nobel Prize-worthy dissertation.

Would mentoring have been helpful?

I never had mentoring and I never missed it. I prefer to gather my own experience and make a variety of inquiries. I am currently supervising a doctorate at BMW - what the doctoral student reports about the tips from her two mentors is not suitable for revising my opinion: Very subjective and difficult to generalize. Of course, there may simply be better mentors ... The logical conclusion: My opinion may not apply to some.

Have you been able to apply what you have learned as a scientific employee at the university in your later career?

Teaching may have given me a little more standing in market research presentations - but speaking in front of a crowd wasn't my biggest problem, even before.

What did your doctorate not prepare you for?

The need to convey even complex information simply (for laypeople) and without written text. The topic of timing is also a completely different one in the economy: Here deadlines are set by others. Oh yes, I was not adequately prepared for wearing ties ...

Could you do your current job without a PhD?

Yes, I could, probably there would be no difference. I wouldn't have needed the Dr. title, but maybe it helped me get started.

Why didn't you stay in science?

I only enjoyed teaching for the first four weeks of the semester, after which it became a nuisance. In addition, I was bothered by the prospect of only having uncertain, temporary employment prospects for many years to come. I find research exciting, that's what I'm doing now, too, but at the university you always have to rely on third-party funding, and at the same time you have no job security, I didn't enjoy it.

What tips do you have for doctoral candidates for orientation on the job market outside of science?

You must also do internships during your doctorate. You should not underestimate how important it is or can be to know the company and any decision-makers personally. By that I mean that an internship at the company to which you will apply later offers a huge advantage!
I don't think networks are necessarily a starting point for a career, but rather important for the further career path. Usually you will not be able to create effective networks in companies if you are still at university (with the exception of private networks). Self-marketing is of course important in an application process; a creative, remarkable and self-confident appearance (in writing as well as verbally) is essential.

What is the significance of a doctoral topic for academic work?

In my case, the PhD topic helped me get started at BMW, but that's probably not the rule for social scientists. But it certainly helps if the topic gives the impression that it has something to do with the later tasks. And for a position in market research, it goes without saying that it must be empirical work. Basically, it always depends on the position and may also depend on the discipline.

What do you think about dropping out of your doctorate, e.g. due to a lack of career prospects outside of the university?

I would not abandon my doctorate because of suspected poor employment conditions. If I assume that a doctorate will not hurt, at least once, and that employment conditions will also change and that the time spent doing a doctorate could mean a good way of bridging an uncertain career start-up phase, then I consider it absurd to abandon the doctorate.
It is a different matter if there are further reasons: If I suffer like a dog from a doctorate, I don't feel up to the circumstances of a doctorate, if I am offered a non-everyday professional opportunity, things look different. In business you don't need a doctorate, you don't have to bend overboard for it.

What other tips do you have for doctoral candidates?

A dissertation is a book. You don't write books in business. One gives presentations. Use every opportunity to develop yourself further in this regard - with exercises and in emergencies, i.e. lectures (this also includes teaching). Use every opportunity to present yourself and practice presentations!

Business economists will often be the competitors for a position for social scientists in business. The common prejudices include that social scientists can gossip, but are ludicrous and not very goal-oriented. If, for example, you have studied sociology and then completed your doctorate, think about how you can avoid these impressions in the application process and in the attachment of your professional biography. Do not be deterred from applying for positions that are advertised for business economists if you are qualified. In business, the formal qualification is usually absolutely secondary, it depends on the person.

And now the ultimate recommendation:
If you apply to a company that has a standardized online application system (the worst invention since the call center!), You may accidentally click on the wrong subject. Very sad. If it comes up in the interview (which is hardly to be expected), you can take note of it with a surprised and slightly embarrassed expression ("Well, how did this happen to me ?! I hope that's not a problem ?!") . The alternative: If you click on the relevant subject, as a social scientist you are often out of the race before it has started - usually simply because when creating the profile the manager in question simply did not think that there were other interesting qualification subjects beyond business administration could give, and the computer then sifts out!