Bradford University School of Management

Oliver Voigt's DBA at Bradford, Part 1


Oliver Voigt

Published: 8 April 2014 | by Oliver Voigt

Hello. My name is Oliver and this is the 1st blog I am writing as DBA student from Bradford University, School of Management. I started a year ago and by now I attended four of the modules. Things are going the right direction, but it isn’t always easy. I’d like to share some of my thoughts periodically.

From engineer to business man

First of all I like to give a short background on how I came to the DBA. I am an engineer by training and work with highly specialized medical devices. As engineer I was not very interested in the business side. I was always seeking to gain highest knowledge, so I pursued a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. When I left the lab and started to work in the 'real' world, I got confronted more and more with the business side. When I went into discussions with hospital administration or industry investors I realized that I am lacking some important knowledge. Many of the medical doctors I knew (especially those who wanted to get in charge of a unit) decided to go for an MBA. So I decided to do the same.

The MBA was a first step...

There are many business schools in Germany which offers great flexibility in their distance learning program and quite a few with specialization (e.g. MBA Health Care Management). For me it was important to find a business school offering a general MBA (in case I change fields I don't want to be specialized) and with a history (well established courses and experienced lecturers). Furthermore, the school shall be recognized in international ranking lists (so I can refer to it in my CV). To make a long story short, I did a dual degree MBA from TiasNimbas (the business school of Tilburg University and Eindhoven University of Technology) and Bradford University, School of Management. My master thesis was about the medical environment I was working in; some entrepreneurial considerations to grow the niche market of mechanical circulatory support devices. I mainly used qualitative research methods, because I was familiar with those from my former career as engineer.

...but not sufficient

Although I did very well I felt that my findings were not conclusive enough for a paradigm shift or at least to prompt some minor changes in the work world I was involved. I was wondering if I had missed important considerations. It took me a year to realize that the problem was me (my personal bias). Even though my conclusions were drawn from the large survey I did and as such objective, the way I designed the survey/questionnaire was based on my knowledge or assumption and thus highly subjective. I was not a social researcher. I was still an engineer but with the knowledge of a business man. The MBA gave me the right tools to become a good manager –but I tried to be an economist. I contacted my former MBA supervisor and he suggested me to resume my work from the thesis, but in an anthropo-philosophical perspective. This was new to me.

Why a Doctor of Business Adminisration?

Books are good, but I needed to get practical experience and constructive feedback. The DBA program offers all this. In different modules I learn various social research methods and most importantly all this in philosophical context. So my primary goal was not to get an academic title (doctorate). Also, I don’t need the DBA for a promotion (I am a freelancer and executive partner). The reason I do the DBA is for the knowledge and its application to my job environment, but also for my personal life. Interestingly, with just a few modules attended there is already quite an influence on many aspects of my business and social life. As an engineer I was highly focused on problem solving. The same I can say about the medical doctors (mainly surgeons) in my working environment. Even when I did my PhD I was focused on problem solving.

DBA vs. PhD

The DBA is different. Besides learning the social research tools (quantitative and qualitative) in order to prepare the thesis in the future, the first two years are spent in a group (and not alone in the lab as I did for my PhD). Our DBA group is very heterogeneous in terms of nationality, profession as well as culture and religion (in our little group of 20 the students come from North America, Central Europe, Asia, Middle and Far East). We have many and deep discussions. Our lecturers appreciate this. They give us the time we need. This enables knowledge exchange and broadens the view. Actually I can say the DBA is a lifestyle. The knowledge from the MBA improved my managerial skills, but the DBA goes beyond. It fits my entrepreneurial acumen and the fellow students increase my international (business) network. I get valuable insides about their countries businesswise and about their culture and manner. And most important, the DBA is 100% tied to my current job, because I will choose the topic of my research self and a supervisor will be found for me from either Bradford University or other institution who will be an expert in the field I want to do the research. With almost 15 years of business experience, I want to make use of the expertise I gained, so I am not interested in a theoretical model that anybody can be working on who freshly graduated (having no work experience) or what a professor proposes.

Why Bradford?

As I mentioned, I have graduated from Bradford School of Management, but this was not the reason why I choose Bradford for the DBA. When I went back to my supervisor and he suggested a new approach to my management thesis, I had to think about an appropriate institution which offers a DBA. I approached a few universities first in my neighborhood (Berlin, Germany) but I missed the strong philosophical connection with business that caught my interest. I am not saying there aren’t any other DBA programs like Bradford in the world, but the package offered to me was the best. Besides Bradford School of Management is ‘triple crown’ accredited and the DBA program is high ranked, I am pleased with the guidance and student support. Even lecturers from workshops are willing to travel, so our group can meet in different places, e.g. Dubai or wherever in the world. This means the social part is not missing J. By the way, I have other lecturers for the DBA than I had previously for my MBA. Those who teach accounting and operations are not relevant for the DBA… From what I overlook so far, the DBA program from Bradford is well structured which is probably due to the fact that it is established for more than a decade and steadily improved.

Application Process

Is pretty much straight forward. Everything can be done from the distance. Enrolment fee can be paid with credit card and required qualification documents can be scanned and emailed. On the first day of module 1 the originals have to be presented to the matriculation office in Bradford. In any case, for information I suggest scheduling an individual phone call with Eva Niemann, Director of the DBA at Campus Bonn in Germany. This should be done way in advance, because the number of students for intake is restricted. For me it was very helpful to learn about the expectation Bradford University has on their DBA students.

First start

Was quite demanding but manageable. Already at module 1 I have got a sense of the flaws in my MBA thesis. Way to go…

Oliver Voigt

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