Aneka Sufi


PhD Candidate reflects on her unique and diverse experiences at SDSB-LUMS

Put a couple of finance enthusiasts, operations scholars, organisational behaviour researchers, and empirical qualitative researchers in one room. What do you get? 911. No, wait, I meant 119. But seriously, when it came to establishing the efficacy of one academic discipline or research paradigm over another, room 119 became loud with academic banter as a volley of arguments from one camp attempting to obstruct the claims of another. That’s the room where my PhD story began. Nevertheless, now and then, 119 became a junction of community and camaraderie.

My quest for understanding organisational problems that continue to exist, along with my pursuit of a lifestyle that gave me more freedom over how I expend my energy brought me to SDSB’s PhD Management program at LUMS. It was the obvious choice because of its distinguished faculty, that is known for its dedication and teaching excellence,

The first 18 months were coursework. “Revisiting Paradigm(s) in Management Research: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Paradigm Wars”. That was one of the first readings in my PhD program. With my MBA background and about six years of corporate experience in multinational companies, I found myself struggling. Phrases such as “radical structuralism” and “epistemic incommensurability” seemed like another language. To be honest, my shift from corporate to academic had landed my 206 bones, 600 muscles and 80 billion neurons in the middle of a paradigm conundrum.

The coursework allowed me to explore a diverse range of literature and statistical analyses. The instructors encouraged us to engage with them in candid discussions on existing scholarship and our ideas. The small class size helped. Coursework was accompanied by workshops with business school faculty as well as international researchers organised by the Research Unit on various aspects of the research cycle. These became a source of ideas, knowledge and inspiration. But like most other graduate programs in SDSB, there was a lot of work. Preparing assigned readings for the class was one thing; every semester, we were technically working on three individual research projects alongside. I looked forward to the end of the coursework. A milestone – one of many that our ever-available program office would help us edge towards during the course of the program.

Little did I know, what awaited me was one of the most challenging, confusing, uncharted, but most intellectually rewarding times of my life. Since my coursework, I have been working on my dissertation with my supervisor and my committee. There has been a constant emphasis on significant original contribution to knowledge that is relevant to scholarship and practice. In the process, I am learning how to flex my cognitive muscle and a range of research skills, including how to articulate the knowledge gap, synthesise literature, build the theoretical framework, develop the research design, contextualise the findings, and manage the research project as a whole. Each interaction brings something new to question and learn.

There is little time to experience the social, literary, awareness and other happenings around campus. But, once in a while, the happenings come to my window sill. In my first semester, I remember waking up to the sound of the song “Abhi to party shuru hui hai” (The party has just started). I found out it was a group of undergrad freshmen singing, shouting and dancing outside at 3 am. And I had an 8 am class to get to in the morning. It has been an eventful couple of years.

I have had the chance to attend international conferences and review papers for international journals and conferences. I have also had the opportunity to write a case with a faculty member who helped me learn and appreciate the iteratively complex process of building a story. But the climax came when the case got published—my first academic publication. Also, during my PhD, I attended teaching workshops led by renowned international professors that were organised in LUMS. These were followed by an opportunity to do a teaching assistant role with a faculty member who gave me an inspiring perspective on teaching and recommended me for teaching a course to the undergrad. My teaching experience has been humbling. I have found it to be a universe of thoughts, ideas, feelings, values, and experiences.

Beyond the instances of uncertainty, anxiety, self-doubt, sleep deprivation, tears, and vitamin D deficiency that most PhDs can relate to, being a PhD scholar at SDSB-LUMS has taught me research skills that are acknowledged on international forums; as well as intrapersonal skills that have kept me persevering. Living through an extraordinarily rigorous experience in an eco-system with a legacy of academic brilliance and business impact has given me the stimulus and space to evolve as an academic and a person.

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