A PhD at IESE? The Choice Was “Easy”

Doctoral candidates and PhDs share the inside track on the IESE experience

13/10/2015 Barcelona


Doing a doctorate at IESE? The choice was easy, say four international researchers / Photo: Fernando Bagué

Pursuing a PhD at IESE is a “life-changer.”

So say an international cohort of students and PhD graduates who have pursued a wide range of research interests at IESE.

World-Class Research, World-Class Faculty

IESE’s reputation is universally cited by PhD students as a key factor in opting to pursue their research here. For PhD student, Federica Foce Massa Saluzzo, it was the world-class reputation in teaching and research at IESE. Massa’s research interests lie in the bi-directional relationships between firms and not-for-profit organizations and the balance between financial stability and ideological demands. This is a field that she is continuing to research as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Bologna.

“IESE has a very high level of research output, and there’s comprehensive financial support on offer to students – this plus the chance to live and research in Barcelona meant that the choice was very easy!”

Defending Your Position

One of the most satisfying elements of the IESE experience is the interchange of perspective and the chance to put theory to the test, says Massa. “It doesn’t get better than your thesis defense.”

“You have the chance to learn how high-level scholars feel about your research; you can have an in-depth conversation with knowledgeable professors about something you’re passionate about; and finally you feel the sense of accomplishment and closure.”

What’s more, she says: “The thesis defense was not only the most rewarding part of my PhD, but one of the best days of my life.”

New Approaches to Research

Stephen Winterhalter, is a visiting researcher at IESE who is completing his doctorate at the University of St. Gallen. Winterhalter believes it’s not just the multinational element that makes studying for a PhD at IESE so rich, but also the “variety of students from different fields you’re in contact with.”

“It was kind of a new experience when I realised how many different topics my colleagues here at IESE were working on. I think it’s important not to get lost in your own work, but to connect with people from other backgrounds and fields of research to trigger new thinking.”

Networking Opportunities

IESE PhD students work alongside scholars and academics from around the world. As well as creating a dynamic environment, this mix of nationalities and backgrounds provides valuable networking opportunities. Minna Paunova completed her PhD in organizational behavior at IESE. Her research focus was leadership in the context of multinational teams. 

“I’ve built a pretty extensive network of scholars, professors and also PhD students, which goes all over the world. I think we’ll be in touch and will collaborate in the future as well. This has been a great aspect of my time here.”

A PhD to Accelerate Your Career

There is a consensus among the students that the academic rigor and world-class research generated at IESE will translate into better career prospects. Florian Deutzmann completed his PhD in marketing at IESE in 2014. He now teaches marketing at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

“The chance to collaborate closely with top scholars from my area and then receive the necessary support to broaden my knowledge inside and outside of IESE has been a major asset for kick-starting my career in academia.”

In addition, people studying for a PhD at IESE build an excellent foundation in management and business thanks to the school’s holistic general management and multi-disciplinary approach, he says.

Minna Paunova is currently assistant professor in the department of international business communication at Copenhagen Business School. Prior to that she was a post-doctoral researcher at the Technical University of Denmark. She has solid praise for IESE faculty: “I received first-class training in quantitative methodology, which I think will be very helpful for the future. This is something that sets me apart from my peers in other schools in Europe.”

Considering a PhD at IESE?

Federica Massa recommends a campus visit. “You should definitely come and meet the professors and take the opportunity to talk to current candidates. You’ll get to experience life on campus and see what Barcelona itself is all about.”