From corporate career to academia in order to become a better professional in industry

Life is a constant journey with endless possibilities where being open to learning and exploring new ideas can lead to tremendous growth opportunities. However, consider that we tend to live and operate within the constraints that are placed on us, either by externalities or by ourselves, and as the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

As someone with almost 20 years of professional industry experience, I can say that I fell into the category of “not knowing.” After deciding to go back to school to continue my education, well into my professional career, I realized that there is an entire world out there with ideas, knowledge, and solutions that I never knew existed.

By opening myself up to opportunities of learning, and engaging with others in a new way, I have seen the power of what academic rigour gives you. It is this evolution in thinking, and desire to be a better professional, that drives my interest to pursue a doctoral degree upon the completion of my MBA program.

Bridging the world of academia, industry, government, and individuals can help us to better face our global challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed critical social, environmental, and economic issues that require immediate attention, and history has shown it is science and ideas that have transformed humanity towards progress. Why then is there such a disconnect in bringing all these areas together to collaborate and build a better world? When we can reach beyond these gaps to learn and gain unique perspectives, that is when we can begin to make radical transformations.

The integration of academia to industry is not a novel idea, as many academics work in industry, and many within industry learn and collaborate with the world of academia. However, there is so much more that could be done. The opportunity for impact from both sides has barely scratched the surface. There is great value in bringing scholarly research and critical thinking into the world of industry by having more PhD’s work directly for companies. It can potentially accelerate the development of metamorphic strategies. Being consistently engaged with the academic world brings greater insight into industry decision-making and helps to build more resilient and innovative companies. 

There is also the challenge of industry and academia not speaking the same language. Some research papers are written in an indecipherable way and are not accessible to those who need it most. Creating more practical applications for these research ideas can unlock innovation at a faster rate. Mankind has taken tens of thousands of years to reach the First Industrial Revolution, yet it has taken less than 300 years to get to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The need for science and academic research to contribute to humanity is much more urgent than in the past. Changing the way that we access and interact with these two worlds is a necessary step towards progress.

Some of the most successful and innovative companies consistently recruit PhD level individuals for their science and theory-based knowledge, rigorous research skills, and ability to learn quickly. With this skill level working directly in industry, the amount of contribution towards change could grow well beyond the 2% of current technologies that come from academic research.

The capacity to think differently through constant exposure to unfamiliar ideas can pave the way for a brighter future. Traditional thinking will not allow us to meet the challenges of the emerging world. Creating a different narrative involves being able to envisage dynamically and reimagine the future. I would challenge those PhDs within this platform who aspire to transition to industry, to look beyond what their research is based on and use that knowledge and skills as a catalyst for impact in pioneering and original ways. I would also challenge those in industry to grab onto academia and integrate their knowledge and skills to bring new perspectives and ideas that will create great transformations. Diversity of thinking is powerful, and the time is now to harness its power.

Written by Smart Tribe Mentor Lindsay Kesselman

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