Reasons to choose a DBA vs a PhD | Alumni Voice

Posted by Hitotsubashi ICS on May 24, 2021 8:14:35 PM

There have been fewer opportunities to feature the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) program, our doctorate program at Hitotsubashi ICS compared to our MBA and DBA programs. In this edition of our alumni voices, we sat down with DBA graduate, Asuka Takaoka, to talk about her DBA journey at Hitotsubashi ICS.

Asuka profile Hitotsubashi ICS

Asuka graduated from the part-time DBA program while working full-time. We talked to her about why she decided to pursue a doctoral degree, how she spent her five years at DBA, her research theme, and how she manages her time. We have divided the interview into two parts.

Please briefly introduce yourself

I obtained my MBA at Hitotsubashi ICS as a company-sponsored student when I was working at Fuji Xerox (currently Fuji Film Holdings). After my graduation back in 2007, I shifted my career to consulting. For the past 13 years after graduating from Hitotsubashi ICS, I was working in consulting. Initially, I worked for McKinsey & Company in Tokyo and Frankfurt on a wide range of strategy projects, moved into the HR consulting field when I got married and had a baby. I spent 3 years in London doing assessment work, mainly for CEO nominations, and the rest of the time in Japan. My last corporate position was the Asia head of the assessment business at Towers Watson.


Assessment for the CEO's nomination is a task that can only be performed by a psychology doctor overseas. In London, where I was posted, I acquired a comprehensive set of psychological qualifications. However, I had a desire to specialize deeper, so I decided to apply to Hitotsubashi ICS's DBA program. After joining the DBA in 2015, I conducted joint research with MBA students and was invited to classes at the University of Tokyo, which led me to shift my professional interests to academia. Since 2019, I have been teaching Organizational Behaviors and Leadership, Human Resource Management, and Power and Influence at the Graduate School of Management, Globis University as an Associate Professor. 

Asuka ICS MBA commencement

Hitotsubashi ICS MBA program Commencement in 2007

When did you decide to make your shift to academia?


This professional shift into academia was that something that happened while I was getting DBA.


When I entered the DBA Program, I was genuinely interested in improving my expertise in the area of the CEO nomination. In the third year of pursuing my DBA, I started conducting joint research projects with MBA students and began to receive invitations from other universities as panelists and to give lectures, which got me rethinking if I wanted to continue in consulting. In the midst of all this, a desire to contribute to the younger generation and to live a life where research results are disseminated under my own name, not a company's, emerged. Then, when I started writing my doctoral dissertation, I reconsidered a longer career, in line with the 100-year life, choosing the path of teaching.


Why DBA over a Ph.D in psychology?


There are several reasons why I decided to pursue a DBA. Firstly, there were no part-time Ph.D. in Psychology programs in Japan at that time. I enrolled in the DBA because I wanted to study Psychology from a business perspective and leverage my ten years of professional experience in the field. Additionally, during my MBA at Hitotsubashi ICS, my seminar (zemi) advisor was Professor Nonaka who had invited me to pursue research while I was at McKinsey. 


Another point to consider might be which targeted community or audience you wish your research to reach. If you want your research to impact the broader society, such as the business world and corporations, I recommend taking a DBA. While Ph. D.s might present papers at conferences for academia, DBAs might do so for corporate executives. 

I want my research to influence corporate executives as well as academia Therefore, I decided to do a DBA over a Ph.D.


Did you consider other programs, or was Hitotsubashi ICS your first choice?


If my assignment in London had been prolonged, I might have had other options there, but I only applied to the Hitotsubashi ICS DBA in Japan. Hitotsubashi ICS was my first and only choice because of its different practical approaches to research, possessing a unique balance between business savvy and academic rigorousness. I had considered the doctoral program at the University of Tokyo, but their research system is vertically divided among the various graduate schools. Accordingly, if you go on to a psychology program, you will only be able to specialize in psychology. Since my fields of interest include psychology, business administration, and sociology, I felt that the DBA at Hitotsubashi ICS, which allows me to incorporate adjacent fields into my research, was the best fit for my research plan.


Furthermore, sometimes in academia, business experience is not valued, whereas the DBA program at Hitotsubashi ICS leverages it, producing research that utilizes business experience. This program is a good option for working students to conduct research based on their careers.


We would like to ask you about the program itself. Could you briefly describe your DBA journey?


I think there are three phases in the doctoral program: the phase of earning your credits, the phase of discussing and deepening your research topic in seminars, and finally the phase of writing your doctoral thesis phase. The last one is a lonely road.

 Asuka at Hitotsubashi ICS DBA


What kind of support system was there to get you through the DBA program?


Once enrolled in the DBA, I was assigned to a zemi (seminar) based on my research topic. If you are thinking of applying DBA, I recommend that you talk with Prof. Satoshi Akutsu, the director of the DBA program, about your research theme and the seminar you want to join in advance. In my case, I had the opportunity to talk with Prof. Akutsu several times before I enrolled, and he was interested in my research theme, so I was able to enroll smoothly.

At the seminar, I had the opportunity to present my research progress once or twice a month, receiving feedback from the faculty leading the seminar and my classmates. The larger seminars have 7-8 students, while the smaller seminars have almost one-on-one discussions with the professor to carry out research. Compared to the MBA, the DBA seminars are much more research-oriented and profound. Usually, a seminar group covers multiple research topics and exposes you to different issues, so you receive diverse perspectives, enriching your learning experience. 
Although the core supervisor must be a Hitotsubashi ICS professor, the other committee members and dissertation coaches do not necessarily have to be professors from Hitotsubashi ICS. I think this is another distinctive point of the program. Students can receive research guidance from professors at Hitotsubashi University who are active at the forefront of their respective fields across graduate schools.


In the second edition of this blog post, we will discuss Asuka's doctoral thesis research, how she balanced her DBA studies, work, and personal commitments; and what she learned from her DBA at Hitotsubashi ICS.


Topics: Life at Hitotsubashi ICS, DBA, Alumni Voice

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