Looking back at the first term of my experience as a Ph.D. researcher at LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome and as a member of the EINST4INE program, here are some things that I have learned…

  • Classes have a lot to offer
  • In today’s digital world, social media is essential
  • You need to get lost before you find your way

I was previously employed at a firm that specialized in market and consumer data before commencing my PhD in September 2021. And while I learned a lot about recognizing new trends and the way to do research there, I became increasingly intrigued by the way society and the economy are being transformed by digital technology. That’s why I began looking at ways that my future employment may have a positive influence on society and help to address key developments and concerns that we’re all grappling with. Because of this, when I applied to the EINST4INE program, I was eager to collaborate with like-minded academics, educators, and industry practitioners throughout Europe and beyond.

Now the beauty of the program is the established network, where we’re able to share our own experiences and build a communal one. As a result, one of the first things my close friends and family asked when I informed them I was relocating to a new country to begin my academic career was “what are you going to do there?”, “what is the program of the PhD?”

Some people were taken aback when I told them I was a PhD student taking classes, but now that I’ve been in those classes for over six months, I can see how beneficial they have been:

One of the first steps in doing research is to choose the appropriate approach. And while the topic of my research as the Early-Stage Researcher (ESR) 15 is “Linking open innovation mechanisms to reach environmentally sustainable goals”, qualitative research seems the most fitting because of the exploratory nature of the topic, quantitative research is all I’ve ever done before. Thanks to one of my supervisors, Prof. Luca Giustiniano’s contribution to the qualitative methods course as an instructor, my fellow students and I gained a thorough understanding of the many sorts of qualitative research methodologies. The course provided an overview of key perspectives related to the design of qualitative research, with emphasis on theory framing, purpose statement definition, research questions development, and sampling in the qualitative research traditions. More specifically, I had the opportunity to work with data analysis tools such as NVivo, which help with the coding, transcription, and interpretation of qualitative outputs (such as interviews).

Epistemology was another class that I learned a lot from during my first six months as an ESR. Here we touched upon the topics of philosophy of science, rationality, games and institutions, and social norms. While the most important value of the course was to iterate the reason why we do research in the first place, the course also helped us appreciate the importance of the ties that bind academics, business, and society as a whole.

Many of the other courses in the program, such as Digital Ecosystems, Digital Business Transformation, and Organization and Technology, dealt with the present impact of digital technology on the corporate environment. While open innovation seems to be a good way for organizations to remain competitive and innovative, the engagement of sources like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data appears to be essential. And, especially because the COVID crisis has prompted many businesses to go digital, I am trying to relate how companies are becoming digital and work together to eventually be environmentally sustainable.

I am able to apply the knowledge I’ve gained from LUISS courses in the weekly EINST4INE Reading Club, where we discuss research articles on a wide range of contemporary problems and connect our own research to the study of others. We engage and discuss what the readings teach us, and typically broadcast the major learnings on a social media site such as Twitter or LinkedIn.

And while I’ve never really been a social-media-savvy person, my first LinkedIn post enabled me to connect with individuals from all over the globe and from a variety of study fields. I also recognized that if I want my work to have any significance, it has to be made public. Still, my private Instagram account is largely dedicated to posting photographs of my dog, but I also make an effort to speak about my research on sites like LinkedIn, Researchgate, and other similar ones since it is a fantastic way for researchers to network and keep their creative juices flowing.

For now, as an early-stage researcher, my primary focus is acquiring as much knowledge as possible on the subjects of Open Innovation, digital technologies, and sustainability. And this involves a lot of reading, which can be confusing at times…
For example, have you ever been overwhelmed by the sheer number of options of jams and chocolate spreads you can find in a supermarket? Everything about this first term has seemed the same. The more I read and attempt to understand complex concepts, the more confused I get. When I confided in my supervisor about it, she said, “This is normal, you need to get lost before you find your way”.

So while this may seem a little cheesy, it truly is the journey that matters and not the destination since you learn and give so much along the way.

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