Seidle graduated with a PhD in Management (Strategy and Organization; Support field in Sociology) from the Desautels Faculty of Management in 2013. He is now an Associate Professor of Strategy and International Business at Suffolk University in Boston. In addition to researching the ways in which diverse types of organizational learning result in technological innovation, Seidle also leads an annual global travel seminar to London and Paris for Suffolk EMBA students.
Q: What made you interested in pursuing a PhD?
After my Bachelor of Commerce degree, I started to realize that I was more interested in research around organizations as opposed to the daily operation. After going back for my master’s degree, I got even more interested in that notion of research. I was lucky enough at McGill to find a researcher that would supervise me, so I transitioned into a PhD program from there.
Q: Did you learn anything worthwhile during your PhD that you use in your current job?
In a word, yes. All of the work that I do now is related to my PhD because I’m a faculty member and what I do is research and teaching based. The PhD at McGill prepared me both in terms of research skills and methodological approaches that I use on a daily basis, but also in terms of giving me opportunities to teach as a lecturer in the program. So, yes, definitely from a research perspective, and from a teaching perspective, everything that I learned in the PhD I use all the time.
Q: What kind of support or mentorship did you receive during your PhD program?
I was fortunate that I got a lot of good support from faculty members at McGill. I did my PhD in management at Desautels. They were great. Not only my direct supervisor, but also a lot of other faculty members in the department went out of their way to show us the ropes and to give us a sense for what was good research, how to frame our research, and examine it. I was very fortunate that I got a lot of really great support right from the beginning of the program from the faculty members. And I’d also say from the more senior PhD students. We were a very close-knit group. The more senior students in the program didn’t hesitate to reach out to the newly admitted students and say, you know, here are some of the resources you can start to use, here are some of the grants that you can apply to, here are some of the obstacles that you should be aware of. I was very fortunate to have a lot of good mentorship opportunities.
Q: What were some of the challenges that you faced?
Probably the same challenges most people face. The coursework is challenging, but a little bit more predictable. Then you go through the comprehensive exam and the research proposal and, you know, you could get through that process if you had a fairly good idea of your research in mind. It wasn’t a huge challenge, at least for me. I think that I found challenges after the research proposal. I had questions like how exactly do I want to refine this research question? What specific methodologies am I using? What data am I going to collect and where? How do I pull it all together into a piece of scholarship that is actually contributing something? The open ended and diffuse nature of the program was a challenge, but it was also an opportunity because it let me think broadly about the research that I wanted to do. I had to really keep myself on track, to make sure that I graduated in a decent amount of time.
Q: How long did it take?
It was just under six years. You certainly hear about people who take much longer for a variety of reasons. I was hoping to get out earlier, but I’m happy with that progress in the program.
Q: What helped you to narrow down and focus your dissertation?
It was probably three things. First of all, I had a pretty clear idea of the type of research I wanted to do when I started the PhD program. I mean, I always knew that I wanted to do something along the lines of technological innovation and how firms can develop the resources to commercialize new products over time. It started as a very broad topic, but eventually I narrowed it down. The second is that notion of the support that I received. My advisors were great about giving feedback, about reading different drafts of the research I was writing. They were continuous sources of support, which was obviously very useful. And then the third thing was the nature of the program at Desautels. So, the fact that we had access to four universities in Montreal meant that if there was something that I needed—a resource that wasn’t available at McGill—I could find it through UQAM, or HEC or Concordia. There was a pool of resources.
Q: Did you ever consider working outside of academia?
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider it. I mean, I was always very focused on trying to remain in academia. I started the PhD program specifically with the idea that I would like to become a university researcher, a professor, and stay in academia. But, you know, there were some times where I had some interest in maybe working in the pharmaceuticals sphere. But I never really considered it too much. I think if I had had more problems with my job search, I might have considered it a little bit more. I was fortunate that I had enough interest on the market from universities that I didn’t really have to go that second route. So, I considered positions outside of academia, but not very thoroughly. I had offers from a couple of universities, one of which was Suffolk. This was my first job after the PhD.
Q: Do you enjoy your current job?
Yes. I can say without reservation very much so. I think it’s exactly what I wanted and exactly what I kind of thought an academic position would be like. I have a lot of opportunity to work on really interesting questions. A lot of good colleagues that I can confer with and share ideas with, good students that I can teach and a good balance of workload. It’s a manageable workload and there’s also a lot of time for family, which is very important to me as I have a young family and two young kids. So, yes, I’d say that I’m extraordinarily happy with the position I’m in right now.
Many thanks to Russell for sharing his PhD narrative! You can find out more about him on his LinkedIn profile.
This interview took place in March 2020 Interviews are edited by the TRaCE McGill Editorial team for length and clarity before publication.