Alumni profile - Dr Bill Nichols

Dr Bill Nichols'The DBA is in many ways an ideal bridge and an introduction to a completely different world and network.'

 - Bill Nichols - Lecturer-Consultant,Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Bucks New University; Visiting Faculty - Henley Business School; Director Astrophel LLP.
 
 

What motivated you to think about taking a DBA?

When I started the DBA in 2001, I was an owner-manager in my mid-40s with an established PR/marketing career behind me. I had held a long-cherished ambition to migrate the final stages of my career to a role as an academic-consultant. The DBA is in many ways an ideal bridge and an introduction to a completely different world and network.

But it's also much more. Mentally it's an exhilarating challenge. And there's definitely a 'last mountain' aspect to the DBA.

Why did you choose Henley?

Henley was a pioneer in professional doctorates and, by 1999-2000 when I was looking, its reputation was very well established making it an auto­matic 'short-list' candidate. But you only had to visit to know it felt right: there was something very special about the place.

How far are you into the programme?

Completed (finally!) a year or so ago.

What are your highlights so far?

First, some great people, teachers and fellow students alike: they made every visit to Henley worthwhile. Second, some moments of wonderful insight when theory and statistics moved into alignment after many long dark hours. And finally there was the unexpected: a gradual sense of mas­tering an analytical discipline, which is, perhaps, the most fundamental part of a doctorate.

What have been the greatest challenges?

First and foremost sustaining the doctorate. Whether you're a really senior executive (as many are at Henley) or an owner-manager, it is often well-nigh impossible to maintain the DBA workflow alongside other com­mitments. That I ever finished was due to the wonderful support initially of my mentor, Sharm Manwani; later my supervisor, Madge Lyman; and throughout most of my time, the head of doctoral studies, David Price. Ultimately I needed a 'time-out' year to conclude. And it had its own chal­lenges. Grinding through data day after day is a very major challenge in its own right!

Tips for managing your studies alongside work/personal life?

Probably like getting married or having a child, there's never a perfect moment. But you can mitigate. First, before you even commit, think care­fully about your chosen topic. The more relevant you can make it to your organisation, the greater the likely support you will receive. Second, seek to align key phases - such as data collection - with an organisational need. Third, structure your work in such a way that you are chipping away consistently and can identify clear 'milestone' achievement points. Fourth, finally and not least, ensure that you've negotiated your work strategy as transparently as possible with both work and family and that you regularly report progress. They are often giving up a lot and want to see a return on their investment!

'The DBA is in many ways an ideal bridge and an introduction to a completely different world and network.'

 

Tips on being a successful flexible learner?

If the doctoral process is working properly you'll find yourself becoming progressively more open and flexible. Be open, be sceptical and enjoy.

How has your performance at work changed since you started?

Di'The‘The DBA is in many ways an ideal bridge and an introduction to a completely different world and network.’'The DBA is in many ways an ideal bridge and an introduction to a completely different world and network.' DBA is in many ways an ideal bridge and an introduction to a completely different world and network.'fficult to assess 'during'. But significantly transformed post completion. It's possible to sustain a challenge over far longer periods and to address it now with an analytical approach, which, at times, seems light years ahead.

What have been your greatest achievements since starting?

Simply finishing at all. Acquiring the toolkit. And, most important, completing the target transition to become a lecturer-consultant.

Advice to those thinking about studying a DBA at Henley?

Beware the romance of study for its own sake. And beware the attraction of a challenging but perhaps idiosyncratic topic. Unless your time really is your own, you need to ensure that you are focused very clearly on the process, workplan and ultimate return to you. If you can't concisely answer why you're doing it, maybe you should think again...

'It's possible to sustain a challenge over far longer periods and to address it now with an analytical approach, which, at times, seems light years ahead.'