I’m back from the cave, feeling refreshed, educated and happy, with plenty of time on my hands. As you’ve guessed, I’ve just submitted my master thesis, so I can tell you more about the experience of writing it. We’ve also recently returned from Japan, where we attended the International Field Seminar (IFS). I have lots of exciting information to share!
In my last article, I mentioned that I had the opportunity to choose between the thesis or the project. The university gave us the option, but if we didn’t have a project at work where we could work on, we were required to do the thesis. At first, I was hoping to do a project, but now that I have finished my thesis, I am incredibly happy that I did it. The thesis was more than just an assignment for me; it was my first academic paper. You may know my story and that I used to be a master craftswoman. However, I wanted to do more than just be skilled in manual work. I was keen to learn, grow and develop in the theoretical aspects of it. My true passion lies in transformation and improvement. Now, let me get back to the thesis.
Finding the Topic
When I chose the topic, I jumped quite some time with the subjects and the question itself which I wanted to solve within the thesis. First of all, I needed to find a question. The question shouldn’t be too broad in the best case because you need to underlay the question with theory and your questioners also have to answer all the questions touched. Please be aware that there is also a maximum number of pages for the paper. In addition to that, you should have some data to answer the question or be able to get the data. Also think about, do you want to make your life easy by choosing a topic where you might get the data easier or choose a subject which you like and might need to invest more time for collecting data? I wanted to focus on the strategies of companies, but I found it difficult to get enough data for it, as some CEOs were unwilling to discuss the topic and many of them had no time.
Structure of the Thesis
I won’t go into detail with all the topics, but I want to give you some food for thoughts which you need to be aware of.
- Finding the literature which tells a story and underlies your research is crucial. You want to show that you understood the topic and that you know how to reference and find academical papers.
- Check what kind of methodology you can use and in which form you will structure the paper. Do you have numerical data, and can you use the quantitative analysis? Will you perform interviews and deep dive into the questions, so you could perform a qualitative analysis? Maybe you are also taking the mixed approach. Anyway, you need to be aware of the methods and procedures of data collection and analysis.
If you are wondering how it was in my case, well, I can tell you.
Searching for Data
I was highly motivated to begin a quantitative analysis. I planned to conduct a quantitative analysis and then supplement it with additional interviews. To this end, I created a questionnaire and shared it with a group of over 30,000 people. Surprisingly, I only received one response. I started to think that perhaps the way I had framed the question was the issue. Therefore, I revised the question three times – once with more personal information, once by emphasizing the potential benefits for CEOs, and once with a picture for greater attention. Still, this didn’t help. I also provided incentives, like sharing the survey’s results or offering vouchers, but this too was to no avail. I put a lot of thought into ways of encouraging more responses, but nothing worked.
In addition to that, I:
- Wrote to insurance companies to get data
- Wrote to (all) dental chambers in Germany to share my questioners (and to get data)
- Wrote contacts to share my questioners
- Asked family and friends to go to their dentists (Yes, I had dentists in my focus group)
- Printed questioners on a paper, so I can give it to the dentists
- Wrote my contacts more than once
As you can see, I was feeling desperate to get something valuable out of my efforts. With only 13 days before the deadline, I was lying in bed feeling frustrated. I had worked so hard yet I only had six or seven responses, which wasn’t enough for a quantitative analysis. Suddenly, the survey app I was using popped up with 56+ new responses – I was both confused and overjoyed. But I didn’t believe it, so I updated the app again and guess what, it showed me the previous number again. I thought okay, it was a bug, but still, I had some kind of hope, so I updated it again and directly jumped into the answers. The app showed again more than 56 participants. At that moment, I wanted to jump out of bed and shout for joy at having the responses I needed. But then came the realization of what that means for me. Now I had to ask myself if it was too late – 13 days to perform a quantitative analysis, rewrite my methodology and results.
Be careful what questions you are asking and how you phrase them. In the end, I had some questions that I had to analyze with tools outside of Excel, which was difficult to do in the 13 days I had left. Watching videos that were mostly 30 minutes of blah-blah with 10 minutes of valuable content was really painful. Thankfully, I have friends who could explain it properly. The whole process of writing my master’s thesis taught me a lot, and I hope I can apply that to blogging or business life in the future. I actually enjoyed reading the papers, and I now know how much effort goes into them. Especially if someone does it part-time.
International Field Seminar
In case you skipped the first part, just to summarize, it was really a lot to do, and I was finally prepared for vacation. But of course, the IFS is not vacation, it was never meant to be vacation. (HaHa!) We needed to prepare our goals for it upfront. So, either someone from our first study group (Yes, it was Meitner) was able to organize a company visit until a specific deadline, or we had to do a country or city presentation. I guess you already know me, so yes. Doing both, doing everything, is great. 🙂 Our group did the country presentation, but at the same time I was already preparing with Fujitsu the company visit.
Organizing a Company Visit
You need to either know how to approach the people in the country where you are going to or have contacts. I was only able to organize a company visit because of the people behind it. It was not at all about myself, but I know great people who are doing great jobs and know people who care about people. That’s at the end, all of it. If you don’t have contacts, please research at first about the country and their common ways to get approached.
We were able to visit a couple of companies during the IFS. The thing was, Tokyo is rather known for small apartments, small hotel rooms and guess what, small meeting rooms in companies. Some companies were struggling to get 47+ office team/ professors within one room. That’s the reason why we needed to plan two visits at the same time. Our class was split, but I managed to visit: DHL; KDC; BNI; Allianz, Bosch, KPMG; Fuji Electric; Evonic and Fujitsu. We were able to learn about the businesses, furthermore the culture and in specific how it is to work in Japan. Did you know that your hierarchical position tells you something about the position where you need to stand in the elevator? I am not sure how often I got the CEO position in the elevator, or just the apprenticeship position. But it was definitely interesting to see how that works. With my blond hair anyway, no one expected me to comply with the Japanese hierarchical rules, at least not in that way. Japanese people are extraordinarily nice and polite.
Fujitsu Uvance Company Visit
The company had full sovereignty to prepare the content. They knew, of course, who we were and what we were doing, but we were open to receiving any business related content. What Fujitsu did was different, different from other presentations. They split it into a business terms part related to Fujitsu Uvance and the theoretical part performed by a professor. My classmates asked me how I did it, to get even a professor within the session. But of course, you already know me, and I can tell you (since I am too honest). I didn’t do that, that’s fully Fujitsu, which put such a considerable value into the academical perspective. That definitive impressed us. Not only, we get fascinating and, in my opinion, open presentations (in comparison with other Japanese companies) about Fujitsu but also a theoretical perspective which underlies the practical actions. I think the company got some fans more about the presentations. And if you think a large corporate is not agile, please take a look at Fujitsu!
Now, I am taking two more SNOC courses, creating a group video presentation about our key learnings from the IFS, and investing time in my hobbies.