Drew Hess is the first PhD student at the College of Management to win a Kauffman Dissertation Fellowship.
Drew Hess believes his endless curiosity, which he considers crucial for any PhD student, was stifled during his five-year career in the rigid world of banking.
"This type of undying curiosity isn't good for a lot of jobs where you're not expected to question too much," says Hess, who's due to finish his doctorate in strategic management from Georgia Tech College of Management in spring 2008. "Traditional school was difficult for me growing up because I was always trying to go off on tangents."
These days, his inquisitive nature is paying off, with the answers he's finding to his research questions attracting a lot of academic interest. He recently became the first doctoral student at the College of Management to win a highly competitive Kauffman Dissertation Fellowship, worth $15,000, for his innovation-related research. In addition, the premier journal Organization Science recently accepted one of his papers for publication.
"It's very exciting to have an in-press article, but it's amazing how quickly the back pats stop," says Hess, noting the pressure to keep producing and publishing research.
In addition to more research studies, his future focus includes obtaining a tenure-track faculty position at a top business school. He believes his experience teaching classes on international business and strategic management will give him a leg up in his job search, because doctoral students at some business schools don't get the opportunity to be instructors.
Recently nominated by the College of Management for the Institute-wide Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, Hess says he strives to keep his instruction relevant to the real world and help students interested in banking careers find jobs through his contacts in that industry.
Balancing time-intensive teaching duties with his own class work and research has proven challenging for Hess, who entered the PhD program immediately after earning an MBA from Texas A&M University, in conjunction with his wife, Megan. They now have two young children, making his schedule particularly demanding.
"Success as a PhD student centers around your ability to remain diligent," he says. "I think it would be death for a PhD student to be a procrastinator because you often set the deadlines and expectations."
Hess feels fortunate to have found a great faculty advisor and mentor, associate strategic management professor Frank Rothaermel, who frequently collaborates with him on research, including the forthcoming article in Organization Science, "Building Dynamic Capabilities: Innovation Driven by Individual, Firm, and Network Level Effects."
Hess says his time in banking got him interested in studying the role individuals play in contributing to innovation within firms. "There's a notion among many strategy researchers that the individual doesn't really matter too much when it comes to innovation; you just aggregate individuals and innovation magically happens," says Hess, whose work bridges strategic management with the more personalized field of organizational behavior. "I'm saying let's take another look at the individual."
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