From Planning to Doing

Last week I posted about growing up in a bicultural household and how that made me sensitive to the subtleties of cultural difference. My upbringing gave me a good start, but where I learned my more in-depth skills of cultural analysis and what to do with it was through my education and the career I had as a college professor.


Few people seem to know exactly what professors do. As in any other profession, it’s hard to know exactly what someone does until you do it yourself. So let me tell you from my experience how what I did gives me an edge in what I can offer you.


What seems to be hidden from public view is that professors are researchers and administrators on top of being teachers. “Researcher” is another name for “project manager” for a project that lasts multiple years to decades. “Administrator” is another name for “operations manager.” So, professors wear many hats: teacher, project manager, and operations manager.


Graduate students are less students and more mini-professors learning the ropes of how to be a professor by doing only a few of the tasks at a time instead of all at once. The largest project I tackled as a graduate student was writing my dissertation (also called doctoral thesis). The definition of a dissertation is that you have made an original contribution to your field of study.


Research is fundamental to a dissertation. Research tells you, A: whether what you are about to write on is original or not, and B: exactly how it is original. More importantly, the process of writing a dissertation—which is basically a book—is like managing a multi-year-long project. Let me tell you what I mean.


Dissertation writing begins with writing a winning proposal to get your research funded. When you get that funding, you go off and do a deep-dive into your topic through extensive research. At the same time, you are networking by making presentations, and attending conferences, workshops, and classes. Hopefully you finish the bulk of your research before your funding dries up (in 1-3 years).


The actual writing part of the dissertation begins with—again—writing a winning proposal. When you get that funding, you go hole up in a corner of the library and write that book called the dissertation. At the same time, you are networking like before, but also reading and critiquing each other’s dissertation drafts. You are also showing pieces of your dissertation to your advisor who gives you detailed feedback.


I wrote my dissertation by doing extensive research, writing many winning proposals, and incorporating feedback from my mentors and friends. Completing the dissertation project has many parts to it, including the mundane moving abroad for my research, and I did it! My first large project management done.


Next week is about why I am interested in helping you market to Japan. Meanwhile, feel free to get in touch with me with any questions or comments you have.

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