What is your typical workday like?
As a business developer I help students who have ideas generated through their education, to see how we can make them real. The essence of the work we do is to help students gain entrepreneurial competencies through developing their own businesses. So my working day is part project management and part one-on-one (or team) sparring.
What has your career path looked like up until now?
Since before graduating from my master I myself was an entrepreneur, which led to other jobs and postings, and almost all of them had entrepreneurial aspects to them. Later I became a teacher at a University College (UCN), which led to the Ph.D. in business development and innovation. This in turn led to my current job. So there is a pattern in my career path, although I was not aware of it all the time.
How close is your current career to the ideas and dreams you had as a PhD fellow at AAU?
It is reasonably close. There are things a university can do to support young entrepreneurs, which other actors simply cannot do, which is quite thrilling and which makes my thesis work relevant in more ways than one. My other dreams are to take my new knowledge out into the World and make a difference in practice, which is what I am really all about.
How have you made use of your PhD education, and which of your PhD competences have been most important to you?
The complexities of my PhD have yet to clarify significantly for others to listen and learn from them, but I am still trying to crystallize the main teachings from my work to make it more obtainable. What I learned the most through my research, are more things related to my abilities. For instance, what I previously thought was an exhaustive study, is now expanded, or how to communicate to people who have no idea what you are talking about is difficult and needs practice. I also learned to trust my instincts even more. I now also know what not to do if I had to do it all over again. The thesis work ultimately helped do what it was supposed to - to help the PhD student realize that what we claim to know, will always be challenged, and that the methods applied and depth of study are important as ever.
What do you remember most from your PhD studies?
That it was a long struggle. It took far too long, and there are many battles of ideas between the different stakeholders in a PhD. All the perks of visiting other countries, meeting interesting people and so forth are great to remember, but these thoughts tend to come after I remember that it was really tough getting through.
What is your best memory from AAU?
Room for discussion in informal settings.
Is there a teacher/colleague from AAU you remember especially, and why?
Yes there were a couple of direct colleagues in the project I was part of, who stand out. These guys were both practical and academic sparring partners, with whom we shared the same sense of humor. Social aspects of professional interaction are important to me.
What made the strongest impression on you during your PhD defense?
The preparedness of the panel, their discussion desire and room for taking on multiple perspectives. I really enjoyed it and remember it fondly.
Why did you decide to do a PhD, and would you have chosen differently if you were to do it today?
I chose to do it in part because I at times feel like diving deep into something and getting to grips with something new. A PhD was not always in the cards, but a friend and future colleague had already created a project and raised funds, so the opportunity would never be greater. So I would probably only ever have made a PhD if someone had paved the way like my friend had.
What advice would you give to current PhD fellows at AAU that want a career outside academia?
Find a way to distill your PhD almost to the level of children's picture books. And then go out and change the World. Having a PhD will almost certainly be an enigma to most other people who haven't got a PhD - and making it plain to them what it was you did and what effects it can have in real life - would just demystify everything and let you apply your knowledge. Some people are actually terrified of asking questions because they are afraid that they would not understand the answer.
What are your dreams for the future?
Impact the World even more.
AbouT Ivan Butler
Current employment: Senior Business Developer at Aalborg University
MA programme: M.Sc. Business Organisation and Strategy, Aalborg University
Faculty at AAU: Technical Faculty of IT and Design
Department at AAU: Department for Planning
Year of graduation: 2017
Title of PhD dissertation: The processes of creating solutions in the context of uncertainty: Case studies of companies creating solutions in relation to Sub-Saharan Africa