In February 2018, my doctoral journey came to a “symbolic” end with the public defence of my PhD. Although the defence took place at the University of São Paulo (Brazil), the development of my PhD project was a cooperation between the University of São Paulo and the University of Antwerp, based on a joint PhD agreement. During the 4 years I worked on my PhD, I spent close to 7 months at the University of Antwerp (November 2015 – March 2016 and April 2017 – June 2017). I take this opportunity to thank the University of Antwerp for its hospitality and support.
This type of partnership (double degree PhD) benefits all the parties in many ways, but it is most beneficial for the doctoral student and his/her PhD project. I learned a lot and would like to share my experiences a little bit.
I developed a PhD project in the domain of family firm governance; the managerial governance mechanisms used in the family firm to influence the behavior of managers in the family were the focus of the research. Both the antecedents as well as the consequences of these mechanisms on the individual manager’s attitude as well as on family firm outcome were studied. To test the developed hypotheses, survey data from Brazilian medium and large family firms were used. Brazilian family firms have many features in common with European family firms, since many of these firms in Brazil were founded by European immigrants that came to Brazil in the 20th century.
This double degree PhD process gave me the opportunity to have international exposure on my research topic and ideas. This was crucial to increase the quality of the study and to target highly competitive international journals. In addition, my home institution and I learned more about the “three papers format” of the PhD thesis. My dissertation was the first in the accounting doctoral program at USP that was based on this format. The credits go to professor Ann Jorissen who incentivised and guided us on this goal.
I would say that a PhD journey is successful when the doctoral student is committed, hardworking and passionate with his/her PhD topic, and when he/she is supported by and motivated to learn from other people. The first part is based on the student’s objectives and attitude. The second part relates to the people around the PhD student. They play a vital role on one’s academic development. Family is fundamental because they provide you with the base, values and support to go on any journey. In the PhD journey, tutors are the ones in whom we mirror for the future. That is why I was glad to have the opportunity to learn from and closely work with both my tutors (professor Fabio Frezatti and professor Ann Jorissen), which I am still doing.
Besides the academic development that a (joint) PhD trajectory provides, there are many other rich experiences one can acquire while pursuing a PhD. During the PhD I had the opportunity to make friends originating from different parts in the world who were all doing a PhD at the University of Antwerp. We learned a lot from each other and from the Belgian culture, for instance, by trying Belgian dishes and beers.
I do not know if it is bad news or good news, but the challenges and uncertainties that we face during the PhD do not end after the defence, they just change on type and intensity. In this moment, my tutors and I are working hard on the papers derived from the doctoral thesis in order to get them published in international journals. Improving and learning are lifelong processes.
Recently, I have changed my status from PhD student to visiting professor. I am very grateful that I am given this opportunity so soon after the defence of my PhD. Some weeks after the defence I started as a visiting professor at Blumenau Regional University (FURB), which is an institution in the south region of Brazil. I am currently teaching in the accounting undergraduate course as well on the level of the master degree. Being a professor with teaching and research duties is not easy since one is often confronted with conflicting demands on your time. For example, preparing classes and exams, teaching, guiding students in their research topics, work on our own projects. To conclude I would say that the PhD was a rewarding experience and taking up an academic career now is a blessing as well.