Day 58: Academic Entrepreneur-ing

DossierCAT71

I am the daughter of entrepreneurs and small business owners. That is not what I wanted to do with my life, and after much searching I decided to pursue an academic career. Four years into my training (yep – still a PhD student), I realized that I am becoming an entrepreneur anyway. LOL.

Academic Entrepreneurship

When I started my studies I was told that my academic training would be like an apprenticeship. I would observe and participate in the research process. I would be able to first observe & assist, and eventually teach. I was also warned that this required initiative. I had to find the people who I would be learning from – find a way to be useful, and be invited to participate in research projects. In a sense, I had to be entrepreneurial – find and seize opportunities for learning.

My views on educating PhDs with an entrepreneurial vs. an apprenticeship approach aside, once those three letters are earned, you certainly become a full-fledged entrepreneur. Why?

1. Entrepreneurs are initiators, starters.

Entrepreneurs start new ventures. Academics start new research projects that will lead to publications. They need to start teams, collaborations, and networks in order to accomplish their research project.

2. Entrepreneurs need to create value.

An entrepreneur will not be successful if her ideas are not valuable to a segment of the population. Academics will not be successful if their ideas are not valuable to a segment of the academic population. Both require a lot of pivoting as you take your venture or research idea from one community to another in search of validation.

3. Entrepreneurs need to find funding.

When entrepreneurs have a new idea, it is their job to find the resources to make it happen. So do most academics. Business professors are spoiled in this regard, they are not expected to get research grants. But many do, including healthcare management (yay for me).

4. Entrepreneurs take risks.

Entrepreneurs often take risks in order to make their ideas happen. Every research project started means academics are not using that time and resources for other projects. This is a big risk because they can’t spend their time and resources on projects that do not yield publications. Each failed project makes un-tenured faculty be farther away from tenure.

So. Academics need to find new ideas, people to collaborate with, and the money to make it happen. Also, if their ideas do not turn into publications, they may be out of a job.

Gotta love the #scholargrind.

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