Until December 2012 – Senior Vice President Climate Change, Holicim. Now has his own consultancy.
Specific expertise is an advantage in the short term
“Throughout my career I have hired dozens of graduates: masters, engineers and doctors. But I've never specifically looked for doctors. Holders of a PhD score very well in terms of their specific expertise. However, when matching that expertise with the needs of the company, it is usually only an advantage in the short term. A technically sound scientific basis is very important, but personality, reasoning ability, attitude and sincerity are equally important qualities.”
A doctorate is a quality label
“I hold a scientific PhD and I have hired some doctorate holders. It’s not that doctors are less well prepared for the business world, but they are not necessarily better prepared. In general terms it can be said that a doctorate is a ‘quality label’ – the average quality of a PhD holder is higher than that of someone who has a Master’s.”
Not looking, but finding
“In my career I have often noted that the cultural differences between university and industry are large. At university, the emphasis is primarily on research. In business the priority is to discover – a researcher must primarily be a finder. That is a big difference. In business you do not delve into the details, you concentrate on what will make a substantial contribution to the result.
“Perhaps in the future we can even think about making a distinction between two types of doctorates: the academic and business-oriented PhD. It would also be a good idea to find a team of people to work on a joint doctorate. The team could also include, for example, doctoral students from various disciplines, an engineer and a psychologist.”
Don’t stay too long
“I would recommend PhD students do not spend too long in their doctoral studies. Every year they should make a schedule and carefully monitor their plan. Someone who spends four years or more on their doctoral project proves they do not really have the qualities needed in the business world, namely efficiency and decisiveness in targeted research.
“Paying attention to your network is also very important. I think it is also important during a PhD to keep your eye on what is the essential purpose of a university education, namely the ‘universalist’ principle: making connections between different disciplines and different sources of knowledge, in order to contribute to the progress of the work.”