What is it like being a PhD student at Hanken?

The application round for PhD studies at Hanken is now open, and closes on February 5th. If you are thinking of applying, please first check out the official information at Hanken’s web site: https://www.hanken.fi/en/apply/phd-programme.

Since official information packages may get overwhelming at times, I would like to provide an insider perspective from the Department of Marketing regarding what it’s like to be a PhD student at Hanken.

I’m now in my fourth, and hopefully final year of writing my dissertation. Since I started the program directly after graduating with my MSc degree, many of my peers have gone on to work in other kinds of jobs in the industry. Naturally, they are sometimes curious about what my experience has been like as someone who stayed in academia. On that note, I want to share my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I get. Hopefully, this will shed some light on PhD student life (spoiler alert – it is certainly different in comparison to MSc studies!). However, bear in mind that my perspective might be a little bit different compared to students from other departments.

What have been the best things about your work?
In general, being part of a community of marketing scholars has been very inspiring. This includes not only my colleagues at Hanken, but also members of the international community, as I have attended a few conferences within my research domain. Conference travel has been a great way to meet likeminded people, getting a glimpse of the latest research within the field and getting the opportunity to travel abroad a couple of times a year.

What has been the most challenging thing for you?
This may be an obvious answer, but research itself brings the biggest challenges in my opinion, since the review processes for scientific article manuscripts are surprisingly time consuming. Once a paper is submitted, or even accepted for review by a scientific journal, it is far from finished and being published. In the worst-case scenario, getting a paper published may take years. So far, I have experienced the thrill of having papers accepted for review but have also had to deal with papers not being selected, which does happen to most academics at some point.

Where do you work physically?
I don’t work in the main university building, since the Department of Marketing is in a separate building next to it called Arkadia. For me, this was a welcome change when I started three years ago, since I had spent most of my days in the main building during my BSc and MSc studies. We do have some meetings, seminars and courses in the main building, and there is also a student cafeteria offering an affordable lunch every day. Working from home is possible on occasion, which I find helpful when I want to concentrate on writing.

Is teaching included in your work?
At Hanken, up to 5% of the work may include teaching assistance, which I have enjoyed a lot as a contrast to research. In my case, the work has included guest lecturing about my thesis topic, supervising BSc and MSc students writing their theses, as well as grading exams and other coursework.

How are you paid for the work you do?
Hanken currently offers a 2-year employment contract for full-time PhD students – that is, half of the typical 4-year process. Since I am beyond that timeframe already, I have been granted financial support from external foundations (in my specific case, the Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and the Foundation of Economic Education – but there are multiple options depending on the research field in which one works). Hence, an important part of the PhD process here is to apply for funding for completing the thesis. Hanken has, thankfully, provided support for how to write funding applications, and from my experience, it was a lot less scary or difficult than what it seemed like at first. The greatest challenge for me was to learn how to write about research in a way that non-academics may resonate with.

I hope my perspective gives some new insight for those wishing to apply to Hanken’s PhD programme, or those who are curious about PhD studies in general. I would be happy to answer any additional questions from those who are curious.

Sonja Sarasvuo
Doctoral Student