Dr Surlina Yin with her DBA best thesis prize

Trailblazer: Dr Surlina Yin's study seeks to fill a knowledge gap in disruptive innovation

An investigation into the growing role of conversational AI in Human Capital Management (HCM) has won the Best Thesis Award at a conference held at Warwick Business School for its Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) students and alumni. 

Technology and people are the two halves of the transformative equation. It's not just about using technology, but about using it in ways that redefine possibility,” award winner Dr Surlina Yin said after picking up the prize.  

“The drive to explore conversational AI technology was fuelled by my passion to be a trailblazer in disruptive innovation, merging theoretical discoveries with practical business applications.

“In particular, my study seeks to fill a knowledge gap by exploring conversational AI’s influence on employee engagement and user satisfaction. After all, recent Gallup research estimates that low engagement costs the global economy a staggering $8.8 trillion, equivalent to nine per cent of the world’s GDP.” 

Dr Yin’s paper – The New Intelligent Employee Experience Model: A Digital Ethnographic Case Study of Conversational Artificial Intelligence for Human Capital Management – was named Best Thesis of 2023 at a ceremony during the two-day Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) Conference held earlier this month.

There were also separate awards at the ceremony to thank scholars for their support for, and encouragement of, their peers. The Best Supporting DBA Alumni was Dr Remi Abere, while Best Supporting DBA Student was Peace Ani.    

How to put theory into practice with a DBA

Originally from Hong Kong, Dr Yin completed her tertiary education in Australia. She embarked on her research degree in 2018 with the support of Oracle, the world's second-largest software company.

Her Oracle career began in 2000, and she currently holds two US patents in the field of AI inventions, with two more pending. With much of her career spent in Human Resources, Dr Yin specialises in helping customers to leverage the value of their data for strategic transformations.

Before joining Oracle, she served as the HR Vice President for the Asia Pacific region at CB Richard Ellis, a global leader in commercial real estate.

“The findings in my research will assist HR and business leaders, who play such a pivotal role in driving technological innovation, elevating employee experience for high performance, and revitalising the economy,” Dr Yin said.

“Linking theory with practice is a challenge, but my advice to new cohorts would be that from every challenge emerges the potential for triumph.

“In the same way as I reached for my best to complete my thesis in 2023, new cohorts need to remember that the world is their oyster. It's a journey open to all - seize the opportunity, surpass the limits, and savour every moment.”

Transforming theory into practice was the theme of the DBA Conference.

“A doctoral thesis at Warwick Business School is all about evidence-based decision making which you can take into the real world,” said Andrea Isoni, Professor of Behavioural Science, at a Heads of Group session on the first day.

The event also featured paper presentations from DBA students and alumni from different cohorts. Peace, for instance, gave a presentation on 'Evaluating organisational culture in a ‘glocal’ context', while Dr Chukwuka Monye looked at the 'Factors that affect the commercialisation of ideas in Africa'.

Peace won a conference prize for the best paper presentation, while Egor Pereverzev was runner-up for his talk on 'Sustainability in EV Battery supply chains'.   

The conference wrapped up with a session looking at ‘Life after the DBA’. This was an alumni roundtable event involving Dr Onajite Newton, Dr Chukwuka Monye, as well as DrYin, Dr Staffan Heden and Dr Emmanuel Magnus Eweka.  


The goal of the Doctorate in Business Administration at WBS is to design organisational interventions which help address real-world business challenges.

Learn more about digital transformation on the four-day Executive Education course Leading Digital Transformation at WBS London at The Shard.