Tell us a bit about yourself, your career background and any previous qualifications.
I recently retired from NASA after 32 years at the Johnson Space Center (JSC). During my career, I trained astronauts, led a number of technology labs, developed the 20-year strategy for JSC and connected entrepreneurs to NASA technology for commercialization. I have also been the executive in residence in a Houston Start-up incubation organization and Houston’s Economic Development Agency. I am currently a Venture Partner at Seldor capital, which invests in space start-ups, and on the advisory board for a few start-ups.
What first attracted you to Warwick Business School?
I had the privilege of working with Loizos Heracleous, Professor of Strategy at the Warwick Business School during my last eight years at NASA. We had a common interest in Ambidexterity, and he facilitated several outstanding workshops at NASA. As our collaboration grew, I had the opportunity to host a couple of his PhD students at NASA. I was impressed by the calibre and quality of his students and very impressed with Loizos and his other colleagues that I met over the years. The quality of students and faculty and the international aspect of the DBA program is what attracted me to WBS.
Does your DBA project title reflect real challenges you see affecting your organisation now or in the future?
My DBA project is focused on what creates an effective space entrepreneurial ecosystem. Specifically, I am interested in smaller, non-urban communities with a large, underserved population. The Silicon Valley model is not appropriate for these smaller communities. Currently I am working with a community in south Texas (Brownsville) that is aspiring to become a NewSpace city. My DBA will directly impact this community.
How important has the interaction with your supervisor and/or WBS academics been during your DBA?
The interaction with my supervisor has been essential in my growth and transformation from a practitioner to a researcher. The way I originally approached my research, and my DBA was more aligned with a project managers framework. After many conversations and many resources shared by my advisor, I have felt the shift to a researcher’s perspective. I also enjoyed visiting with the professors of practice and understanding how they navigate the two worlds and the opportunities for a potential future as a professor of practice.
What would you say are the three main highlights/benefits of your DBA so far?
The transformational journey of moving from a pure practitioner to a researcher has been the most enjoyable and enlightening aspect of my DBA thus far. I have enjoyed the incredible learning that has occurred in just one year and the breadth of knowledge that I have been exposed to in such a short period of time. Secondly, the international aspect of our Cohort has been phenomenal. I enjoy meeting such a diverse group of leaders and learning from their various perspectives. Even though we were virtual during the first year of our Cohort, we found ways to connect and to learn from each other during the first year. Also, I have been extremely fortunate to have an amazing advisor. He has guided me without giving me the answers. I have learned a great deal from him, and he has introduced me to his amazing networks that will form the foundation for my research.
Do you see your DBA making a positive impact on your career moving forward?
Recently, I was presenting to the incoming DBA Cohort and one of the participants asked me a simple question. My response was the following, “I’m not sure where I will go next with my DBA. For me the DBA was an opportunity to discover a new path after a career at NASA. Therefore, I see the DBA program as a journey of discovery for me. I’ve met with some great Professors of Practice and have spoken to them about the opportunities to become a Professor of Practice. Who knows, that may be in my future.”
How easy has it been to fit the workshops and study time into your day-to-day schedule?
I’ve had to adjust every 3-6 months. In order to keep up with my research and the writing, I have had to dedicate more and more time out of my day for focused attention to my DBA. I have not been successful in squeezing in the DBA between my meetings and visits with start-ups.
Do you have any advice for anyone currently thinking about studying the Warwick DBA?
First be patient with the process. It is easy to feel anxious during the first year as the program unfolds and you start shifting to a researcher’s mindset. The DBA is not a project plan, it is a journey of discovery in an area that will have impact in your organization and career. Secondly, my advisor gave me a great piece of advice when I was deciding upon my research topic. He said, “Be careful on what you choose for your research question. You will dedicate the next four years to this question, and it will be hard. Make sure that it is something that you care about and enjoy.”