CityU DBA - Doctor of Business Administration

19 Apr 2014

Drilling deeper with a research-based DBA

Andrea Zavadszky

Late last year the breakdown in doctor-patient trust came to the fore in China, with several reports of physical assaults on doctors by patients and their families. A China Youth Daily survey found that two-thirds of respondents did not trust doctors’ professional diagnosis and treatment, and that is a huge problem if you are in the business of selling medicine to China.

Andrew Hui, the Asia-Pacific sales and marketing director for ALK-Abello A/S, sensed this problem long before it came to public notice. As someone who sells allergy treatment pharmaceuticals on behalf of his long-established Danish employer, he is mostly in touch with doctors and hospitals in China, but finds that the doctor-patient relationship closely affects his business.

“I was not satisfied with business operations, but there was no reference material related to Chinese patients who are a very important segment for our business,” Hui says. “I needed the tools to find the solution by myself.”

His aim was to identify the main factors influencing purchase intentions when it came to pharmaceuticals, and to establish results which could benefit the company and society at large.

When selecting a suitable academic programme, Hui saw no need for a mainly taught course – he already has master’s degrees in marketing and communications – preferring instead to focus on research, which would help him to come up with fresh perspectives and ideas.

He therefore chose City University of Hong Kong’s DBA (doctor of business administration) programme which allows students to create new knowledge in line with their research and to “drill down” as necessary.

Hui began the course in 2011, attending classes in the first 18 months to learn about research tools and key theories. At the same time, he had to work on his proposal which would have to be defended at the end of the programme.

“The first year went quite well. Then my workload on the job suddenly increased and I found myself a little lost,” he says.

While trying to balance these demands, as well as the family commitments that go with two small children, he learned the importance of good time management and the need to adjust or change priorities.

“If you don’t, you will be lost,” he says.

Having initially done some study every day, he also rethought his overall strategy as the programme unfolded.

“Know your milestones and give yourself a buffer,” he says. “Planning is very important, so I had a structure and kept consolidating what I had already learned.”

Another challenge Hui faced was that test results and data didn’t always match the original hypothesis. This made it necessary to consider whether the model was wrong or if different skills were needed in analysing the data.

“The tutor was very helpful in teaching how to narrow down what you need,” he says.

Hui caught up with his learning partners once a month, and appreciated the different perspectives they brought to the table.

“The problems we face are very similar and we have a common language, even if we are from different industries,” he says.

While working on his own research project, he started to discover other aspects and angles and analyse the findings and phenomena from different perspectives.

“You keep reinforcing your intelligence like in a spiral,” he says, noting that the hard work involved is also very enjoyable when you find if a hypothesis is right or wrong. “Curiosity is the best motivation.”

He adds that, for anyone taking the DBA, focus is essential. “You cannot solve all the problems, but also graduation doesn’t mean you are finished with research. You will face other questions and will need to find other solutions in the course of your career.”