Dr Magnus Eneberg defended his PhD thesis Beyond the Product - Enabling Design Services in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises at Lund University in 2015. After working as a controller for a couple of years, Magnus returned to academia by studying theory architecture and design management. The latter led him into projects that had a focus on innovation with a design perspective. Currently, Magnus holds a position as a researcher, lecturer and project manager at KTH - The Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm.
In this episode he will tell you about his journey from being a PhD student to working as a service designer in a public organization within healthcare. Magnus reflects over the differences between academia and the “real world” and how one can translate ones academic skills to the skills one need to work in a company or organization.
Becoming a PhD student gave me the opportunity to explore not only the subject area of design, and innovation, organization learning, but also myself. Digging into the ontology and epistemology - it was great time to look at how I view the world, to put words on who I was or who I am.
– Dr. Magnus Eneberg, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Hello and welcome to episode 46 of PhD Career Stories! My name is Karin Martinsson and it is my pleasure to introduce Magnus Eneberg who graduated with a PhD in Design Management from Lund University in 2015 with his thesis Beyond the Product - Enabling Design Services in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. Magnus currently holds a position as a researcher, lecturer and project manager at KTH - The Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm.
After working as a controller for a couple of years, Magnus returned to academia by studying theory architecture and design management. The latter led him into projects that had a focus on innovation with a design perspective. In this episode he will tell you about his journey from being a PhD student to working as a service designer in a public organization within healthcare. Magnus reflects over the differences between academia and the “real world” and how one can translate ones academic skills to the skills one need to work in a company or organization. Enjoy!
It is now September 2015.
And I'm entering the university, prepared but also nervous, I'm going to present my thesis. It’s been several years of hard work and I'm now finished finally. A new phase of my life has started.
I’m Magnus Eneberg and I’ve a PhD in design management. I'm also today the service designer in a public organization within healthcare. I have a company, where I’m providing courses and supports within the area of service design, and I love what I'm doing.
I was asked if I would be interested to record a podcast about my period as a PhD student and my choice to leave the university, at least for a while. In my view, it will be a perfect opportunity also to look back at my life, what happened during those years, when I was a PhD student. Thank you Tina for this opportunity.
However, my view of life is that I am, I should not focus on what was. Life is built on what has happened and that is what makes us who we are.
My thesis was called “Beyond the product”. It is within the areas of organization development, organizational learning, innovation, and, of course, design as a methodology, and process which could help us in our ambiguous and complex world that we live in.
The first idea of becoming a PhD student and start my research was due to me being asked by my later on supervisor if I would be interested in starting as a researcher. For me it was a completely new world, I had never thought of doing so.
But also it was something new I wanted to explore, and it was also a great time for deep reflection.
I've been working for several years and it was very hectic period in a way that you could go deep into the subjects that you were interested in.
I have a background within business administration, philosophy, also art history.
After working several years as a controller, I decided, well, this isn't me, what I want to do the rest of my life.
So I actually quit my job started to study small courses in theory architecture. And then after that I heard about courses in design management. I started to study again.
This led me into working in projects that had a focus on innovation out of a design perspective.
So actually I started as a PhD student due to my curiosity and also to build on the experiences I had before, the knowledge I had before from life, and take it one step further in another area which was design.
However it all connects. It connects in the sense that all about communication in different ways: visual communication, verbal communication, and so on.
I believe that even if we have a certain core in our self that we are interested in, we have a curiosity to start exploring life, and we should let out ourselves to do so. Actually becoming a PhD student gave me that opportunity to explore not only the subject area of design, and innovation, organization learning, but also myself. Digging into the ontology and epistemology - it was great time to look at how I view the world, to put words on who I was or who I am.
It was not easy to move from the industry into the university, that kind of academic world was a completely new world actually with other kinds of hierarchies, hard even to understand who's your actual boss. It’s a completely other culture, I would say.
You have supervisors, and you have the colleagues but the colleagues they don't just belong to your own university or your own department but also belong to the subject area you came into.
You have contacts all over the world at conferences. That is actually your colleagues.
At the same time universities are quite closed, I would say, academia is almost like a world of itself. When you meet people within academia, they are expecting you or themselves to create a career within academia. In that sense it is just very closed.
My plan when I started within academia, it was not to stay in academia, it wasn’t planned at all, I would say. I just knew that I wanted, out of curiosity, to dig deeper into the area of design and design thinking, and I also, as I said before, wanted to know more about how we create knowledge and what actually knowledge is.
Leaving academia, however, made me wish that we had had a discussion about how to use transferable skills that you learn, things that you learn within academia that can help you, when you are out in a company or a public organization, explain your new skills to organizations so that they understand what you can do.
Get a fast overview of literature, or a text, or spoken words.
Learn how to interpret text or data in a very fast way, and to understand what is actually said, and put it in the context of history and who has said it.
Work with qualitative data mostly
Learn to create a creative dialogue or empathic dialogue with those that are into it.
Another important thing was actually to stop digging. Stop digging deeper into certain knowledge areas because, of course, you get curious and you dig deeper, and deeper.
You have to learn how to say stop, even if you have time to dig deeper, you need sometimes to get broader and to go back again in the data or in the knowledge that you are looking into.
And, as I said before, one problem I have within academia, actually, was people looking at themselves as not existing in the hierarchical worlds, not looking at themselves as having a management position in the same way as in industry.
And try to understand the democratic world of academia but at the same time understand, if you want to find money, for instance, for a research, you have to have the name of a professor joining you in your work or, at least, in the papers that you write and also in the applications that you send to get some money to be able to do your research.
Working in industry I learned how to cooperate in a certain project. Working with my thesis and my own research it was much more lonely work, I was responsible for myself, and that this also constant judging and being judged, when you present your papers, at conferences. Before I understood that this is actually way of learning: the criticism of what you have written or what you present for others, everything that you do will actually be criticized. Sometimes it will be in rather harsh way. I wish I have understood that is the way of learning - learning to rely on the yourself and what you doing, taking your work one step further.
For those who enter this world and become PhD students, I would give the advice not to be afraid of questioning the actual advice you get. And the critique you get, for instance, in your papers they are several truths out there. You have to show that you thought through your own truths, and you had to have to be able to defend your own standpoints.
As I said, we live in a complex and ambiguous world. And the only way truths is created, or new knowledge is created rather, is to communicate with each other. It's a constant process of “sense making” together with other people, and that's the way you can actually change the world and create new knowledge:
So defend your standpoints, learn from the dialogues you have with others, for instance, at conferences; together you develop the area that you are studying and, most important, don't forget to use this time in your life for your own development.
You will have a great time of deep reflection, so you should enjoy it.
I don't regret at all going to academia, I loved that period of my life. After presenting my thesis, it was time for me to start my period of father’s leave. In February 2015 I became a father.
The first months I digged into a lot of work finishing my thesis but also teaching a lot at art schools and, finally, I had the possibility to spend more time together with my son.
It was perfect time for me to put a stop sign in front of myself. I had one thing to focus on, it was my son.
I was also offered to be part of a career development plan, and that helped me to define what I wanted to do the next life; understand the possibilities rather than seeing the limitations, after finishing my PhD thesis. To understand that there is a whole world out there, not just going out with my research. I got a great coach during my career development period as well, and she helped me also to understand the need of being humble, and being able to explain how you can contribute in the organization or the area that you want to contribute in, the organization that you want to work with.
She also gave me the courage not to wait and expect others to contact me but instead have the courage to go out there and contact people in the organization that I wanted to work in, to be proactive and use my time to meet up with people.
Even if the people that you meet up with, when you contact the organizations that you would be interested to work in, it can actually help you to create the network that you need to get the job that you want. You will also learn to use the words that you need to use to be able to explain you own knowledge and how you can contribute.
The company will not employ you just on the knowledge that you take with you into the organization, but also who you are as a person, how you can contribute with your background and your personality.
So I put a lot of effort to be part of activities, in the organizations or within the area that I was interested in working.
I don't regarded myself as being unemployed, but rather to work with networking, building my own future network that I today can use in my present work or present organization that I'm working in.
So what about the future. Actually it doesn't matter if it's a public or private sector that I work in. It might as well be, I guess, academia and the future as well, as long as I have the possibility to focus on the area that I am interested in and help myself to create myself together with other people.
Life is all about constant change and, for sure, ending my period as a PhD student was nothing but entering a new stage in my life, new possibilities to be able to create myself a network.
So what the future brings with itself, I don't know actually, what I would do. Might be that I in a future start teaching at art and design schools, or business schools. It might as well also be staying in the organization I am in right now. But it's important for me to keep on loving what I do.
I think is the best out of advice I can give anybody, such as my son: trying to find something to do that you enjoy, and that keeps your pleasure, that you don't feel every day that you are going to a place, where you don't contribute, but you are just a cog in the wheel of a large machine.
So now my life continues, and I will go out and look for directions, rather than search for a solution.
My advice, if you are at the end of your PhD student period, look for how you can contribute in society and still be true to yourself.
If your are a PhD student at the beginning of your career, or if you are in career development, use the time and it will help you to find who you are and where you want to go next: look for directions not the solutions or, actually, the goal. Because you have to embrace changing your life, it’s a constant process it will not stop, change will come.
Thanks for listening to me.