Barbara Duffek

Programme: Doctoral programme

Nationality: Slovak

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Consultant

Education: BSc Business Management, Queen Mary, University of London. LLB, University of Law. MSc Strategic Marketing, Imperial College Business School

Choosing the Doctoral programme at Imperial

Why did you decide to study the Doctoral programme at Imperial College Business School?

I decided to come to Imperial for various reasons; firstly, I wanted to work with my current supervisors, Professor Andreas Eisingerich and Dr Omar Merlo. Having read their research papers and been taught by both Professor Eisingerich and Dr Merlo during my Master’s, I was convinced that I wanted to work with them in the future.

Second, I wanted to do my PhD in a university that values research, but also innovation, and has the facilities to provide support to its PhD students. Imperial gives us access to other departments of the College, so we can always take some modules from the wider college, rather than just the Business School. Furthermore, Imperial offers an MRes program, which equips students with the necessary skills to progress onto the PhD. The quality of this MRes programme and the module availability also contributed to my decision in coming to Imperial.

Lastly, the fact that Imperial is located in London also influenced my decision. I knew I would prefer to stay in London, and Imperial is located in a very nice part of London, South Kensington, next to Hyde Park. Furthermore, as the university is located in London, we can audit modules from other London-based universities, such as LBS, LSE or UCL. I have already audited a couple of modules from these universities, and it is great to study with other PhD students from these different universities and learn from other scholars too.

What is your previous academic and work experience and how did this prepare you for the programme?

I was keen to do a PhD for a long time before I decided to apply for the programme. I have always had a passion for academia – having finished top of my class in my bachelor’s degree, and winning the award for the best thesis, I was already playing around with the idea that this path may be for me. Having finished the MSc Strategic Marketing at Imperial and an LLB, these two degrees gave me a different, more practical perspective on the field of marketing, business and law.

That one year on the MSc prompted me to start working in the field of marketing for a couple of years, to see whether I prefer the academic or more practical world. After two years of working in marketing practice, I started to work with a professor from INSEAD on a research project. This experience of working on marketing research has made me realise that this is definitely the path I want to follow, so I decided that the time had come to go back to academia and develop my research skills further.

The Doctoral programme experience

What is the best thing about the Doctoral programme so far?

The best thing about the Doctoral programme is working with my supervisors and academics from other universities on topics that interest me. I feel lucky every day that I can work on something that is truly my passion, and that I get all the support from my supervisors to do so.

How did the MRes prepare you for your doctoral research?

During the MRes year, we had opportunities to take various research methods classes which are of great help when it comes to doing research. By having the ability to choose classes that equip you with invaluable skills, you are getting ready to do research, and it also helps greatly in the understanding of methods-based research papers.

The MRes year is challenging, with having to juggle coursework, different modules, and working on your research at the same time. It definitely helps you establish a good research and work ethic from the start.

Furthermore, we were not only learning about different methods, but the professors were keen to share with us their PhD experiences, their advice on publications and doing research, and research best practices. I think hearing these tips from professors working in various fields also prepared me enormously for doctoral research.

What did you enjoy most about the MRes?

I really enjoyed the classes- MRes classes are conducted in small groups and last three hours, so they are definitely challenging – I even had a module where I was the only student. You really need to make sure you are prepared, and that you have engaged with the material critically and not superficially. These classes are there for you to discuss academic papers and research methods with your classmates and professors and get to know how researchers think.

However, working in such small classes also pushes you further and it helps you develop your critical thinking skills. I became good friends with students from the Management department, as we shared a couple of classes together. These MRes classes are very different from MSc classes – professors treat you as their colleagues rather than their students now that you are on the path towards your doctoral degree. They are truly interested in your research, your opinion on the topics, and want to help you as much as possible.

Apart from the academic part of the MRes, I also enjoyed our MRes and PhD socials. We had regular meetings with the MRes cohort, and we also had PhD-wide networking and social events. Alongside this, my department, the department of Marketing, Operations & Analytics, also organises regular socials attended by the professors too – I really enjoyed last year’s Christmas lunch, where I met the professors and PhD students of the Operations department.

What have been your favourite modules?

I enjoyed Consumer Behaviour with Dr Rajesh Bhargave and the Research Design module with Professor Paola Criscuolo and Dr Rajesh Bhargave the most! I particularly enjoyed analysing ongoing research in the field of consumer behaviour and learning more about experiment design in the research design module – great skills I need to master for my research.

What area of research will you be doing your PhD on?

Marketing has different subfields; I am working on brand strategy, in particular, I am looking at why customers decide to stand up against brands and initiate attacks on various online and offline platforms. We are working on the conceptualisation of consumer toxicity, as a process model of such harmful behaviours. In a separate project, I am also looking at the impact of product recalls in secondary markets. In the future, I would like to explore these brand transgressions and product recalls in more depth, utilising various marketing models and experiments.

Which seminars, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

The marketing department invites marketing academics from various universities and business schools to present their research to the faculty. I particularly enjoy attending these talks, as they can give a PhD student a good overview of what constitutes world-class research, and how to think about research from the initial, idea stage through publications and R&R’s. When the marketing department was hiring, the PhD students were also invited to these job talks. I really enjoyed these research talks given by scholars applying for Assistant Professor positions, as I was able to see the research standard necessary for getting a position at a top university.

The people: excellent faculty and academics

How would you describe the Business School faculty and your fellow Doctoral students?

We have a very good marketing faculty with excellent academics who produce world-class research that I am learning from every day. Everyone is very nice and friendly, interested in my research and trying to help me achieve the next steps with constructive feedback and suggestions. The fellow Doctoral students are also very supportive and are very keen on their research. It is great to be in a university where everyone is putting in 110% all the time, it is very motivating. My fellow students are also very nice when it comes to helping out with some codes. We also talk through our research ideas – getting insight and feedback from someone working in a different field is invaluable.

Have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?

We can take various modules and training courses from across the College. I am planning to explore some modules from other departments, such as Machine Learning and Data Science to develop my skills further.

Opportunities at Imperial

What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?

The greatest opportunity I received so far is going to a marketing conference in my MRes year! It is not common for PhD students to attend a conference in their first year of study, however, with the support of my supervisors, and the Business School, I was able to attend the American Marketing Association’s Winter academic conference in San Diego in February 2020 and present our research there. It was an amazing experience; meeting some of the top scholars in the world and being able to get feedback on our research at such an early stage – I will never forget it.

What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?

I knew I wanted to stay in academia after the PhD from the beginning – and my time at Imperial definitely reassured me of this decision. I love the academic environment, the ongoing research, the excitement you feel when you get good research results, and the ability to contribute to the field.

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities?

It is definitely beneficial in terms of networking with other PhD students from other top London universities. We have a marketing PhD community that meets up on a regular basis – PhD students from various other London institutions and Oxbridge, occasionally meeting up for dinner and getting to know each other.

Living in London as a Doctoral student

Where do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?

I live in Hammersmith – it takes me 25 min door-to-door to get into college. Hammersmith is a great place to live in – nice strolls by the river, big parks and a couple of other PhD students live here too, so we get to meet up quite frequently outside the School.

What can a weekend in London look like for a PhD student?

As a PhD student, you will often find yourself working through the weekend. Thinking about research does not stop on a Friday evening – often you just keep thinking about how best to approach a research question on weekends too, or you just work on some of your methods skills. However, when I am not working, I enjoy taking a gym class followed by a nice brunch, visiting the various parks and museums around London. I also like going to the theatre – London’s West End is not to be missed!

Advice to prospective Doctoral students

What advice would you share to prospective students considering the Doctoral programme in marketing at Imperial?

I would suggest prospective students to start thinking about their research interests early on. Once the MRes year starts, students are expected to work on the modules and their research simultaneously. Students need to submit the MRes research project by early July, and since the modules are usually running until April-May, there is not much time to left for research. Therefore, I think prospective students should start reading up on the research in their field from early on. I would also encourage students to familiarise themselves with a few programming languages before the start of the programme, as it will save up loads of time when it comes to research.

Programme: Doctoral programme

Nationality: Slovak

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Consultant

Education: BSc Business Management, Queen Mary, University of London. LLB, University of Law. MSc Strategic Marketing, Imperial College Business School

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