I could talk all day about how this process has been tough. I could tell you that it makes it harder to maintain relationships. Or that it can completely erode your social life. Sure. I could tell you these things. But they would distract you from the real reasons that any of us put ourselves through the DM experience. On a superficial level, the DM experience is all about getting a terminal degree, becoming a scholar-practitioner, and maybe becoming an expert in some field. In my opinion, the DM experience is about existentialism. What does that mean? I believe that the DM experience causes a person to consider their very existence and embark on a free and responsible journey to determine their own development and contribution to the world. At its core, the journey is about identifying a piece of our chaotic world and spending exorbitant amounts of time making meaning of it. Three years for the DM and four for the Ph.D. Throughout my experience, I have recognized that this journey means something different for each of us. For some, it symbolizes reaching the end of a road. For others, it is just the beginning. But one thing is certain, when we complete the journey; we find that we have changed our thinking, built new relationships and are a part of new communities. These modifications to our lives are direct results of the DM experience.
As professionals, we like to believe that we have seen most of what there is to see. We believe that our real-world experiences have prepared us for the DM journey. I contend that the DM journey makes us more self-aware and causes us to intellectually question what we have learned in our professional careers. In essence, the DM experience provides us with a polished, yet sophisticated way of thinking that is tangential to the empirical thinking gained through our professional lives. We learn to view the world through various lenses.
In our professional lives, we have learned to view the world through fixed lenses. Prior to the DM experience, we view the world through the lenses of our profession. This brings with it many biases, values, and principles of behavior. The DM experience causes us to question those fixed lenses from a philosophical perspective. I am sure that there are many who believe that they had it all figured out before they began the DM process. But if that is true and you had it figured out, why embark on the DM journey at all?
The DM experience is humbling. It is rigorous. It is time consuming and requires much effort. It is a challenge. But then you must ask yourself – is there anything worth having that isn’t?
Timothy C. Summers is a Senior Security Architect at Booz Allen Hamilton (http://www.boozallen.com), one of the world’s oldest management consulting firms. Mr. Summers advises clients on the design and development of large scale systems. He is also a Ph.D. student at Case Western Reserve University in the Weatherhead School of Management and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read his personal blog at http://www.howhackersthink.com.