The Practitioner Scholar

Doctor of Management Blog

Montressa L. Washington: Blog on DM Experience

May 28, 2014 ·

Humility, perseverance, and resilience…

My DM journey has been long and not without a few starts and stops.  My story is not one of seamless successes within a story book timeline.  I hope my words come across as authentic and heartfelt because they truly come from the heart. 

Let’s see…where shall I start??

I believe the professors and DM program management staff are world class and that they are sincerely devoted to ensuring DM students have a worthwhile experience in the program.  I enjoyed the coursework and apply the theories and techniques that I’ve learned not only to my research but also in my day job.  For example, Design Thinking and Sustainability have become very important inside /outside of IBM and I’ve been able to use the skills learned in DM program to help my clients solve “wicked” problems.   The CWRU DM program was definitely forward thinking by focuses on these two very important topics.

Along the way I have been exposed to and participated in wonderful organizations and conferences that enhanced by doctoral experience.  For example, Sisters of the Academy (SOTA) (, an organization committed to facilitating the success of Black women in the Academy.  Through my membership in SOTA, I have attended research boot camps, writing retreats and grants workshops.  The networking, relationship and skills that I have developed through my participation in these activities have made me a strong researcher and gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to be successful in the Academy.   Another example is membership in The PhD Project Management Doctoral Students Association (MDSA) (; the PhD Project’s expansive network helps African-American, Hispanic-Americans and Native Americans attain their business PhD, become business professors and mentor the next generation.   Through my participation with MDSA, I’ve attended helpful pre-workshops at the AOM conference and met fellow academics to partner and collaborate with on research projects.  

Last year I had the wonderful good fortune to attend Southern Management Association (SMA) Doctoral Student Consortium ( and co-present a research paper at the SMA conference.  I also co-presented a paper at the International Association for Computer Systems ( in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  This year, I’m looking forward to presenting at the International Association for Management of Technology conference ( and the Technology Transfer Conference ( 

Four “unintended benefits” of being in the DM program that I want highlight are as follows:  (1) I completed the “Weatherhead Executive Coaching Certificate” program.  It was relatively easy to complete as much of my DM coursework was applicable to the curriculum, (2) I got to tag along and assist Dr. David Cooperrider, with an Appreciative Inquiry Summit in Boston, MA, (3) I now teach SPSS courses to non-profit organizations through my job at IBM; and (4) being introduced to the Pomodoro Technique ( which has helped me focus better during writing spurts. 

Now for the OMG, WTH was I thinking part of the DM journey….

The loneliness and isolation that I have created in my life during this DM journey is frightening and I truly do not know how I am going to recover from this decision.  For the past 3 ½ years my life was been work and school – school and work.  I work 7 days a week.  I have sacrificed many relationships and personal experiences.  I hope people will be able to forgive me and still hold a place in their life for me once I complete the program.  I work 55+ hours in my “day” job and travel weekly out of state to meet with clients.   On top of that I still have to maintain some semblance of a normal life; I still have to buy food, cook food, clean house, maintain my car, take out trash, schedule house repairs, keep doctor’s appointments; oh did I mention work over 55+ hours a week. Nothing stops!

Going through the DM program has made me painfully aware of how I basically have no support system.  My family does not understand why I am getting a doctorate and clearly feel I should have focused my time (and youth) on getting married and having children.  My work colleagues think I’m crazy for enduring this much “torture and punishment” and well my friends, they don’t know quite what to think; I think the overwhelming emotion is “pity”. 

I’m always struggling with meeting assignment deadlines.  This pains me because I  want to complete and submit everything on time; there is such a great demand on my time from everywhere.  I’m constantly balancing the extreme demands of working for a Fortune 15 company; family obligations and some type of personal life (well not really because that is non-existent).

The questions that run through my mind daily, “Who will I disappoint the least today?”; “How am I going to keep it together today?”;  “How am I going to put myself back together after I complete the program?”; “Will there ever be someone who will help me?”

Each morning I wake up and pray for strength to get through the day, which I take one day at a time.  Despite the struggle, I’m truly grateful for this experience.  I know there are women around the world who would give (and have given) their life to obtain a quality education.  And for this “I give thanks”.

Montressa L Washington is a Senior Managing Consultant and Service Area Manager with IBM’s Global Business Services (GBS) based in the Washington, DC area.  Montressa is an IBM certified business transformation consultant and specializes in guiding clients through large change and transformation initiatives. She is a Doctor of Management Design Fellow and PhD student at Case Western Reserve University in the Weatherhead School of Management and can be reached at

Tags: DM Reflections

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