Doing a doctorate while working is challenging. It is about balancing a regular job with scientific research work and everyday life. No easy undertaking, but those who manage and persevere, benefit twice. It’s the relevant, application-oriented specialist knowledge alone that offers significantly better career opportunities, plus the recognition that the academic title brings with it.
With its Graduate Center, the HSBA supports dissertation projects of outstanding graduates at the interface of science and practice. Starting this October, four new doctoral students are getting ready to take up the challenge. In order to give all interested applicants an impression of what a cooperative doctoral programme is like at HSBA, we talked to our alumnus and newly-qualified doctor Sinan Krückeberg. He recently completed his doctorate summa cum laude after only three and a half years at HSBA with Professor Dr. Peter Scholz and Professor Dr. Klaus Beckmann of Helmut-Schmidt University as supervisors.
Dear Sinan Krückeberg, first of all congratulations for your outstanding promotion and this fantastic achievement! How does it feel to hold a doctorate?
Just like before... In the course of a lifetime, you encounter some people with and some without a doctorate - some smarter, some less so. It is rather obvious that the title in itself does not say anything about the intellectual abilities of a person. There are, also in the academic sense, enormously clever people who do not hold a doctorate. The same is also true the other way round. For me, anyway, it was never about the name addition, but about sharpening my quantitative-methodological skills and translating the resulting result into internationally recognised output, ideally in a way that is valuable for my practical work in investment management. And, of course, to get in touch with the many young and bright minds that HSBA attracts through its partner companies. Even though it was hard work, both of these things were great fun at all times, which is why it was never strenuous. If the goal is primarily the title at the end of the process, the path to that goal is probably a very rocky one.
Why did you decide to do your doctorate at the HSBA?
The most important criterion for deciding at which institution I would do my doctorate was the potential supervisor. Here, Peter Scholz stood out clearly from many professors at European universities and business schools. It became clear from the very beginning that we have similarly high standards for our work and at the same time work pragmatically, fairly and success-oriented. This was exactly what proved true throughout the entire doctorate and is the reason why Peter and I were so successful with our publications and why the doctorate was awarded summa cum laude. In 2013, Peter re-read my Master's thesis because I was looking for a second opinion. He was direct, critical, but fair with a sense of humour. And: We were able to discuss hard but factually. That was a great basis for picking up the thread again three years later for the doctorate.
How did you come up with your research topic and how relevant is it for your professional development?
I came up with the precise topic in the course of my work and it was not fully developed before the third paper. In my opinion, it is important to have a concrete research interest at the beginning, around which the first paper is structured. This will lead to follow-up questions that can be developed further. This was the case with our two papers on crypto-currencies, for example. One paper questions whether crypto currencies are an asset class of their own. Our results suggested that they are. At the same time, however, crypto-currencies were extremely volatile and therefore risky. This gave rise to the follow-up question of whether it is possible to realise risk-free profits via arbitrage trades, especially when markets are volatile, as spreads between stock market prices can arise. This was the case. So again, this led up to more follow-up questions...
For my future professional development, the rigorous quantitative methodological competence as well as the ability to condense information in a structured way, present analyses and their results, remains important. It’s all about having the eye for structuring analyses down to the last step and producing results that have clear validity in practice and, in my case, can influence practical investment decisions. As a result, the skills developed during the doctorate will certainly play an important role in the future.
Is there a key moment that you would like to share with us?
During the review process with the CFA Institute Financial Analysts Journal I gained a really interesting insight. The Journal is known for its rigorous selection of articles and I expected the process to be a proper "wrestling match" anyway. So this is what happened: The Executive Editor, Managing Editor, Assistant Editor, Reviewer 1 and Reviewer 2 examined the paper thoroughly from all sides and - in several successive rounds - each posed us many really good, partly technical, partly practical questions. And yet in the end we succeeded in defusing every single point by concentrating on the core of the question and further, by a deep analysis and consistent argumentation.
The moral of the story should certainly not be as banal as "anyone can do it", the quota is just too low for that. But due to the fact that two "no-names" from a German boutique university (if you want to call HSBA that) end up in a journal like this, it is clear that basically it is all about the value of the ideas presented, no matter where they come from. This is, in my view, a great motivation for anyone who wants to "wrestle" for a doctorate and cannot do it at Stanford, Harvard or Wharton.
In the final phase of your doctoral thesis, you started out as Head of Private Capital at Etribes, you run your own family office, are managing partner at Henke & Paulmann GmbH, work in an advisory capacity and you have family. For most people this would be an enormous challenge even without an additional doctorate. How can one manage to cope well with this multiple burden? Do you have any advice for our new doctoral students?
I'd be glad to! If there was any advice I would share, it would be the same advice that all HSBA students have received from me in the course of my lecture "Scientific Work": From the very beginning, think about the system in which you operate, how success is defined, what the concrete criteria for success and requirements are, and how you can best meet them with your skills set and according to your requirements. If these overriding elements are clear, the plan will follow and then it is basically a question of discipline.
If you don’t understand how the science system operates, you easily get out of line, make unnecessary mistakes and waste time. If discipline is lacking, one a) does not make adequate progress and b) opens flanks in the quality of work, which in turn costs time and nerves.
That is ultimately, in my view, the key to the many projects running well in parallel. Understanding the system, having a sense for structuring, eliminating distractions in order to work efficiently and having discipline in order to maintain one's own pace with the appropriate concentration over long distances. This all, in combination with active breaks where you switch off completely to relax your brain muscle, will do the trick. But of course, most important is that you enjoy working on your projects. I always selected my projects specifically according to what I enjoy doing and where I can work with interesting and pleasant people.