OK, so I’m right in the thick of my dissertation research, and I’m now starting to draft my chapters. I really wish I had some reliable contact with my supervisor, but, at this point, I’m going to write that off and keep plugging away. I’m just about to craft my literature review draft from my notes, and a few observations have occurred to me.
First, as I mentioned previously, I do feel that all of the research I’m doing is helping me build expert knowledge in this specific field. No, I’m not talking about being able to shock and amaze my friends over coffee on a lazy Saturday. I mean that in speaking with CEOs of finance houses, I have been able to correctly define a problem and suggest reasonable solutions that they found to be insightful (disclaimer: I’m hoping that these dissertation interviews catapult me to the top of the candidate interview short-list at an established finance house). While I had at first felt that a US-style capstone project would have been more to my liking (primarily because I didn’t have the desire to sit down and craft a 15,000 word research paper), I must admit that the benefit I’ve gained by diving headlong into a topic of personal interest likely outstrips what I would have otherwise gained in a capstone project.
Also, an interesting thing has happened on this dissertation journey. The more I learned, the more I realized what I didn’t know, and the more my research questions changed to accommodate the variance. To explain: Initially, my thought was to look at how the lack of a structured venture capital system is handcuffing the development of SMEs in Saudi Arabia. However, along the way, government has announced plans to offer greater support to the SME sector, primarily through ecosystem support comprising training and mentorship, along with a modest allocation of government funds. However, that will only actually support roughly one third of the SMEs here, leaving the other two thirds of SMEs struggling to finance themselves. My venture capital explanation would have needed to explain that a basic requirement for a well functioning venture capital system is an efficient capital market, and that would certainly have opened an unwanted can of worms. I won’t touch on the details, but suffice it to say that had I gone too far in that direction, I could have upset sensibilities that would have been catastrophic for my career prospects. So, while there are serious challenges to a real venture capital system taking root here any time soon, the good news is that private equity firms (disguised as foreign holding companies) are starting to fill part of the funding gap, though primarily for tech startups.
I can only imagine what the dissertation experience would have been like as a campus-based student, but I’m enjoying my research nevertheless. Sadly, I’m again missing summer school on campus, meaning that my first visit to campus will be for graduation – definitely not what I had expected, but, as the saying goes, better late than never