Interview with Alexander Gorgijevski

Alexander Gorgijevski is a PhD student in International Business (IB). He grew up in Linköping, Sweden and studied for his Bachelor's degree at Linnaeus University in Kalmar. During his studies he came into contact with researchers in the IB field at Uppsala University, which later resulted in him applying for the Master's Programme in International Business at Uppsala University. The programme included the opportunity to do an internship which Alexander did in a research project at the department. Although, unknown at the time this project laid the foundation for his doctoral studies. Alexander has his final seminar in December and the plan is to defend his doctoral thesis before the summer of 2021.

Tell us about your research

– It is about innovation processes that take place at the subsidiary level in multinational companies. I study how innovations and ideas emerge and how the headquarters handle subsidiaries' entrepreneurial initiatives. In particular, I try to address how and on what grounds selection takes place when many initiatives "compete" for headquarters attention and recognition.

– I am quite theoretically motivated in my research. I like theories and models and have used both qualitative and quantitative methods. I started by doing a larger survey among foreign-owned subsidiaries in Sweden. When I analysed the results, I did not really understand everything and some of the outcomes. To gain a deeper understanding it therefore felt natural to proceed with in-depth interviews with some innovation leaders and product development managers.

– The interviews are focused on a major actor in the car industry in Sweden. It is an industry facing major turmoil due to new technologies such as electric- and self-driving cars and new ownership models, technologies not only driven internally but also pushed for from society. In essence, no one knows which future breakthroughs we will see and innovation is most paramount for an industry facing such revolutionary change. Therefore, it is an extremely appropriate case study to investigate how initiatives and ideas are picked up in the company and not just controlled from the headquarters from the top down.

Do you teach any courses?

– This semester I teach the C-level course International Business and Marketing. I have been involved in this course for 6 semesters. I lecture on business networks and how companies make decisions not only based on what happens in the company, but they are also dependent on the external environment and relationships with other actors during decision-making. It is marketing, but I try to also show how it affects e.g. internationalisation decisions as well. It's something I have truly enjoyed.

– I have taught courses mainly in marketing and organisation rather than in IB. But as they are partly overlapping, I have always tried to integrate things I do in terms of research in the teaching.

– I have also previously taught distance courses and A-level courses, which is almost more difficult as it is more distanced from your work as a PhD student and current research overall. Next semester I will teach the course Marketing Strategy for exchange students. I look forward to that since I will be given more responsibility for the course structuring.

What are your plans after you get your PhD?

– I enjoy both research and teaching. In terms of research, I have come up with many new ideas during my doctoral studies that I would like to continue working on. As such, I would like to stay in the academic sphere, even if I am no stranger to also pursue a career in the industry. I like to get different perspectives on contemporary challenges and problems. Therefore, I have found it interesting to engage in various board assignments and committees during my doctoral studies to broaden my horizons and see how decisions that affect us are made and why. I am also open to more of that type of administrative work in the future. But for the moment I really enjoy teaching and researching and I would especially like to work at a university whether in Sweden or abroad.

Do you have any advice for those who want to become a PhD student?

– I think it is important that you are curious and eager to learn. It is important to be open to different perspectives and interpretations, otherwise you will find it difficult. If you think you already know everything beforehand and are just looking for confirmation, then the academia is not the right place for you, because that is not how we work. Here it is important to try to understand under what circumstances a certain outcome occurs and why – without too strict preconceptions.

– Be prepared for a lot of work, and a lot of work on your own. You will immerse yourself in a specific issue / topic for a long time and it is important to set boundaries for yourself. At the beginning of my doctoral studies, I tried to read and write as much as possible, regardless of the time of day. That does not work in the long run. Even if research is not a regular job, it is important to ensure that you have spare time. It helps more than you might think to gain new angles also in terms of research.

– Because there is so much solo work, it is important to take the chances you can to get help and discuss problems with others in your field. For example, I am part of the Nordic Research School of International Business (Nord-IB), which is a collaboration group for doctoral students in IB primarily at various Nordic universities. It has been an incredibly valuable and useful resource for me to meet others who are in the same field and discuss current research problems.

November 2020