Ziad El-Awad defended his thesis “Beyond individuals – A Process of Routinizing Behaviors Through Entrepreneurial Learning: Insights from Technology-Based Ventures” on 8 November. Below you can find out more about Ziad and his research, described in his own words.
August 14, 2015, is the day I arrived in Sweden. I came with my wife and two children looking forward to starting a new life: one that is challenging and offering new opportunities for learning. Before coming to Lund, I had lived and studied in different places. I graduated from the American University of Beirut with a degree in business and management. Following that I lived in the UK, where I completed a Master’s degree in IT and an MBA, both at Lancaster University. On the professional front, I worked in advertising and brand management from 2001 until 2004 before moving into the food sector, where I spent almost seventeen years. I have built my career in the food industry, mostly in the MENA region, where I was and still am handling the exports of a growing company called Rio Jordan. The company has its operations in Asia, Middle East, South Africa, and Europe. At Rio Jordan I handle different roles, mainly exports, domestic sales, communication with suppliers and customers, and operations and logistics more generally.
Coming to Lund to pursue my PhD took courage to walk a different road: a road less traveled. It was not a natural choice to make, given the success I achieved in the food sector. Nevertheless, I felt that applying the professional experience I acquired in the food sector in the academic world would offer a more nuanced view when explaining a specific phenomenon, which, in my case, would be entrepreneurship.
In my PhD research, I aimed at understanding “why do some new ventures thrive, while others fall at the first hurdle?” Part of the answer to this question remains in entrepreneurial learning, or the ability to gain new knowledge from experience and use it to develop the business. In my doctoral thesis I develop a theoretical model that explains entrepreneurial learning as an experiential multilevel process in which personalized streams of experience become routinized and embedded in venture-wide behaviors. Routinizing behaviors is considered an essential process, critical for stabilizing the way new ventures develop and perform activities. Without routinization, new ventures may experience vagueness and confusion concerning how to reliably and consistently perform tasks and deliver products or services to the market. My thesis brings forward four studies that together offer novel insights into how new ventures learn and routinize behaviors. These studies explore how individual streams of experience become embedded in the venture. They also illuminate the mechanisms that facilitate or challenge the way individual streams of experience permeate between individuals in the venture. Moreover, they elucidate the critical role that prior experience plays in explaining why new ventures learn and routinize behaviors differently.
The four years of PhD studies have been full of excitement and learning. I did not only learn from doing research but also working in a challenging environment with many smart people around. Lund is an intellectual city, with many students eager to learn. I enjoyed teaching on different courses at the Master level and enjoyed presenting my papers at conferences, both in Europe and the US. Moreover, I learned how to accept and appreciate constructive criticism and learn from my mistakes and turn them into strengths. My future plan will be to pursue a post-doc and continue to publish high-quality research and collaborate with colleagues on new exciting ideas that matter not merely to the scholarly circle but also that is relevant and valid to practitioners.