On June 14, we will celebrate the class of 2018 as our newest graduates cross the Carleton University Convocation stage to receive their degrees. To mark this very special occasion, we have asked some of our grads to reflect on their time in the Sprott School of Business.

Robert Helal is a 2018 graduate of the PhD in Management program and recipient of a Senate Medal for academic achievement.

profile photo of Robert

Dr. Robert Helal is now an Adjunct Research Professor with Sprott.

If you could choose one word to sum up your time at Sprott, what is it and why?


Why? My primary reason for undertaking doctoral studies was to make a contribution to my industry, and to achieve a personal goal of successfully completing my PhD. These goals were achieved. In addition, the journey was filled with a great faculty and supportive and generous colleagues along the way. Overall, the achievement was amongst the most memorable and fulfilling experiences in my professional and academic lives.

What were your goals when you started at Sprott? Did you achieve them?

Coming from industry, my primary goal was less about moving into a profession, but rather to contribute further and in different ways within my career.

My primary goals:

  • Successfully complete by doctorate in a domain relative to my profession
  • Provide a tangible contribution to my field

Longer term, I viewed completion of my doctorate as laying stones for the next chapter in my career, which included more work in research and in the classroom.

I believe my primary goals have been met. The doctorate was completed in the area of open and collaborative innovation, and was successful in presenting several unique contributions to research in the area. The work is serving as a basis for a number of journal articles in collaboration with Sprott faculty/members of my committee team.

What is your favourite Sprott memory?

I have many fond memories from my journey with Sprott, including many personal firsts and the benefit of having a “dream team” committee.

My favourite memory is the brief period of time right after my successful thesis defence. I was called into the room and received the good news, and shared the milestone with my committee members. I was then alone in the boardroom, packing up my things and gathering my thoughts. I sat for a moment in the quiet, taking in what had just happened – that I had reached the top of the mountain I had been climbing for years. I called home to share the news, and then, my parents. It was then that I was overcome by the feeling that all the time, energy and focus committed to get to that point was worth that feeling of accomplishment. A memory I will never forget.

What was your favourite course or professor?

There is no single course I would call out as a favourite. Each of the courses I took contributed in some way to my ultimate goals. The most memorable course for me in the first seminar in Marketing that I took with Professor Louise Heslop. I registered for the course to assess whether a doctorate and Sprott were for me. It was that course and Professor Heslop in particular that fed my decision to register for the program the following semester.

With respect to most memorable faculty, it is my “dream team” committee: Professor Michel Rod (supervisor) who understood exactly what I required as a practitioner for the journey, and was a great partner along the way. Professor Gerald Grant provided me with insight into the possibilities of what my chosen field of study could be. Professor Louise Heslop, as mentioned, was the spark that started the journey for me. All were generous with their time, supportive in different ways, and challenged me in ways that made me better. I count myself fortunate for having them in my corner.

What was the most important lesson you learned during your time at Sprott?

The thing I took away was further confirmation from my professional life that completing a doctorate requires that you take a step back to understand the big picture and dependencies. While it is not necessarily a straight road, identifying potential roadblocks and pitfalls saves a lot of potential headaches along the way. This includes setting your own strategy for completing your PhD. At the end of the day, all the decisions taken along the way should be towards learning in support of that goal. Taking the time to measure thrice and cut once, through soliciting planning and feedback, helps contribute to maintaining focus.

The other thing that shared with me and proved out is to view the thesis as a step in the journey. The final thesis is not likely to be my masterpiece, so don’t let unattainable perfection be the enemy of progress.

What will you miss the most?

What I would miss if it stopped was the thesis process and time in the classroom. However, both will be continuing for me. I am continuing with Sprott as an Adjunct Research Professor, continuing to develop my research with other faculty members. I will also continue teaching at the undergraduate level.

As an industry person, what do you think the impact of your research could be on managerial practice?

This is the most exciting part of my time with Sprott. The work from my research is very timely and relevant in industry, in the area of open collaborative innovation. This is a growing area of practice that requires more insight into how organizations can develop collaboration competencies that can contribute to their competitiveness. My findings and proposed models contribute directly to this challenge.

What’s next for you?

I am continuing in my career, bringing my research into practice immediately. I have also set the stage for a ongoing relationship with Sprott and faculty for future research and publications, and will continue to teaching. Near-term, the combination of my career activity with the ongoing academic work will set the stage for the next chapter in my career.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the Sprott community?

My time with Sprott were great years. I found the school and its culture to provide a unique and supportive environment. Like any studies, you get out what you put in. If you are ready to work, open to learn, and generous in your relationships, Sprott will provide you the path towards personal goals. What I also share with those that ask, continue to invest in your network throughout your time at Sprott, and strive for opportunities outside your comfort zone (e.g., teaching, public speaking) – now is the time to develop those talents.

meet more of our sprott great grads

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in , , , ,
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