In eight years as an operations and finance manager in Fortune 500 companies, Ronald Ramirez saw his employers invest vast sums of money in new information technologies. Despite the benefits generated from using the technology, it was often unclear how to measure the actual return on these large investments. Ramirez grew eager to look deeper into this but in corporate life, he knew, time is scarce, and “there is always another fire to put out.”
Still, he could not shake his interest in this compelling question, and he was determined to look further into it. Happily, he now does so as Professor Ronald Ramirez.
“I am now more fulfilled than I have ever been in my career,” he reports. “Now I can focus on topics that truly interest me. That does not often happen in a corporation, given time constraints and the business at hand. Corporate America also limits your own individual efforts to research such questions as work days now often extend into your personal time.
“Here in the university, you have the opportunity to control your own research topics, your classroom, and your hours. You set the terms.”
While an academic career offers many benefits, deciding to begin the journey as a Ph.D. student was nonetheless difficult. “I was just starting to hit my stride in the business world,” he recounts. “I was five years out of my MBA program, and I was being considered for a promotion to Finance Director at my company. However, I had reached a point where I was unfulfilled. After attending the first PhD Project conference in 1994, I had labored over the decision to pursue a Ph.D. for several years. I just could not put it off any longer. I knew there had to be something else.”
A major obstacle: accepting that his income would take a hit during his doctoral studies. In addition, salaries in high technology companies can be significantly higher than those in academe. Dr. Ramirez does not mind. “The ability to do research motivates people in this field more than the financial rewards. I am more interested in research and its personal rewards, so I put it above everything else. You have to come to terms with the income issue before you enter a Ph.D. program and an academic career. If you can look beyond the financial aspects, you can find an unmatched level of career happiness as a professor.”
An unexpected bonus of his new academic life is the discovery that classroom instruction is “very rewarding.”
“I have many years of real world experience,” he explains, “and it gives me an advantage in the classroom. I can apply real world examples to the concepts and theories introduced in textbooks. More importantly, students are at an age where they need both academic and career guidance. I have plenty of advice for my students as I have had my share of success and disappointment over the years. It feels good to be able to give something back.”
The dream continues…
Dr. Ramirez, continuing to create and follow his own path, has been published extensively and presented at numerous conferences, on such topics as IT diffusion, innovation, and the impact of IT investment on innovation and productivity. In 2005, he received a research development grant from the University of California, Irvine.
Dr. Ramirez is the Associate Dean of Programs, Faculty Director for Professional MBA Program, Associate Professor, Undergraduate Programs.