Real Life PhD!

What is a PhD? WHat is the proof completing PhD?

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A PhD is a degree earned by people who have studied deep and hard after their graduate study or Master’s degree in their own subject. What is a PhD? A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., DPhil, or Dr. phil.; Latin Philosophiae doctor) is the highest academic degree awarded by universities in most countries. PhD’s are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields.  

My colleague for more than 20 years, Deepti, once asked me while discussing, about the importance of PhD. I told her that I am not aware as I am not one! But I have personally known some persons who have done their PhD’s in their field and have done brilliant work and contributed to the knowledge big time! Both Jaya and I have done our Master’s in our fields and felt that we understood the engineering much better during these years when did Master’s. Like anything in life, there are brilliant PhD’s, there are good PhD’s and there are run off the mill PhD’s, the last being the major volume. I have recently seen a trend, that when a person becomes well-known in his or her field, people start referring to the person as Dr.! This probably indicates the people’s perception of the knowledge acquired by that person. 

When I read newspapers in Pune (again this activity is getting diminished due to rapid digitization.) I read the large number of list of people earning their PhD’s from Pune University! Have people become brilliant suddenly? Has research activity become major thing in Pune University? I understand that in education field, to become a professor, you must have a PhD as per norms, these days. This to me appears to be the main cause of abundance of people acquiring PhD’s. What are our education standards and research standards? What is the relevance of acquiring degrees? To me this should be done with the purpose of advancement of knowledge and doing research in own field. Later, when one gets experience, these persons should guide more people. All movement is expected to create mushrooms of islands of knowledge.  

Honestly, I don’t see this happening. In the countries like the US, PhD’s really perform the way they are expected to perform and help the society in general, and industry in particular to make rapid strides in development of products, processes, systems and concepts. They help create new things, improve existing things. Their contribution to the society is unbelievable. I am really not sure how far this is true in India. I very rarely hear of industry providing funding to premier education institutions, to develop or improve products, processes. PhD’s are awarded for work that remains more theoretical and how far the theoretical work is useful to the society, is a subject for another PhD.  

I will share a couple anecdotes. People get Fullbright scholarships do some post-doctoral work in premium universities in the world. A person went the prominent university on the west coast in US, under a world-renowned professor, who was a classmate of mine. They had met at a couple of conferences in India. After initial hiccups, things were settling down for the visitor, at least that is what my friend thought. Later on, my friend  tried to help him in various ways but end result was almost nil. My friend asked this gentleman what was his purpose of going to US on this scholarship. At least he was honest. He said, ” My son is trying for education in the US. I wanted to earn dollars for the purpose!” 

In another case I was on a committee in Pune University management school for an event. While having tea during a break, I asked one the professors, about the standard of PhD’s. He smiled wryly! I asked him the reason. He said let me share something with you. ” I was an examiner for a student’s PhD defense. When I got his thesis, I found that the synopsis and the subject content were totally different. So, I informed the concerned professor, the guide, about the error. When I went for the exam, there was no change; I had thought that it was a binding mistake. The synopsis and the subject had no correlation.” When I asked the guide, who was a “renowned” expert and guide from Pune, he simply ignored it!  

Thinking about Deepti’s question, following thoughts came to my mind. Our company has been in the software business. Out of our many clients, four were either Indian giants or global giants who used our product in India. For these projects there were stages. Simplistically, these can be requirement gathering, design and coding, implementation and running the project for years. Final phase would be enhancements and improvements. All this required huge subject knowledge in technical, business processes in auto industry, commercial as well as taxation field.

Deepti, let me assure you with my meager knowledge about PhD, that each stage in our  project was worth a thesis by itself. We have dealt with many aspects in real life, commercial technical, design, implementation strategies and brought them successfully under one umbrella, that is our organization and our team. Deepti, you as a project leader, have done at least one PhD per project if not more. What is the proof of this? Proof is in the Pudding! People have eaten the pudding. The projects have been technically and commercially successful. We have run the business all these years and people have paid us for our products. It is the real-world work, done by all of us together!

What should I call you? You have earned PhD’s given by real life! Dr. Dr. Dr Dr. Deepti? Go ahead fearlessly, with the new path that you have chosen! You have enough PhD’s in your kitty to handle all eventualities! God bless you!