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Applying Academic Principles to Solve Applied Problems

8 May, 2015

Brett Agypt

Research Director / CEBer since 2011

Academics tend to have limited career paths, particularly when coming out of the world of organization behavior. When I was pursuing my PhD in Organizational Science, I kept getting the same question: are you going academic (i.e., teaching or doing research at a university) or applied (i.e., consulting externally or acting in an internal human resources role)? I couldn’t help but feel constrained because each path had clear downsides I wouldn’t compromise on.

On the one hand, I wanted to have a real influence on the business world, but academics are typically limited in that capacity. On the other hand, I wanted to continue conducting hypothesis-driven strategic research that solved C suite–level problems, but the applied route can be too focused on solving heavily context-specific problems. I wanted a broader influence on how executives were getting work done, but I was struggling to decide what would most engage me on a daily basis.

Marrying the Academic and Applied Worlds

A LinkedIn group for management scholars led me to a CEB job posting for a quantitative consultant position. There, I could engage with hundreds of function heads and their teams to not only understand the challenges that keep them up at night but also conduct quantitative and qualitative research that solves their problems.

I had suddenly found an applied research position that scratched the various employment itches I had as I neared the completion of graduate school. I finally had an opportunity to influence the way that a large group of people did work, and that excited me.

Since joining CEB nearly four years ago, I have been promoted to lead our recruiting-focused research and am now tasked with doing the same for our growing learning and development–focused research. I get to come to work every day and collaborate with incredibly smart, kind, and driven people. I get to understand and solve real world human capital challenges. I get to influence the way human resources leaders do their jobs. For someone looking to apply science to management and help executives accomplish their goals, I can’t think of a more compelling place to work.

Are you excited by the possibility of influencing leading executives? Do you want to take your classroom principles to the boardrooms of the world’s best companies? We are hiring early careerists and experienced research professionals. Visit to learn more.

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