What’s it like to write this kind of thesis?

Working on her Master’s thesis taught Pernille Iris Bak how to use academic knowledge in practice.

We have interviewed Pernille Iris Bak about writing her thesis in collaboration with a Company.

What was the topic of your thesis?

I wrote my Master’s thesis in collaboration with MacMann Berg, a firm of consultants in Aarhus. Specifically, I worked on a case about a public-sector company in Northern Jutland. My thesis focused on the topic of learning transfer in an attempt to learn more about how people transfer knowledge and learning from the field of continuing education to the labour market. Specifically, I studied the way in which a group of managers participated and learned during a management course, and subsequently how they transferred theoretical and practical knowledge from the course to their daily managerial work.

How did you reach an agreement with your thesis partner?

During my project placement at MacMann Berg, I realised that several of the employees in the company were also interested in the topic of transfer. We were interested in how the learning outcomes and organisational value of investing in further and continuing education could be understood, examined and improved. Luckily, they were interested in collaborating with a Master’s thesis student; and during my project placement, we managed to define a topic for the thesis which was of interest both to me and to them. When the thesis period started, MacMann Berg let me explore their customer networks, and together we found a case company who were interested in examining the value of transfer in connection with a management course.

What did the company gain from your collaboration?

My thesis gave MacMann Berg insight into the theoretical and practical aspects relating to the topic of transfer. I shared the results and insights from my thesis with them as I went along, and at the end of the process I did a presentation for the whole company. During the presentation, we discussed how the thesis results could be used in practice, and how they could be applied in connection with future tasks and educational activities at MacMann Berg.

The case company was a client and participant in a tailor-made MacMann Berg management course, so I was also able to provide feedback for the teacher on how to organise the course.

The thesis also provided the case company with an understanding of how their managers used their newly acquired knowledge and methods from the management course in practice. They learnt more about the practical value of the course, and they realised which areas they could focus on and develop in order to increase the degree of successful transfer. After submitting my thesis, I held a workshop for the management team, during which I presented the most important points of transfer theory and started a process in which we discussed the results of my study.

What did you gain from writing your thesis in collaboration with a Company?

First and foremost, I learned how to use my academic knowledge in practice in the best way possible. Choosing to collaborate with a company meant that I was responsible for delivering a product consisting of knowledge which would be useful in the real world. This made me even more ambitious, and I am now using this knowledge and experience actively in my career. My thesis led to my first full-time job as a management and organisational consultant at MacMann Berg, with the concept of ‘transfer’ being one of my main areas of concern.

What are the challenges of writing a thesis in collaboration with a company?

You are normally required to produce some kind of result for your partner. Writing my thesis for and with other people was a strong source of motivation for me. But if you encounter problems along the way, the level of pressure does tend to increase. So it’s very helpful to balance your expectations with your partner throughout the process: What do both parties expect from the process and the thesis itself? What if the student encounters challenges along the way? Having this dialogue gave me peace of mind in relation to my own expectations and ambitions.

What is your best advice for students who are considering writing their thesis in collaboration with a Company?

I really recommend that you start by sitting down and thinking about what it is that you personally want to achieve during the process of writing your thesis: What type of thesis do you want to write? What do you want to learn? What type of process do you need? The more clearly you can define your needs and wishes, the better the dialogue will be with your partner Company.

I strongly recommend that you maintain an ongoing dialogue with your partner company and explore the network around it, if possible.

Finally, doing your thesis in collaboration with a company will give your CV a boost and increase your chances of getting a job.