John Balz

John Balz, PhD Political Science'10

1) What was the most important aspect of your professional development as a graduate student that contributed to your professional success?

Learning about the ideas of behavioral science - nudges - and getting a taste of how to apply them outside the classroom. I found professors throughout Chicago -in the Social Sciences Division, Booth, Harris, and the Law School-who saw my passion for application and encouraged me to follow it to any industry or company where I could put it to use best. I ended up in clean technology marketing at Opower.

2) What was the most significant obstacle you faced in your career trajectory upon graduating that you wished you had prepared for better?

Figuring out how to show employers why 5+ years of graduate student experience is as valuable as 5+ years of real world work experience. In the field I entered that meant succeeding in fast-changing environments with large, diverse teams. I had to bring a fresh lens to my dissertation experience that reframed an intellectual exercise into a professional project. What obstacles popped up unexpectedly? How did I manage relationships with the various stakeholders? Did I finish on time and under budget?

3) Do you have any general words of advice for current students?

Happy and fulfilled PhDs are in every industry. Our numbers will continue to grow.