Experience and perspective
My name is Estrella Díaz and, currently, I am working as a distinguished researcher of Marketing at the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM)leading a project in the United States and Europe within Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) of Horizon 2020, European Commission.
Length of academic career
I started my teaching and research career fourteen years ago at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, performing various professional categories such as, research scholar, instructor, assistant professor or contracted interim doctor.
Career in brief
After finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at the Law and Social Sciences School, UCLM (1999-2004), including an academic year at the Università degli Studi di Torino (Italy) with an Erasmus scholarship, I considered that specialization in Marketing was relevant to my career. My intention was to start a Master’s Degree of Marketing offered by some academic institutions, but, after a conversation with the professor who would later be my supervisor of Dissertation and my mentor, I was offered the possibility of specializing in Marketing through the completion of a PhD program.
I enrolled in the Doctoral Program of Business Strategy and Marketing without funding. I wanted to specialize and improve my training and the doctorate was a very appropriate way for such an objective. Fortunately, in 2005 perhaps due to a stroke of luck or fate, a few months after starting my doctoral program, I obtained a research grant for PhD students awarded by the Vice-Chancellor’s Office for Research of the UCLM. This opportunity allowed me to become a doctoral student in the Marketing department.
Parallel to my doctorate, and with the aim of improving my training, I did a Master of Business Administration and Human Resources, as well as a Specialist Course in Cultural and Interior Tourism, both at the UCLM. Subsequently, in 2008 I obtained a scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism to develop my doctoral thesis on the use of new technologies in the tourism industry.
At the end of 2009, another piece of good news arrived, perhaps another wink of fate, obtaining the occasion to get an assistant professor position in the Marketing department. This meant that I continued my doctoral thesis with a little less uncertainty, making it easier for me to continue my academic career after defending my dissertation. In this sense, the support of the Business Administration Department, the Marketing Department and, certainly, the UCLM has always been fundamental.
Since the beginning of my studies, I have always considered the relevance of the international aspect in any discipline, so I decided to transmit it in my research career. One of the aspects in which this international vision was conveyed was the importance of carrying out international research stays. In this sense, I thought the necessity to carry out an international predoctoral stay in order to be able to learn from other contexts and develop not only academically but also personally. After attending a Marketing conference in Bournemouth in 2009 (United Kingdom), I contacted one of the most relevant professors in Tourism Marketing at that institution to request an invitation for a predoctoral stay and to work with her team at Bournemouth University. In 2010 I was invited for 6 months, receiving funding through research grants from the UCLM. This experience also allowed me to participate as a lecturer in four lectures given to professors and researchers at Bournemouth University.
On the 15th of June 2012, was the defense of my Dissertation entitled «Service cannibalization in travel agencies. Analysis of its consequences on employees» with the highest rating of Cum Laude and obtaining an international doctorate mention. However, I realized that the great effort in the academic career does not end with the defense of the Doctoral Thesis. Obtaining a doctoral degree is the culmination of a job, the end of a stage of training full of personal, family and professional effort and sacrifice, which places us at the top of the academic and scientific pyramid. But it also places us at the starting point for creating, developing and undertaking new and innovative projects in our field of knowledge.
Thus, although during the pre-doctoral stage I had already taken into account the importance of training, it was in the post-doctoral stage where I made a greater effort to improve my knowledge and skills through training. This training has been linked to attendance at courses and seminars, as well as attendance at national and international conferences. In this way, I have accumulated more than 1,686 hours of training and have participated in more than 40 national and international conferences organized by prestigious organizations.
As I have previously pointed out, the international aspect was the key and base on which I wanted to forge my research career. Sometimes it is necessary to get out of the comfort zone to become aware of other work environments and contexts, different perspectives and to become more aware of the direction of your research. In this way, I felt the need, after the defense of my doctoral thesis, to carry out another postdoctoral stay. In this case, I decided to go to the United States. I contacted one of the most prestigious professors in the field of Marketing at an international level with whom I had coincided in another congress and he invited me for 6 months to the University of Richmond in Virginia (United States) in 2013. In this case, the economic situation in Spain was more complicated, and I did not receive any type of funding to carry out this research stay.
Since this moment, I would start a few very fruitful years for my research career. I began to focus my research on four different lines. Three of them I had already started with my publications during my predoctoral stage and my Dissertation focused on consumer behavior, communication and new technologies, and tourism marketing, starting a new line of research focused on distribution and logistics management, collaborating with a research group of Asian professors.
Afterwards, during 2017 I made a research stay for 6 months at San Diego State University (United States), invited by one of the pioneers in analyzing communication in Marketing. This research stay was financed with a mobility scholarship José Castillejo from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.
This international vision, which has always been the focus of my research career, was reflected in the different publications of papers and books, collaborating with researchers from 5 countries (United Kingdom, United States, China, South Korea and Italy), together with professors from the Marketing Department of Spanish universities. This research effort has resulted in 30 indexed publications, 24 of which have been published in Journal Citation Reports, JCR (ISI Web of Knowledge) and SCImago Journal Rank, SJR (Scopus). The main results of my research have been published in first and second quartile journals. These publications have been completed with the publication of 1 book and 5 book chapters published by Goodfellow Publishers Limited and ESIC.
Within my academic teaching and research career, another fundamental element that I have always tried to keep in mind is the relationship between academia, business and society. Thus, I consider essential that the knowledge acquired through research has an impact on the economic and business environment and, the fact that organizations collaborate with the academic organizations. In the same way, it is essential that this knowledge is transferred to society through several outreach activities. In this sense, it is essential to participate in collaboration and consultancy agreements with different institutions and companies, having participated in a total of six in collaboration with different organizations, as well as in eleven competitive projects, transmitting the research results to the productive sector through different reports.
Specifically, there have been two research projects that have marked my scientific career. The first of them is a project linked to the use of new technologies by companies in Castilla-La Mancha, financed by the Parliament of Castilla-La Mancha in 2015, with a duration of two years and which allowed me to be main researcher of a research project for the first time. This gave me independence as a researcher and planning and organization skills, essential in the academic field. The second was the acceptation of the project focus of this website: an European project as a main researcher within the Marie Curie Global fellowships actions of Horizon 2020 program by the European Commission. This project is important because of the impact it can have on my research and personal career, as I will develop it for three years, two years at San Diego State University (United States) and a return year to Europe with a 6-month stay in a non-academic organization, the European Travel Commission, located in Brussels. In this project, where the four lines of research that I have been developing during my research career come together, the effect of the use of intelligent technologies on various aspects of organizations and consumers within a tourism context will be analyzed.
The quality of the research activities carried out together with my colleagues has been awarded six research prizes, such as the 2019 Highly Commended Award for Emerald Publishing, Top Downloaded Article 2017/18 for Wiley publishing, 2014 Highly Commended Award Winner for Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards, Prize for the best Dissertation in Marketing awarded by the Spanish Association of Academic and Professional Marketing, Extraordinary Doctoral Prize in Social Sciences awarded by the University of Castilla-La Mancha and Prize for the best Doctoral Thesis awarded by QUANDO of the University of Castilla-La Mancha. In this field, I highlight the co-supervisor of a Dissertation with important results, being currently co-supervisor of two Dissertations.
Along with research, one element that I have tried to handle and improve in parallel throughout my academic career is teaching. I have participated in 11 academic years with undergraduate and graduate students, accumulating more than 1,500 hours and obtaining very positive evaluation ratings from students. During this period, I have directed 27 thesis and master thesis, being awarded two of them. I believe that teaching is relevant because it allows you to transmit your knowledge to the students, educate them in science and bring them closer to the business environment. Teaching provides students with the main tools to face their career.
Academic management has also gained importance, with the position of Vice-Dean of Quality and Coordination in the School of Law and Social Sciences at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, standing out among other management actions. Within this management position, I led the Commission for the Renewal of Accreditations of the following degrees: Law, Business Administration and, Labour Relations and Human Resources Development. Academic management has allowed me to sharpen my organization and sense of responsibility, establish coordination functions with business professors, the learning of administrative and bureaucratic elements within the university environment, as well as the connection with business, social and academic agents.
My vision of the research career
As it has been possible to observe through the main academic milestones described, this professional choice is not easy and entails in its trajectory an enormous amount of effort, difficulties, but also a lot of satisfaction and joy when you are reaching certain objectives. The doctorate is a long-distance career, very hard both academically and personally.
The first lesson that a researcher must learn is that in the world of knowledge one is always learning and undertaking. Everything must be put into question and almost nothing is definitive. It is not an easy path that follows the doctorate program. It is full of filters, intermediate tests, demonstrations, continuous recycling, certifications, accreditations that guarantee the achievement of merits from work and personal dedication. However, working with motivation and dedication becomes the most rewarding career because all the results are the fruit of your own work and effort. In addition, a doctorate and a researcher career allow you to achieve great personal development.
A crucial element in the research career is the support of a mentor, supervisor or person who guides you not only in your doctoral thesis but also in the design of the research career. It is not an easy path and it is complicated to understand, which is why this figure becomes the main one. I still retain the admiration and respect of the disciple for those who guided me and continue to guide me in this work of expanding the frontiers of knowledge through research, feeling comforted with their actions and words of encouragement and support. Surely, without that help and guidance I would not have had the same results.
A relevant factor in the research career is the synergy and collaboration with different colleagues. Each of the merits of my academic career would have been impossible without the collaboration with the colleagues of my research area, who have helped and taught me so much and with whom I have enjoyed working very much. I feel a deep respect, admiration and gratitude for them.
Sometimes, when you are developing your research career, it is difficult to see results in the short-time and the path becomes more difficult. However, in the end, every effort will be rewarded. Everything is possible if you work with effort and dedication. That’s why it’s very important to persevere. In addition, the field of research is currently going through a difficult situation of uncertainty, but you always have to be constant and try to achieve your dreams.
I believe that, in the academic career, merits are harvested little by little and, to do so, determination, discipline, work and dedication must always mediate. Satisfaction follows effort and relief follows conquest. Research is, in itself, an act of generosity. Research is not about knowing more, but about finding answers from science and transferring knowledge to society.
Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the scientific careers, as higher education that enables to design, create, develop and undertake new and innovative projects, to work both as a team and autonomously and seek solutions to major problems facing society in all areas.
The first recommendation I would give to people who have started or are about to start a research career is that they are motivated by what they do and have a passion for your work. In the research field there are no hours of work, but hours of dedication to a field that you are passionate about. Thus, it is necessary to work with constancy and perseverance and have confidence in ourselves. In addition, it is important the exigency in the work done, trying to create a well-done research, even if it has to be re-done again.
On the other hand, it is crucial to get out of the comfort zone and set yourself challenges and goals to achieve. Set a direction that you want to follow, for example, in my case, the incorporation of the international environment with research stays, projects and collaborations with different universities.