When students reach the home stretch of their degree, they not only need to find a suitable topic for their final thesis, they also need to decide whether to write their thesis at the university or while working at a company. MBS alumnus Philip Dorpema chose the second option and, in this interview, shares some key insights and tips for writing your master’s thesis from within a company.
MBS Insights: Philip, you wrote your master’s thesis in partnership with Generali Versicherung rather than working on it solely at university. How exactly did that come about? Did you always plan to write your master’s thesis while working at a company? If so, how did you find the right company for your project?
Philip Dorpema: On the Sports Business and Communications program, we were told from the outset that we were welcome to write our master’s thesis while working at a company. I soon decided that I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, because it allows you to get so much input and support for your project that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. When the time came to look for a position at a company, I looked for internships at a number of firms who are active in the field of sponsorships, which I had chosen as the focus topic for my master’s thesis. That’s when I came across Generali.
MBS Insights: What differences do you think there are between writing a master’s thesis at a company and writing it at university?
Philip Dorpema: There are certain differences between writing a master’s thesis in a company and writing one at uni. The first difference is that you have at least two mentors you can turn to for advice: one at the university and another contact in the company. There’s also a stronger practical connection when working in a company. My bachelor’s thesis, which I wrote exclusively at university, was far more theoretical than the master’s thesis I wrote while working. For example, in my master’s thesis I was able to use data from active sponsorship projects Generali was running, which meant I was more closely connected to the topic. And, of course, it’s always nice to be paid for your work. I was employed as an intern for six months and was paid accordingly.
MBS Insights: What exactly was the topic of your master’s thesis? How did you come up with it?
Philip Dorpema: My master’s thesis focused on finding alternatives to conventional sponsorship in the digital space, as most events had been canceled due to the pandemic. As a result, companies and events increasingly resorted to digital platforms in order to reach their target audiences. Unfortunately, I can’t share the results because I signed a non-disclosure agreement. I’ve been interested in sponsorship for a long time, which is why I wanted to write my master’s thesis on the topic. At the onset of the pandemic, and many events were canceled and sponsorship contracts were terminated, so the topic soon crystallized in my mind. The staff at Generali were enthusiastic right away because it’s obviously a very important topic for them as a company. That’s another way that writing your master’s thesis in a company creates value: you work on a topic relevant to the company, which allows you to generate genuine added value.
MBS Insights: What insights from your master’s studies at MBS were you able to apply in your internship and in writing your master’s thesis?
Philip Dorpema: There were certain insights from my studies that I was able to apply in my internship and in writing my master’s thesis in the company. Among other things, I spent a lot of time working with social media and digital marketing during my internship, which we had discussed at length at uni. However, sponsorship was also a major part of my responsibilities during my internship. For example, I helped to develop sponsorship concepts for digital platforms and get them ready to present to sponsorship partners. It also involved platforms that were uncharted territory for Generali, like Twitch. In addition, I was responsible for identifying new KPIs for social media, which would then be integrated into new sponsorship contracts. All in all, I had a range of responsibilities in the fields of online marketing and sponsorship, which fed into my master’s thesis – and for which my time at MBS proved excellent preparation.
MBS Insights: How exactly does writing your master’s thesis in a company work? How do you structure your time working as an intern and writing your thesis?
Philip Dorpema: It was all very tightly scheduled. In the six months of my internship, I actually never quite started writing my master’s thesis. At the end of my internship, I conducted my interviews and collected the data I needed to write my thesis. I organized it this way so that I was able to gain as much practical work experience as possible and familiarize myself with the company and the topic as well as I could. After my internship, I started writing my master’s thesis, which enabled me to make optimal use of everything I had learned and the data I had collected.
MBS Insights: Who would you recommend to write their master’s thesis in a company and what tips would you give for writing it?
Philip Dorpema: Honestly, I would recommend that every student (at MBS) writes their master’s thesis in a company. Not only does it give you a better frame of reference for your master’s thesis and allow you to gather tips from your mentor in the company, it also makes it considerably easier to collect very usable data, because large companies collect data anyway for market research analyses. In addition, there are plenty of people in a company you can interview on certain topics, which means that you can write a quantitative, qualitative or mixed thesis in the company. My tip would be to think about your topic from an early stage and start looking for a suitable company early on. I started looking at a relatively late stage and was very lucky to find a good fit with Generali, which meant I was able to start my internship soon after.