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Mentors Inspiration: Rita McGrath

November 19, 2014, by Aneliya Evtimova in: Interviews

RitaToday we are excited to introduce to you Rita McGrath, associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Business and author of The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving As Fast as Your Business (2013), a book shortlisted by Thinkers50 for the Best Book Award. Enjoy reading Rita’s answers for us!


FI: What was your life like when you were writing your graduation paper? Did you worry a lot about it or not at all?

RMG: My life was utterly chaotic at that time.  I had a two year old son and my daughter was born when I began my thesis, so the home life was definitely chock a block with activity.  I found that having the children in day care allowed me to work during the days – it is a mistake to try to combine serious thinking with the constant interruptions of caring for small children.  I also found I worked best when I worked at home, as going to school (while very enjoyable) was also not conducive to getting the work done.  My typical day would be to get the children up and to day care, work as much as I could while they were there, pick them up and have playtime, dinner, baths and so on, and then settle back at my desk by around 8:30 pm.  Weekends were for family, cooking and the necessary activities of running a household.  I remember feeling permanently tired.

FI: Did your career path switch dramatically after you graduated? Or is your current occupation very much in line with your university education?

RMG: My current position is well aligned with my Ph.D.

FI: Do you think that graduates these days have more opportunities than when you graduated? Why?

RMG: No, I don’t, at least not in academia.  Because there has been so much entry into most academic fields that competition is very strong for all positions.  In addition, because tenured faculty have no deadline to retire, many continue to occupy academic posts until well into their 70’s, even their 80’s.  Finally, the business school/ education market (unlike in the 80’s when I began) is clearly going to decline.

FI: What is your favorite example of a research paper being applied in practice?

RMG: Aside from some of my own pieces, I think Clay Christensen’s article in the Strategic Management Journal in which he first laid out the research basis for disruptive technologies was terrific.

FI: What is your Future Idea?

RMG: My future idea is that eventually the transient advantage economy will have the effect of allowing many of us to have far more flexible and rewarding lives at work.  Given that more and more work is done without necessarily being connected to a job, people may be able to frame their careers around other events they wish to have in their lives.  Provided that their skills remain up to date and their networks of relationships robust, it may be entirely possible to step off the career treadmill for a time to pursue other interests (or take care of other obligations) and be able to re-enter when the timing is more propitious.


Rita is the Future Ideas Future of Technology Mentor! Submitting in the Future of Technology can result in Rita being your mentor – make sure not to miss out on this exclusive opportunity!


Aneliya Evtimova is the Chief Relationship Officer and FutureHero at Future Ideas.

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