Organization and Management Theory (OMT)

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The First Virtual AOM: A PhD's Experience

By Ilaria Orlandi posted 09-04-2020 08:29


AOM this year was definitely not what we all initially anticipated. However, just as many of our habits and routines have had to change over the past few months, how we attend conferences has also changed. My friends and colleagues never tire of telling me that I tend to see the glass as half full, so – spoiler alert – this might have had an influence on this blog post.

It is my pleasure to share my experience with you of this very first virtual annual meeting, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. So, with that in mind, I’d like to share two key things that were especially salient to me at this year’s AOM: the collegiality and the job market experience (so far!). 

Collegiality: Being able to reconnect with old friends and make new ones has always been the greatest social perk of attending conferences for me and probably also for many of you. Though we were separated by a few time zones and a variety of electronic devices this year, I still felt a deep sense of community and closeness to everyone else in the (virtual) room in many, if not all, of the sessions. The organizers deserve a great deal of credit for their ability to have kept everyone in high spirits at the social events. Social round tables became break-out rooms in which participants could converse in small(er) group settings to share research ideas, thoughts, hopes and ambitions. Social cocktail hours turned into quizzes and virtual challenges to “escape” from the virtual meeting. (Could this have been an allegory about returning to face-to-face interaction? J).  

Beyond these social aspects, across all sessions, ranging from PDWs to consortia, I felt how excited all the attendees were to be there. Having the opportunity (finally, after many months of waiting) to talk with new and old friends, share ideas and perspectives, give and get feedback, and learn from experts most definitely got me into the “conference spirit.” All these activities are an energizing part of our profession, and they are also what makes a conference such a special occasion. Jokes about being stuck at home instead of in Vancouver were abundant across all the sessions, as a way of establishing common ground and pivoting to a focus on the positive. We shared personal anecdotes and hopes for the future, such as travel plans (whenever it becomes possible again) and positive news from the past few months. We all found ourselves sharing what might have been just a little bit more personal information that we would have otherwise shared in a traditional face-to-face setting. It all led to a feeling of solidarity that might even have felt closer than a handshake before a session or a toast at a social event. 

Job market experience (so far!):  I have always looked forward to being on the market. Maybe it’s because of how everybody talks about it and how it leads to many unforgettable talks, moments, and more talks. Ironically, I guess this year will be unforgettable regardless of the job market. I am already thinking about using my story to reassure future Ph.D. students that might be stressing out about their own job market experience that there is a different (and more positive) way of looking at things! Many aspects of the typical job-market experience – like walking from hotel to hotel as a candidate with your suit on, going to the big career service interview room where a variety of schools hold one-on-one meetings, or informal meetings in hotel lobbies – clearly could not happen in the same way this time around. Yet, the interaction at the doctoral consortium event was probably the best I have experienced this year! Maybe this links back to the great(er) spirit of collegiality that I was talking about earlier, or maybe it was because all of us had more time to fully focus on being there, rather than thinking about what was next on our busy schedules. I personally could not have wished for a better consortium experience and have also heard from others that many consortia across divisions were extremely helpful, as they focused not only on the market in a broad sense but also on dos and don’ts specific to this unprecedented situation we find ourselves in. So, a big kudos to all the organizers across the AOM divisions, as they all had to plan what were effectively two consortia: first the physical one, and then the revised online version.

Another typical job-market experience is one related to the AOM career service. This year’s sessions were really helpful: I most appreciated the pitches of the universities and the group Q&A moments, as sharing questions with other candidates made me feel less alone in experiencing the struggles of this market. Conveniently, the university pitches are also still available to be watched or re-watched online, which is very convenient, especially if, due to the time zone you find yourself in or other commitments you may have had, you did not manage to attend the session live.


My market adventure is not over yet. But all the chats that I have had so far have been very pleasant, and I remain excited to see what lies ahead for me, as I am sure many of you who are also on the market are too!


Overall, while this year’s AOM was a bit different than we all anticipated, there were so many positive aspects worthy of recognition and appreciation! Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience!


Best of luck to you all, and please reach out if you’d like! I look forward to hearing from you in the comments about what (else) you enjoyed about this year’s conference!


Ilaria Orlandi 

Ph.D. Candidate 

Rotterdam School of Management 

Erasmus University Rotterdam