Beedie business graduand Simon Pek at the Council of Europe’s World Forum of Democracy, where work done by Democracy in Practice, the non-profit organization he co-founded, was among three finalists for the Democracy Innovation Award.
Photo: Klara Beck, 2016 © Council of Europe

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New PhD key to addressing business sustainability

October 03, 2017
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By Will Henderson

Leaving a role in one of the world’s best-known companies to complete a PhD is an unorthodox career move, but that is exactly what Simon Pek did when he left The LEGO Group for SFU. And he has no doubt that he did the right thing.

“In retrospect, it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in terms of career,” says Pek, who convocates on Oct. 6 with a PhD in business administration from SFU’s Beedie School of Business.

The doctoral qualification, and his thesis research on integrating sustainability into an organization’s culture, gave him the credential and tools he needed to secure a position as assistant professor of sustainability at the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business.

Pek’s decision to make a career change was inspired by his experience working in industry, both for The LEGO Group and Magnesita Refratários, a Brazilian-based multi-national. He held a range of positions in project management and supply chain, working in Germany, Hong Kong, the U.S. and the Czech Republic.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to go into academia was that I saw a lot of issues that I felt should be addressed by business, but I didn’t really feel like I had the capacity to do it as an employee working in the organization,” he says.

Pek’s research, which has a clear practical focus, gives him the opportunity to explore these issues and make a real difference to how business is done. His new academic role perfectly reflects his passion for making a positive impact, and he believes this synergy is crucial for anyone considering a career in academia.

“Picking a topic that you really care about is very important, because you’ll be doing it for an extremely long time,” he says.

“I’d like to keep doing this type of research, which is not only relevant theoretically, but also relevant to organizations and the people within them trying to make social change.”