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Darla Moore School of Business

International business Ph.D. student researching digital technology’s role in international strategy

Aug. 3, 2020

Moore School Ph.D. student Pengxiang Zhang has focused his degree in international business because he believes that globalization is the driving force that shapes the world.

Zhang decided to come to the Moore School from Changzhou, China, because of its research reputation and the international business faculty’s “strong expertise.”

“The Moore School’s international business program has a group of prominent scholars with diverse research backgrounds including strategy, management, political science, finance, sociology, psychology and anthropology,” Zhang said. “These backgrounds are all [combined] to create inspiring knowledge on the evolving globalization phenomenon. Our faculty are very supportive and help Ph.D. students develop their own ideas. So, I think that is what attracted me the most.”

Interested in digital technology’s role in international strategy, Zhang’s dissertation topic aims to explore how different businesses keep up with the fast-changing global environment by constantly testing and tuning their new product innovations in creative ways.

“At the beginning of my doctoral study, I developed a strong interest in understanding a group of new strategies and organizational arrangements that surfaced in the growing digital economy,” Zhang said. “I sought to scrutinize the effectiveness of novel practices like sharing economy and freemium models in the global context.”

The sharing economy is a new economic system where private individuals can access goods and services through the internet. This economic model can be seen via companies like Airbnb and Lyft. Freemium models are pricing strategies within consumer software where the service is offered for free, but a cost is associated with additional, desirable components of the software. Examples of freemium model software include Yammer and Dropbox. These models emerged because of the rising digitalization of business and consumer life.

“In my dissertation stage, I’m passionate about the dynamic nature of digital innovation and its interplay with the high-velocity global environment, which stand at the core of my dissertation,” Zhang said. “This dynamic nature enables firms to develop rhythms for digital innovation and learn about the shifting global demand by revamping digital product innovations.”

Zhang added that there is not a lot of research about how firms utilize their product testing phase to capitalize on constantly changing business opportunities. That is why Zhang decided to focus his dissertation on this topic. 

Amidst the business world’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, Zhang said that “understanding how firms compete in fast-changing global environments by configuring strategic rhythms is of critical importance during disruptions.”

“By developing rhythms for digital product innovations, firms constantly learn about the new market conditions and seek to capture fleeting opportunities caused by new initiatives in regulation and policies, shifting market demands, emerging technologies and hypercompetitive moves from global rivals,” he said. 

Thankful for the opportunity to acquire database skills, participate in interview training and attend industry conferences, Zhang said the Moore School has provided him with “everything” he needs to be successful in the international business world.

“Specifically, [I am thankful for] the skills to read and write research papers, to deal with massive data software, to use advanced econometric techniques with software like Stata and R, and to collaborate and coordinate with people,” Zhang added.

Zhang plans to become an established professor and researcher once he graduates from the Moore School, hopefully in 2021 depending on the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes to further contribute to the study of global strategies in international business.

-Erin Mooney

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.