guest article by Wafa Hammedi

I feel very honored to be nominated for this role model article series. Writing this article means a lot to me as it forced me to stop, take time and reflect closely on my journey, on all its ups and downs and mainly on all the people who helped me when the road was bumpy. Sitting in my office, I started writing names on my blackboard and the list was so long that I felt so lucky to be surrounded by so many inspiring and humble people who shaped in a way or another my life!

The first is Allard van Riel, my Ph.D. supervisor. When I met Allard, I was a master’s student at HEC-ULG and he was teaching courses in the area of innovation management, topics that I was particularly interested in. Besides being the most inspiring teacher in our master’s program, doing my master thesis under Allard’s supervision was an experience that shaped my professional life. Allard was/is such a dedicated, inspiring and encouraging supervisor, who made me enjoy the writing of my thesis which turned to be my first academic essay. After my master’s completion, Allard offered me the opportunity to do a Ph.D. and I was so lucky to have him as a mentor since then. Allard not only was the one who introduced me to this wonderful world of academia but he also was a role model of hard work, commitment, dedication, and excellence. He taught me that being an academic is more than publishing papers.  He was and still is a very carrying, selfless and especially a humble scholar who is always willing to help and support others.

Another person who has been a wonderful source of inspiration is Dr Zuzana Sasovova from Vrjie University of Amsterdam who was my Ph.D. co-supervisor. Thanks to her critical feedback, I was successful in publishing my work in top journals before finishing my Ph.D. I am really grateful to these two wonderful people, who believed in me, supported and guided me throughout this journey and with whom I shared all the most important and unique professional and personal moments of my life. All my gratitude also goes to my colleagues at Radboud – Nijmegen University (Netherlands) for their support and friendship during my doctoral journey.

At a conference during a social event, I happened to be sitting next to someone who was so friendly, approachable and caring. While I was an unknown doctoral student, networking with established scholars have been always impressive and a bit scary; but when it turns out that this person is a legend in your field, then you feel blessed that life offered you such a nice opportunity. That person was Parsu Parasuraman, who besides his impressive career, remains in my eyes, among the most generous and humble scholars that I’ve ever met.  Over the years, Parsu was supporting, encouraging and guiding me. For a few years now, I am enjoying co-teaching one of our favorite subjects on service innovation and design at my university.  Parsu represents a lot to me; a talented scholar, a godfather, a mentor and a very close friend.

I strongly believe that an academic career is very much influenced by the people you meet during your first steps. This reflection lead to the launch of the wonderful and unique concept called “Let’s Talk about Service”. An event that aims to help young service researchers flourish by providing them with whatever they need in terms of trainings, extended interactions with advanced and leading scholars, mentorship, collaborative workshops and much more in a very friendly environment. LTAS is seen as a large family where the oldest take care of the youngest.  By joining forces with the fabulous friends Annouk Lievens (UAntwerp – Belgium) and Bart Larivière (UGent – Belgium), LTAS was born in Belgium. Organizing LTAS every year is certainly time and effort consuming but working with a wonderful team, Annouk, Bart and more recently Sertan Kabadayi (Fordham Business School) makes it an amazing experience each year. We hope that through LTAS we can contribute to building a community of talented and passionate young researchers committed to the prosperity of our field through high quality and impactful research!

Born in Tunisia in an extended family I was taught at very early age the sense of community. I have learned to be always ready to help with the little that you can have and appreciate the value of teamwork and cooperation as a lifestyle. In my home country, all family and community members share a great sense of solidarity shown in times of success and in times of great misfortune. These are great values that were not only resourceful but contributed a lot to my wellbeing. When I left for my studies abroad, I was very worried that I am going to miss these values.  Therefore when I was looking for my path as a researcher I have been part of different research groups and communities until I came across the service field and the service research community. SERVSIG is not an association/constellation of researchers but rather a community that promotes all these wonderful values. SERVSIG is my professional family. Therefore today, I would like to express all my gratitude to all the pioneers in our service community,  and I would like to specially thank my close friends Raymond Fisk (Texas State University), the founder of SERVSIG, Rohit Verma (Cornell University)  and Jay Kandampully (Ohio State University) for their dedication, engagement in the community and service field.

At a more local level, I would like to mention the wonderful community of Belgian Service researchers (BSR) which connects  great minds and great people

When I gave birth to my twin girls, I was struggling with a major issue “the work-life balance” as many early career researchers do. I still remember my discussion with Dwayne Gremler in Liege (Belgium) while taking a brunch! Dwayne shared tips and advice that helped me a lot during that time. I am also grateful to my wonderful colleague Annouk Lievens who always found the right words to support me and showed me that everything is indeed possible! Thank you Dwayne and Annouk!

In my daily work, I would like to mention my great colleagues at the business department at both Cercle and Circé research centers who have been supporting me in my different projects and initiatives! I would like also to say a big thank you to Paul Wynants the Dean of our faculty for his endless support, Paul is someone who always finds the right words to remind me what is important in an academic life during difficult times!

Finally, I could not conclude without mentioning who are inspiring me every day and  challenging me in an ongoing way, all my close friends,  doctoral students and also my current research partners : Anouk Den Ambtman, Codrin, Paveliuc, Dominik Mahr, Ingrid Poncin,  Joshua Salawe, Justine Virlée, Linda Nasr, Marisa Muninger, Mohammed Nejad, Thomas Leclerq, and all my other co-authors. Thank you for the wonderful discussions and achievements. I feel very lucky to have you around! Of course all my past and present students at the University of Namur who have shown a lot of interest and support to all my initiatives in terms of teaching and master students whom I had the chance to supervise their final theses,  I wish them all the most brilliant career! Finally all my gratitude to my endless supporters, my husband, and my two little angels, my parents and all my family

To continue this wonderful tradition, I would like to nominate Dominik Mahr, (we did our Ph.D. at the same time and above all, he is a passionate researcher and a very nice person).

Wafa Hammedi is an associate professor of service Innovation and marketing at the faculty of Economics and Management (University of Namur- Belgium).