For our “Getting to know” series, Hugo Guyader interviewed Maria Holmlund. This is the second part of the interview (read part 1 here).

Since 2018, Maria has devoted half of her time to being the Dean of Programmes and Quality Assurance and developing Hanken School of Economics’ bachelor’s, master’s, PhD, and EMBA programmes, an arrangement that will continue until 2023. Research and research projects, doctoral student supervision, and different academic assignments fill the other half of her time.

Let’s follow up with a few questions about her career in service research.

You are an associate editor for Journal of Business Research and have has co-edited special issues for the journal and Journal of Service Management and Industrial Marketing Management. How do you see your responsibilities in this position? 

I am honoured to be an associate editor of JBR after having previously served on the journal’s editorial review boards of service research and B2B marketing. I want to recommend to the chief editors acceptance of papers that are well-crafted and reported, and that offer genuine theoretical contributions to JBR readers. Co-guest editing special issues on selected topics is something I enjoy too, since it offers the possibility to promote selected topics and the opportunity to work with authors and other guest editors.   

What do you like the most/least in editing (or reviewing) manuscripts?

The best moments both as an editor and a reviewer are when I get a paper with a novel topic that triggers my curiosity and when I notice that this paper has the potential to become a really nice article – that is, when I find a paper that I would like to see in print, with others citing it and putting it into use. The opposite moments are when I see an extensive and methodologically elegant study wasted on a topic of basically no interest or novelty. 

You co-chaired SERVSIG 2012 in Helsinki, and you are a regular at SERVSIG, Frontiers, and QUIS conferences. What do you get from attending these service conferences?

All service conferences offer great possibilities to network and meet others in person, as well as learn about the latest projects and listen to guest speakers, not to mention experience nice places. Conferences are a fundamental part of being a researcher, and of being part of the research community.

You are teaching various courses at Hanken at the undergrad and PhD levels. What is your relationship with business students? 

Currently, because of my administrative duties, I do not do much teaching except for supervision in our programmes, and a couple of PhD courses.

What about research students?

A course that I am particularly proud of the bi-annual PhD course ‘Service and Relationship Management’ that I have been in charge of in Helsinki since 2007. Not only PhD students from Finnish universities, but also those from all other universities have taken part in the course. The course is running now with 23 PhD students signed up, and next March we have 4 consecutive in-class days planned. I sincerely hope that we are able to meet onsite, but we are prepared to change the course setup if the pandemic situation still does not allow us to do so. The other course teachers are current or earlier colleagues and our international affiliated service research guests, and we have different assignments and build networks. It is a delight every time, and the course feedback is very good. What I also do a fair amount of is assessing applicants for positions and promotions and evaluating PhD theses. What I particularly enjoy is to be the opponent at official defenses; it is such an honor to be part of that milestone in PhD students’ lives.

What is the publication/contribution that you are the proudest of?

That’s a difficult question. I think we tend to get attached to most of our papers. Each of them has a unique process and many memories attached. If I am to single out a few top-of-mind papers, then I would say my PhD thesis.


Because it is the principal and longest academic accomplishment, the formal academic driver’s license, and because I think it was rather novel. It combined my favourite topics, service quality and B2B relationships. I like abductive research and conceptual development based on company insights, so my other extra-gratifying projects are those proposing new constructs, such as relationship stress and customer need, and conceptualisations of relationship initiation, interaction levels in relationships, managers’ mental models, and financial well-being. 

If you had not gotten onto the academic career track, what would you have done?

Like so many others in academia, I never intended to stay. I hesitated for a long time over whether I should stay or try something else, and a few times I almost ‘succeeded’ in leaving academia for the ‘real’ business world, where there are ample opportunities to work with customer and service-oriented business development. After careful consideration and for partly different reasons, I decided to stay each time. At this point, I am no longer considering the alternative, since I think there are so many and exciting possibilities for us researchers to direct and redirect our interests and work together with companies and other stakeholders. 

Maria Holmlund-Rytkönen
Professor of Marketing and Dean of Programmes and Quality Assurance,
Centre for Relationship Marketing and Service Management (CERS),
Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki, Finland).