Meet Walden Alumnus Dr. David Solot
Earning a PhD in I/O Psychology helped ‘build the foundation’ to develop his career.
For Dr. David Solot, one degree led to another. After earning a master’s in clinical psychology and working in the field, he discovered a different area of practice where he wanted to root his career: industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology. To reach his next-level career goals, he decided to take his education further—graduating from Walden with a PhD in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology.
After exploring multiple PhD programs, he launched his academic journey at Walden in 2009, while at the same time working full time and planning his wedding. He says Walden’s online I/O psychology PhD degree program offered the flexibility and excellence he needed.
“I must say that Walden’s education is just of fantastic quality. I really loved it,” he says. “The faculty members are great. As long as you apply yourself, can focus without someone always looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re doing the work, then you can get a great education.”
We recently caught up with Dr. Solot at his suburban Philadelphia home to find out more about his Walden online education, life, and career.
WALDEN: Can you tell us about your journey from clinical psychology to I/O psychology?
DR. SOLOT: I had a brick-and-mortar master’s degree from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in clinical psychology. I started thinking that was my path, and the more I did it, the more that I realized I liked aspects of psychology but not the seeing-patients aspect of it. So after I got my degree, I left the clinical side of the field. I did other things for a while—including IT work. Technology is my other area of interest. From there, I started looking for a way to apply my interests in both technology and psychology to the business world.
I started working with a company in Princeton, New Jersey, called Caliper. And I worked with Caliper for a while doing pre-hire assessments and helping employees figure out how they can develop and what their learning paths would be. I had a master’s degree in clinical psychology, but I was doing business I/O psychology. So when the big recession hit in 2008, my wife and I were talking and we realized that if something happened to Caliper, I wasn’t really that marketable, because I had a background in clinical psychology and only a few years’ experience in I/O psychology.
I decided, you know what—I always wanted to earn my PhD. That was my original idea. Let me look for opportunities to get my PhD remotely, and do it in I/O psychology. So that’s what led me to Walden. It was a combination of wanting to be more marketable and wanting to finish the journey I had started. There was a 9-year gap between when I got my master’s in 2000 and when I went back to earn my degree at Walden in 2009.
WALDEN: Congratulations on completing such an impressive academic journey. Why did you decide to earn your PhD in I/O Psych in Walden’s School of Psychology?
DR. SOLOT: I went through a bunch of different options. At the time, I think there was even still some question of, will people look at a purely online program as valid? So, I was thinking, well, can I find a local school that will let me do some virtual school and some on-campus learning? But the first thing that got me looking for an online degree program was that I was working full time and there was no way that I could spend four to five nights a week working a job in Princeton, driving to class, and then driving an hour home. There was just no way I could be able to do it. So, I looked at online schools. What I really liked about Walden is that it seemed committed to the idea of a work-school-life balance. It was very relatable in terms of people in my situation who were already established in their career to some degree and weren’t going to be able to stop working to go back to school. And I think I made a really good decision because after being at Walden for a few semesters, I got married. So, I had to work wedding planning and a weeklong honeymoon into the semester. I took one semester off the entire time, and that’s when my son was born.
WALDEN: Was there a part of your online I/O psychology PhD degree program that you enjoyed most?
DR. SOLOT: I really liked the dissertation process—the capstone process—because it felt like, now I have really established my base. I’ve got all the courses done, and now it’s about doing research and contributing to the field. So, you know, [it was about] the Walden mission of giving working professionals the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can effect positive social change. I’ve done all the reading, listened to all the lectures, taken all the tests, and now it’s time to be contributing back to the field. And once I found my advisor, she was really good about us working on: What do you want to research? How are you going to get a participant pool? Is it a valid experiment? The process was just really exciting.
WALDEN: What was your topic?
DR. SOLOT: My topic was about empowerment in the workplace. And it was about whether different personality types have a different desire to be empowered. Most literature on empowerment says that everyone wants to be empowered in the workplace. My hypothesis was that I’m not sure that is necessarily true. I think there are personality types that want the comfort of, “My job is very laid out for me and I do not want to stretch out in that direction. I want to get good at what I’m doing. Don’t ask me to make the decisions and start planning out strategies. That’s not what I want to do.” Everyone wants to take a different path in career advancement; some people want to grow to become the manager, but other people want to become a better and better specialist at what they do. And that is, luckily, what the research showed.
WALDEN: That sounds fascinating. How has your online I/O psychology PhD degree prepared your for your work in I/O?
DR. SOLOT: When I was working with Caliper in the I/O psychology area before I got my PhD, I felt that I was building a house without a foundation. I knew a lot about psychology, had been a clinical psychologist, and I was learning every day about the application of psychology in the business world. But I had not built the foundations of the basic understandings of the origins of I/O psychology, the concepts around how it applies internationally. With Walden’s education, I’m much more well off, because it gave me the foundations of my field, and then it enabled me to grow from there.
WALDEN: Where have you taken your career since earning your PhD?
DR. SOLOT: I consulted for a while in the assessment and learning industry, helping companies look at how the world of assessment learning has changed in the last few years. Right now, I’m a chief science officer and senior vice president of product management for Sciolytix. What we are doing is building simulations to help train salespeople. So, it’s kind of like a video game. You’re talking to a SIM, an avatar, that has a script, and it is a branching dialogue. So, the SIM will say something like, “We’re interested in using your products, but we have some concerns about how they work with our customers. Can you tell me more about that?” And sometimes you’ll get options on the screen of possible things you can say: “What do you think is the best thing to say at this point?” Sometimes there will be a little microphone on the screen that will say, “Tap on this and say your response to the SIM,” and the SIM responds to your choice, changes the way he/she is interacting with you, and then they ask you another question that you have to answer. So, as you’re training, you’re learning how your reactions to someone in the sales environment will affect the outcome. It is learning, practicing; it’s the ability to go back in and do it safely because you’re not working with a real client. And because it’s not face to face with a real person, you are more socially at ease.
WALDEN: You mentioned Walden’s mission of social change earlier. Can you tell us how that resonated with you?
DR. SOLOT: In the PhD in I/O Psychology program, you had to do four weeklong residencies. (I think it's changed since then.) They had great speakers talk about the impact that they’re making in the world with their degree. They had people talk about their major life’s mission to bring water to communities that don’t have access to fresh water, or to work with the homeless populations in cities like Philadelphia. It was really inspiring to see that people were earning their degrees and then getting out there and making a difference.
WALDEN: You’re originally from New York. What brought you to Philadelphia?
DR. SOLOT: I was living in New Jersey for a while when I met my future wife, who is a Philadelphia native. She lived in Philadelphia her whole life, and as our relationship developed, we realized that we needed to move somewhere so that she could get into Center City for her job, and I needed to be able to drive into central New Jersey for my job. We found Upper Moreland, Pennsylvania, which is about half an hour outside the city. So, Philadelphia has become my home city. I joke that I feel like I’m an adopted son of Philadelphia, because after having grown up in New York City, Philadelphia is everything New York is but it is more accessible, in my opinion, than New York.
WALDEN: It sounds like you’ve really put down roots in the Philadelphia area. Are you involved in your community?
DR. SOLOT: You know, we're investing here; we love the area. We’re just north of the city in Upper Moreland. My wife’s running for her second term on the school board, and you can see all the concerns, all the problems, that need to be addressed. And I’m in my second term on the library board, wanting to see things through to completion—they started renovating the lobby, and they’re upgrading the children's room. So, it’s really rewarding to be involved.
WALDEN: Given your experience earning an online I/O psychology PhD degree at Walden, what insights and advice would you have for prospective students?
DR. SOLOT: The first thing I would tell them is that you will get a great education. But you have to be able to motivate yourself. This is not a college where your instructors are taking attendance, and you have to show up every day for class and sit in the lecture. If you need the focus of you sitting in the classroom every day, and someone has to be on top of you, you would struggle. But if you are more self-motivated and say, “Hey, I want this. I’m going to devote time to it,” then you get this, that you’re really in control—you’re in control of how long it takes to go through the program, you’re in control of how much you get out of it. So, it’s for people that want to learn that way. It’s very liberating. Walden will give you all the tools and the experts. All you have to do is push yourself to show up and do the work, and you will learn.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online PhD in Psychology degree program with six specializations, and a PhD in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology online degree program with six specializations. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
Note on licensure: The PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology is not a licensure program and does not prepare an individual to become a licensed psychology professional.