Why WTO?

Well, there are lots of reasons…

  • WTO offers the only doctoral program in organizational studies in the United States located in an engineering school.
  • WTO faculty have international reputations as leading researchers in the field of organization studies.
  • WTO doctoral students combine studies in engineering, management, sociology, and psychology to build a unique and balanced perspective on work, technology, and organizations.
  • WTO doctoral students have full access to Stanford’s entire organization studies community which is one of the largest in the country.
  • WTO welcomes applications from students with either social science or technical degrees. The mixing of engineering and social science is the department’s trademark.
  • WTO faculty work closely with a tightly knit cohort of WTO doctoral students.

If we are to successfully adapt to today’s new technical environment, we must understand how technologies affect day-to-day activities and perceptions. In WTO, you will learn to understand the important interactions among technology, work and organizing so that some day you can potentially affect the course of these changes directly. Lab meetings are hosted by WTO and held several times a quarter. Good food brings us together, news sharing builds our community, and discussion of early stage research by one faculty member or student shapes our research and the construction of our identity as scholars studying work, technology, and organization. The objectives of our lab meetings are to foster community development, norms, and group mentoring between faculty and students in WTO. To achieve the objectives, meetings are open only to WTO faculty and students.



Daisy Chung
Daisy Chung

Cass Business School, City University London
Graduated in 2014
Advisor: Steve Barley

WTO prides itself on training organizational researchers who want to make a career out of studying some configuration of work, technology, and organization using the most effective methods for the problem at hand. Although we certainly drink from the firehose of organizational and sociological theory for the first few years, our choice of research projects is fundamentally grounded in the phenomena. As a result of my training, I consider myself an ethnographer who seeks an interesting phenomenon first and worries about theory development later. I feel that I have both the conceptual breadth and methodological flexibility to transform data into significant and impactful publications. In a nutshell, the heart of WTO’s game – and its great strength – is that it pushes students to seek out new problems and become experts in new territory. I have no doubt that my future projects will reflect this spirit and will keep me excited about doing organizational research throughout my career.

Stine Grodal

Boston University
Graduated in 2007
Advisor: Steve Barley

Choosing a PhD program is hard. I traveled to visit most of the top business schools before choosing to come to WTO. My first exposure to the students and faculty at WTO won me over. I felt instantaneously part of a community of scholars. Being a student at WTO was fun, inspiring, and transformative. The faculty at WTO have built an amazing environment of mentorship and collegiality that is unprecedented. The training that I received has prepared me well for the innovative and demanding job of being a faculty member in a business school. What is even better it has provided me with a life-long network of friends and colleagues that I continue to draw on to advance my scholarly work to this day. My years at Stanford were some of the best of my life.

Paul Leonardi

Northwestern University
Graduated in 2007
Advisors: Steve Barley and Diane Bailey

I came to WTO with a background in Communication Studies and was a bit apprehensive about joining a Ph.D. program in an engineering school. I quickly discovered that I actually had a lot to say to engineers and that they were quite interested in how social science research could provide insights that could help design better technologies and better organizations. Just like ethnographers, engineers are empiricists who want to understand how and why the world works. After nearly four years working in the WTO I am now confident in my ability to translate insights from social scientific research into implications for technology design, implementation and use. I would encourage anyone who has an interest in the study of work in technical settings to consider all they can learn from studying at WTO.

Tsedal Neeley

Harvard Business School
Graduated in 2007
Advisor: Pam Hinds

My time at WTO, and at Stanford as a whole, was life changing! WTO’s philosophy of using fieldwork to closely examine work and work practices led me to discover firsthand how powerful knowledge creation can stem from observing the everyday realities at the workplace.  Being deeply embedded in an organization revealed aspects of language and globalization’s effects on work that had never been considered in the organizations’ literature. Furthermore, at WTO there was always an ongoing project around me that knew no bounds, and observing such projects and doing my own taught me to design field studies that are large in scope and scale. My experience at WTO and Stanford led directly to the project I am currently studying: the language and globalization process of an organization across nine countries. I would have never been able to design and implement this type of study had it not been for my training at WTO.

Andrew Nelson

University of Oregon
Graduated in 2007
Advisor: Steve Barley

When I applied to PhD programs, I knew that I had an interest in technology and organizations and I knew that WTO hosts some of the world’s foremost scholars in that area. What surprised me was the level of hands-on engagement, not just in terms of direct faculty mentorship but also through in-depth and probably unmatched fieldwork experience. Ultimately, I learned that a PhD through WTO isn’t just a PhD through WTO; it’s a PhD that takes advantage of the tremendous faculty and resources across Stanford’s many departments and schools, along with the innovative organizations spread throughout Silicon Valley.

Victor Seidel

Babson College
Graduated in 2005
Advisor: Bob Sutton

During my doctoral studies the Stanford Center for Work, Technology, and Organization provided an always engaging and truly collegial environment in which to learn the craft of scholarship in these important areas. Indeed, the Center set the standard for the type of academic community I hope to foster myself in the years ahead.

Mark Mortensen

Graduated in 2004
Advisor: Pam Hinds

Choosing to get pursue my degree within the WTO was one of the best, and easiest decisions I’ve made. When I arrived at the WTO, trained as a Computer Scientist, I was completely unfamiliar with organizational theory or behavior. During my time in the WTO my interactions with the faculty and students were an ideal mix of intellectual rigor, curiosity, freedom and support. The WTO’s intellectual vibrancy was matched only by the tireless mentoring of its world class faculty who helped me find my intellectual interests and voice. With access to Stanford’s diversity of disciplines and scholars and immersed in the technology-hub of Silicon Valley, I couldn’t have found a better intellectual environment for the study of Work, Technology and Organization.

Siobhan O’Mahony

Boston University
Graduated in 2002
Advisor: Steve Barley

I came to WTO because I knew that I wanted to do field research and I was interested in how technology was affecting people’s lives – at work or at home. What I did not know was that I would be trained among the very best in the field. Since I have left and become a faculty member, I have developed a renewed appreciation for the type of training that WTO offers – there are very few institutions like it! Doing field work is hard – the rules that are written are inadequate to describe the process. Thus, you need to learn by doing and doing so with the best is just invaluable. I realize now that the degree of care and attention that the WTO faculty spends with graduate students is not the norm, but that it is essential to the training of a doctoral student. In addition, as a social scientist in an engineering school, you develop a behind the scenes appreciation for engineering culture and how technologies are developed, interpreted, and adapted. I learned far more than I realized and I miss that now.