Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Management and Policy

First Advisor

Julia Melkers

Second Advisor

Juan Rogers

Third Advisor

Gordon Kingsley

Fourth Advisor

Ruth Kanfer

Fifth Advisor

Christine Roch


Vast technological innovations have been transforming labor markets and workplaces. Against this background, identifying ways to foster a skilled and resilient technical workforce and determining what role industry, higher education institutions, and policymakers play in this regard has become a core concern of political and societal debates. The dissertation contributes to this discourse by looking at how adults working in tech decided to invest in skill development and professional advancement through the pursuit of an online graduate degree in computer science. The dissertation seeks to understand whether, when, and how social networks influenced this decision process. The focus on networks is important since it addresses a distinct gap as to how decision-making has traditionally been conceptualized. The results support the central argument that the decision to pursue an online graduate degree is seldom an internal, autonomous thought process, but is often shaped by social relationships through consultation, advice, and support. Family members, friends, coworkers, supervisors, and acquaintances all matter in this process – albeit to varying extents and in different capacities. A complex set of individual and contextual factors influence the broad range of social support-seeking during decision-making. The results validate the importance of examining professional development choices in social contexts, offer several theoretical and policy implications, and open avenues for future research.