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2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Ruben Mancha, Babson College

Ruben Mancha

Assistant Professor of Information Systems

Babson College

Mancha is a motivator. Like any great coach, he brings out the best in his students by knowing how to read them. Like a chameleon, he adapts to their needs. Sometimes, he can breathe fire-and-brimstone to take the intensity up a notch. Other times, he is the understanding and supportive big brother who’ll re-assure his pupils that everything will turn out just fine. “Professor Mancha’s passion to teach is contagious,”writes one of his students. “It just makes one want to study the subject. The amount of effort and personal interest the professor shows in every student is commendable.”

That’s not easy to do, particularly for someone who teaches information technology, a topic that makes students trained in the liberal arts quake. But Mancha brings that special touch that turns fear into fervor. How? He has faith in his students. “This faith makes you wait for the class, even if you are scared of the subject,” explains another of his students. “His enthusiasm is infectious enough to make a student curious.”

Like any master teacher, Mancha is always seeking that small edge to better reach his students. “I rely on novel experiential projects and encourage learning beyond the classroom to cultivate technology competence on my graduate students,” he writes to Poets&Quants.”Last semester, we prototyped wearable devices and conceived startups, marrying hands-on development and entrepreneurship. Most students had never programmed and found the project revealing – several have continued working on it!” More than that, Mancha goes above-and-beyond the open door policy by going out to where his students are.”My one-to-one approach to teaching has led me to mentor half-dozen startups, offer personalized workshops, become the faculty advisor of a new Internet of Things Club, and sponsor several Women in Technology initiatives.”

Age: 35

At current institution since: 2015

Education: Ph.D. in Information Technology, 2010 – The University of Texas at San Antonio; M.S. in Management of Technology, 2005 – The University of Texas at San Antonio; B.S. in Food Science and Technology, 2003 – University of La Laguna (Spain)

List of courses you currently teach: Core Information Technology courses in the full-time MBA program and in the M.S. in Entrepreneurial Leadership.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I research how individuals and organizations innovate with digital technologies.  I have developed a quotient of digital innovativeness to help organizations assess digital talent, and I am currently studying the digital strategies of tech startups and incumbent organizations undergoing digitalization.

Professor you most admire: Too many to mention them all. I would single out two people who had an influence early in my academic career: my first mentor, Dr. Matias Reina Artiles, who showed me the importance of patience and persistence in research; and my dissertation advisor, late Prof. Jan Guynes Clark, who was always kind with her students and helped me develop a passion for business teaching and scholarship.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I taught the first business course. I always knew I wanted to be a researcher, but it was not until I taught for the first time that I realized how much a professor’s roles of teaching and research reinforce each other: teaching makes me a better researcher and communicator, and researching a more relevant and engaging teacher.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I would be a sci-fi writer or a biotechnologist.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Stimulating

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: Every time a student tells me: “Professor Mancha, I have been working on a business idea and would like to share it with you and receive your input.” Nothing comes close to listening to passionate students and offering advice and support to see their idea become a reality.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? When former students contact me years after graduation to tell me how my class changed their way of thinking about technology and their career paths, and being part of the Babson community.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? The opportunity to have an impact on others through my teaching and research. The flexibility to set my own research agenda and collaborate with brilliant colleagues.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Conferences in idyllic places (what is with the conferences in places like Hawaii and New Zealand?)

What is your favorite company and why? I particularly admire companies that seek ways to balance economic and social value creation. I have two current favorite organizations I am researching: GE, for its commitment to gender parity in technology, and Nestlé, for its commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Fun fact about yourself: I enjoy molecular gastronomy – my wife prefers I do not experiment with dinner

Bucket list item #1: Spend a summer doing research at the Santa Fe Institute.

Favorite book: “Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge” by Edward O. Wilson and “The Nature of Technology” by Brian Arthur.

Favorite movie: The Pursuit of Happyness, Whiplash, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and Star Wars

Favorite type of music: I have a diverse taste in music, but I particularly enjoy acoustic pop and alternative.

Favorite television show: The Big Bang Theory

Favorite vacation spot: Madrid

What are your hobbies? Traveling, hiking, cooking, and knitting

Twitter handle: @RubenMMancha

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…a greater focus on sustainability, transdisciplinarity, and experimentation. It would be more like an innovation and incubation center, and it would use technology to deliver student experiences not limited by geography.”

Students say:

The atmosphere in prof. Mancha’s classroom is unique: you feel you can say and ask anything, and even though you have no idea what is going on, prof. Mancha has that ability to clarify complex concepts in seconds.”

“I highly recommend professor Mancha as one of the most outstanding, inspiring, and impactful MBA professors because he literally changed my life through his lecture during the class and a mentoring outside of the class. He had a clear goal, which I assume was to give students a chance for experiencing as may as cutting edge technology to understand technical boundary for the idea that disrupt industry. Since professor Mancha supported me inside and outside of the class, I was able to create a concrete idea backed by cutting edge technology and raise a seed fund for my startup.”

“Professor Mancha’s class had a huge positive impact on my career. I gained confidence to apply for summer internships in IT and successfully became an innovation project manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts. I consider professor Mancha the most remarkable professor at Babson.”

“From the beginning, up to the very last day of classes, he has always been energetic and passionate about passing his extensive knowledge down to us. His frank and genuine aim to help us learn was evident to everyone, as he consistently went beyond the class time to clarify topics, organized extra sessions for those with particular interests such as SAP, and spent an exorbitant amount of time outside class working individually with students on their IT Fall projects, including me in particular. Despite the overload, he always went the extra mile and was available around the clock, responding to questions and issues with confidence, eagerness, and sincere interest.”

“He pulled no punches and his trial-by-fire style has aided me and my cohort immensely in the working world since graduation. I can say without question that without his groundwork, I would be much less of an analyst than I am.”

DON’T MISS: THE FULL 2017 ROSTER OF THE WORLD’S 40 MOST OUTSTANDING BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS UNDER 40