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Best 40-Under-40 Professor Maxim Sytch

Maxim Sytch of Michigan's Ross School of Business

Maxim Sytch of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Maxim Sytch

Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations

Age: 35

Institution: Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Since: 2009

Before current institution: Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (PhD), Merrill Lynch, Central Bank of the Russian Federation


Hometown: Kiev, Ukraine

Marital status: Married

Children: Two boys (ages 3 and 1)


Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

PhD in Management and Organizations (2009)

Courses currently teaching: Leading People and Organizations (Full-time MBA core course), Influence and Persuasion (Executive Education), Leading through Social Capital (Executive Education)

Fun fact: I attended the same school as Vladimir Lenin and gave tours in his classroom to groups of international tourists.

Professor you most admire: Ron Burt (University of Chicago, Booth School of Business). He has a unique combination of intellectual horsepower, quality of ideas, teaching skills, and drive.

Most memorable moment as a professor: Shortly after I joined the faculty at Michigan, one of my MBA students asked me to meet with him and his teammates about a case competition in which they were participating. I was intrigued by the students’ ideas, and because the theme of the competition overlapped with some of my research, I was able to provide useful resources for them to move forward. Furthermore, the discussion developed in very interesting and sometimes unexpected ways; as such, what was scheduled as a 30-minute meeting evolved into a 2-hour conversation. I had honestly forgotten about this interaction until about 18 months later, when the team’s student leader sent me a very thoughtful letter. In that letter, he expressed that our meeting was the defining moment of his entire business school experience, because he gained great ideas and saw my passion, genuine care, and willingness to develop students. Although this feedback was certainly flattering, this is not why I remember the story to this day. Instead, I remember it because to me, our interaction seemed to be a regular meeting, and I had totally forgotten about it. To the student, it was the defining moment of his time at Ross. This asymmetry in perception was striking. The moments I spent reading and reflecting on that letter made it exceptionally vivid to me how our experiences (and educational experiences, in particular) are constructed from sequences of episodes. Indeed, the significance of any given episode is truly in the eye of the beholder. Since that point, as I teach and interact with students, I try to be less preoccupied with what I personally think are the most valuable, significant, or otherwise meaningful insights or lessons. I try to remain extremely open to the students’ feedback to add value and meaning to their learning experiences.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…” Perhaps I would be either a neurobiologist or an oncological surgeon. I was reading about both fields while I was in school, and I liked the biological sciences. Also, growing up in Russia, my professional qualification test scores would have allowed me work at the KGB. There is a certain degree of mystique that surrounds being a spy!

Just four years after receiving his PhD in Management and Organizations from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Maxim Sytch has a resume filled with achievements—eight pages of them, to be exact. From research publications and book reviews to conference presentations and academic awards, this 35-year-old at the University of Michigan’s Ross School is definitely a star professor on the rise. His research centers on the social structure of inter-organizational relations: how these ties form, how they evolve, and how they aggregate into globally connected social systems.

Maxim Sytch is among “The World’s 40 Best B-School Profs Under the Age of 40