2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Guillaume Roels, Anderson School

Guillaume Roels

Associate Professor in Decisions, Operations and Technology Management

UCLA Anderson School of Management 

Roels_Guillame-7770[4]Guillaume Roels is an award-winning teacher with a passion for technology and expertise in supply chain performance. At Anderson, he heads up the Easton Technology Leadership program and is the youngest faculty director of any of the business school’s research centers. At 36 years old, Roels has accumulated a handful of “Best Paper” awards for this academic studies, nearly a dozen distinguished and meritorious awards for service to his field and half a dozen awards–faculty and student nominated–for his teaching excellence.

Age: 36

At current institution since: 2006

Education: PhD, Operations Research, MIT

Courses currently teaching: Core Operations & Technology Management course for full-time and executive MBAs

Professor you most admire: All the people who have mentored me, going from my early advisors in Belgium, to Georgia Perakis, my thesis advisor at MIT, and now to my colleagues at UCLA.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when” I am not sure if there was an a-ha moment for me; it all came gradually. Or maybe it was in my genes? My wife often tells me that this job was designed for me. What I love about my job is its richness: tackling complex problems, creating memorable experiences in the classroom, constantly striving for excellence without (too much) day-to-day pressure.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor” I sometimes joke I would be a baker. (I bake my own bread every night.)

Most memorable moment in the classroom or as a professor: When students share their personal experiences. I am a strong believer of joint production; value is co-created not only by my subject expertise but also by my students’ experiences. It’s always a delight when students volunteer to present a few slides about how they used operations in their former/current job, and how the class has improved their understanding of what they could have done differently. I try to facilitate that by memorizing all my students’ names and backgrounds before the quarter starts and calling on their experience whenever possible.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I don’t think there is one I would claim to be the sole responsible for, I am a team player. One recent achievement that comes to mind is the development of the Easton Technology Leadership program, of which I am the faculty director. The program has reached 400 members this year and has, I’d like to believe, contributed to transforming UCLA Anderson into a “tech hub” as you described in a former article.We are still in startup mode, and continuing to grow…

What do you enjoy most about teaching? Getting students to review and reflect on how they “operate”. Everyone is involved in processes of some sort, everyone has to manage scarce resources (including one’s own time), so adopting an operations-mindset often proves itself invaluable. To be more relevant, I keep developing new material that directly appeals to students; this year, for instance, I introduced a session about agile project management and lean startup. I have also had several EMBA students implementing some of the tools/concepts I have taught. As a teacher, this is the best reward I could hope for. Besides that, I would say I enjoy the level of energy, the interaction, and the fun we have over the 10 weeks of the quarter.

What do you enjoy least? What I call “managing below the line,” in reference to Jaikumar’s celebrated HBR article. In my job, these “below the line” activities involve printing handouts, dealing with computer issues, writing on the board with dry markers, etc. Throughout the years, I have tried to improve my teaching process so that those issues do not occur too often, but I haven’t achieved perfection yet.

Fun fact about yourself: Though I have played with computers since I was 12 (coding in Basic), I still type with two fingers.

Favorite book: Would I dare to say “The Goal”? This book has had so much impact on people’s view on operations that it is now a classic. I also enjoy reading about behavioral economics. Though my recent research builds a lot on Kahneman’s “Think Fast, Think Slow”, I found “Nudge” by Thaler and Sunsteinto be very pragmatic.

Favorite movie: Wings of Desire, by WimWenders. A wonderful movie about humanity.

Favorite type of music: Eclectic, from electro to indie songs. I am constantly in search for the latest discovery.

Favorite television show: I am not watching too many shows (as I have limited time), but I very much like House of Cards (still in Season 2). I like the show more for the intricate story line than for the role model — I hope I will never be as manipulative as Frank Underwood.

Favorite vacation spot: Any mountain summit.

What are your hobbies? Running marathons, hiking, bike riding, and playing with Legos with my three sons.

Twitter handle: I don’t have a Twitter account. I would have too much trouble summarizing my thoughts into 140 characters.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have” I don’t think there is a unique model of the business school of the future. To the contrary, I believe that online technologies will lead to a proliferation of business models for business schools. However, the business school I would like to be part of would be a business school that would leverage technology to enhance the classroom experience and deepen the interaction with its students.

Students say…

“Professor Roels challenges students to explore the course material through a combination of real-world examples, media, and artfully presented theory.”

– student survey

“As ambitious as he is approachable, Roels integrates students’ backgrounds and experiences seamlessly with the lessons of the course, using the diversity of the student body as a landscape for applying learnings across industries.”

– student survey

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