2016 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Sebastian D. Becker, HEC Paris

Sebastian Becker HEC Paris

Sebastian D. Becker

Assistant Professor

HEC Paris

Talk about a wild ride! 15 years ago, Sebastian Becker was delivering pizzas. Today, armed with a Ph.D., he delivers lessons on performance management and measurement systems to future CEOs at HEC Paris. And his teaching philosophy is simple: Have fun. As a result, his students often dress in costumes or engage in pantomime during final presentations. And it’s all for a good cause, Becker explains. “I believe this is great because whatever point they try to bring across it is not only entertaining but also something they for sure have learned and won’t forget easily.” A renaissance man, Becker speaks five languages and has published in outlets ranging from Contemporary Accounting Research to the Journal of Business Economics.

Age: 34

At current institution since: 2011

Education: Ph.D. (Doctorate) in Management Accounting and Control at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management (Vallendar, Germany) in 2011 with research visits at HEC Paris and Università Bocconi; Diploma in Business Administration from EBS University of Business and Law (Oestrich-Winkel, Germany) in 2006.

Courses you currently teach: ‘Management Accounting and Control’, ‘Business Performance Management’, ‘Business Concepts’ in MBA, EMBA, M.Sc., and Ph.D. programs.

Professor you most admire: I could not pin this down to only one person since several professors and practitioners have influenced me (the giants on whose shoulders we stand). Also, I don’t want to embarrass those that I would mention.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…Actually, I did my Ph.D. mainly because I was motivated by the research part of it. I then only grew fond of teaching when I first had to do it when I started to work at my current institution. In general, I think business schools and their international environments are a great place to work since they are filled with many ambitious people wanting to learn and achieve.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…More realistically, I would be perhaps be a consultant or try to have my own business. Less realistically, a professional tennis or football player.”

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: Definitely, whenever students and I have fun and laugh together. For final presentations, students often come in costumes, perform a short theater play, have a dance performance, use my picture in funny ways in their presentations, or copy something weird I do in my lectures. I believe this is great because whatever point they try to bring across it is not only entertaining but also something they for sure have learned and won’t forget easily.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? The moment I found out how to make topics of ‘Management Accounting and Control’ an appealing subject and making students realize it is very central to their future roles in the organizations they seek to influence! For example, knowing how to measure and manage performance, how to set targets, how to plan and forecast the future or how to steer and design organizations to effectively implement strategies are crucial practices for any manager! Often people do not associate these practices with the course title ‘Management Accounting and Control’.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? On the one hand, this is when students get back to me to tell me they really see how the course content will help them or has helped them in their professional lives because they think about things differently. Helping students achieve their goals is very rewarding. Also, I find that I can learn from them and their experiences having lived all over the globe and having worked in all sorts of sectors. I enjoy getting to know them personally during informal chats, receptions, or lunches. On the other hand, my passion is researching my subject area so I also enjoy being able to undertake research projects and engage with new or critical ideas in the research community that change the way we think about certain issues.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? That would probably be the distance to the organizations that we talk about in teaching or at business schools in general. Thus, it is great that I get to work with organizations and observe what they are doing for my research projects and that I can invite practitioners to the classroom. Also, I am not a big fan of grade disputes and the very few times when it seems as if students care more about the grade then about learning something that might be useful for them or the organizations they hope to influence.

Fun fact about yourself: In 2002, after four years of working in pizza delivery and close to 10,000 deliveries, I took on a life insurance so that I could travel to space one day. Now, I obviously have to count on space travel to become much cheaper.

Favorite book: I really liked reading ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts a few years ago.

Favorite movie: The Parisian housing market makes it difficult to find apartments with enough space for a television. But since I do not have a favorite movie I would regularly watch, that’s completely fine.

Favorite type of music: I think that list is quite eclectic: Italian pop music, Opera, Hip Hop and Indian music

Favorite television show: The news, Sportschau (German Bundesliga football show) and other football shows that I watch together with friends.

Favorite vacation spot: Somewhere in Tuscany and around the Mediterranean in general

What are your hobbies? Sports, languages, travel, meeting up with friends

Twitter handle: Thanks to Poets&Quants, I just signed up for a Twitter account: @SebasDBecker

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…an even more diverse body of students, faculty, and importantly, the ability and freedom to engage with a diverse set of disciplines, theories, and methods that help the schools broadly impact organizations and society at large.”

Students say…

“Management Accounting & Control by its very nature is not the most exciting subject at business school. However I know for a fact it was one of our more interesting and interactive classes. This fact is testament to Professor Becker’s unique ability to clearly and concisely convert the subject matter into a well structured course, cleverly balancing both theoretical and practical applications. It doesn’t harm that he is charming, well-humoured and according to our female colleagues, easy on the eye.”
Chris Mcevoy

“Prof. Becker’s enthusiasm for his topic – Management Accounting and Control – made what could be a dry topic into one the most fascinating classes that term. He starts every class with a perfect summary, a pop quiz, or related business news. He uses creative pneumonic techniques to help overwhelmed students remember key concepts and always encourages questions and interaction. He solicits feedback as often as possible.”
Meaghan Kappel

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