2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Ahmed Tahoun, London Business School

Ahmed Tahoun

Assistant Professor of Accounting

London Business School

You might say that London Business School’s Ahmed Tahoun is interested in the dark side of business. Corporate scandals, crony capitalism, and questionable behaviors by lawmakers to protect their business interests are a few of the critical topics he explores as an award-winning and highly respected researcher. Others include the economic consequences of transparency and the politics of financial markets. Inside the classroom, these scenarios are brought to life through role playing. Tahoun uses theater techniques to immerse students into the different characters, personas, and circumstances that often undergird that dark side of business. A mix between acting out different personas and stimulating debates on serious accounting issues and MBA students say they are left with a classroom experience that is two-parts emotional and mind-shifting.

Tahoun has been the recipient of four consecutive grants from the prestigious Institute of New Economic Thinking, he’s twice received LBS’s faculty research award, and he is the youngest accounting professor ever to join the editorial board for the academic publication, the Journal of Accounting Research.

Age: 38

At current institution since what year? 2012

Education: PhD in Accounting and Finance, Manchester Business School, 2011; B.Sc., Cairo University (Faculty of Commerce), 2001

List of courses you currently teach: ‘Assessing Performance for Strategy Execution’ and ‘Management Accounting’

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…”  

I was in high school.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

My research ranges from the economic consequences of Arab Spring Revolt in Egypt to the quid-pro-quo relations between US politicians and the corporate world. I have studied the history of corporate scandals and the development of securities law across the world in the past two centuries. I trace the effect of ethnic heritage of CEOs on their compensation package. I also compare the sociology of firms with that of governments and ask whether, when faced with similar problems, such as poor institutions or low trust, both types of organizations adapt in similar ways.

The most significant discovery I have made is that U.S. politicians use their stock ownership in public companies as a way to forge mutually beneficial relations with these firms in such a way that the firm benefits by obtaining government contracts and the politician benefits by receiving campaign donations.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…”

I would be an actor.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

I am completely myself and love to take the audience “into my world” (i.e. demonstrate to them my way of looking at complex problems) when I am teaching.  

“One word that describes my first time teaching”:

Cloud-9.

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? 

Walk Like an Egyptian.

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

Seeing my students happy! Students are truly my life!!

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor”:

It feels like a cold shower when the course ends and I have to say farewell to my students.

Professor you most admire and why:

I can’t name just one, I have to name three:

Professor Laurence van Lent (Frankfurt School), because he invests so much of his time in future talents. Without him, I would not have been able to see my dreams come true. I was so lucky to meet him!!

Professor Daron Acemoğlu (MIT), because he is the archetypical example of an open-minded academic who can already sense my ideas before I can completely articulate them myself.

Professor Martin Walker (Manchester University) is a true scholar who only cares about the creativity of his research and not about the ranking of the journals in which it is published.

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

They always challenge what you say and never take your insights for granted.

What is most challenging?

LBS is the most diverse business school ever. It truly represents the world. So imagine that my job is make the entire world (as represented in my classroom) happy!

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student

Mensch.

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student

Immature.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?

Fully digest what we discuss in class.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …”

Controversial.

“But I would describe myself as …”

Super fair.

Fill in the blank: “If my students can ______________, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

… fill in the blank ☺ …

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Fun fact about yourself:

I am a terrific dancer. I got the moves.

What are your hobbies?

I am a foodie. I love trying new restaurants and cuisines. I also really get a kick out of shopping at Thom Sweeney, the best tailor ever!!

Favorite place to vacation:

Any fantastic beach

Favorite book:

Any book on the history of Egyptian Jews. I’m passionate about this topic on a personal level and have been since I was a child watching Egyptian movies by my favourite Egyptian Jewish actors and actresses.

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

La La Land is my favorite movie as it reminds me that there are much more important things in life than material possessions, such as “simply” love!

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

My taste in music is very mood dependent. Since I am very moody, it’s difficult to give an exact answer to this question.

Bucket list item #1:

Have a cameo in a movie.

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Nominated for the Poets and Quants’ Top 40 Business Professors Under 40.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…”

A required course with the title ‘Relax 101’ to teach students that not everything has to be taken too seriously and remind them that, at the end of the day, they are humans with a life outside work and school

“And much less of this…”

Technology. I want to go back to a teacher oriented style, using a blackboard and white chalk.

Students say:

“Tahoun breathes life into what could otherwise be a very dry and lifeless subject. Best and most engaging course of the term and one of the best professors at LBS. He sticks to the essentials and makes sure students learn the key takeaways without unnecessary additional work and in a fun environment.”

“Outstanding, passionate, and personal. Engaged and caring. Exceptionally vibrant and a breath of fresh air.”

“I have never enjoyed an accounting class as much and only signing up for the Tailored Core taught by professor Tahoun after this class. Since I have run my own business, I understand the value of a lot of things taught so passionately by the professor. One of my best professors ever.”

“Tahoun injects humour, energy, and real-world examples into what is a pretty dry subject. He is a highly attentive lecturer, always willing to explain concepts after class or via email. His creativity really helped me to understand accounting and to enjoy the classes. His teaching style is unconventional as he likes to keep us on our toes, cold calling if we use our phones and challenging us to explain parts of the lecture. This keeps my attention and means I have learnt a lot. He really has been a top teacher for me since I joined LBS!”

“I love Tahoun’s teaching. He’s a real joy to listen to and keeps us listening and giggling at the peculiarities of accounting through his vivid case examples and energetic teaching style.”

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