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2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Inés Alegre, IESE Business School

Inés Alegre

Assistant Professor

IESE Business School

What makes a great professor? It’s certainly not flouting the breadth and depth of knowledge. That’s a given. Instead, great teaching boils down to two talents – and IESE’s Inés Alegre possesses both in spades.

For one, she makes students excited to come to class, exuding an energy that Antoine Crettex describes as “contagious.” Even more, she is able to distill complex ideas and processes into simple and memorable terms. In doing so, she has opened up the possibilities for her students. “I do not have a quantitative background and always struggled,” writes Pape Nicholls (’18). “Inés made our data analytics course so simple that I actually enjoyed it the subject and decided to deepen my knowledge on that topic after the end of the first-year MBA.”

Alegre has always been a teacher in one form or another. As a young adult, she tutored children. As an adult, this mother of three has taught math to prisoners. However, business students are unquestionably her favorite group to teach. “MBA students usually come from a successful early professional career, but they all want a change: more success, more challenges, a different industry, more international exposure, more responsibilities…It is a pleasure to hear their stories and concerns and help in this particular time of their lives.”

Age: 38

At current institution since what year? 2016

Education: (title of degree, area of study, institution and year obtained)

Industrial Engineering degree, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 2004

PhD in Management, IESE Business School, 2013

List of courses you currently teach:

Decision Analysis

Quantitative Methods for Management

Twitter handle:

I don’t have any.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…since I was very young. When I was 15, I was teaching math to kids who were 10. When I was 20, I was teaching those who were 16 and so on. I soon realized that the older the students, the more I enjoyed teaching them. In addition, the more international, the more enjoyable as well. Where could I find both post-graduate and international students? At a business school!

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

I am currently conducting research on decision-making in online environments. More precisely, in crowdfunding and crowdlending contexts. Why would people lend money online to complete strangers? And that’s the point. Platforms that succeed are those able to transform complete strangers into trustworthy individuals. Building relationships online is as important as offline.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…I would be a medical doctor. I think both professions have many commonalities. At the core of both is caring about the other. Caring about the patient or caring about the student.”

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

I think my students appreciate that I am cheerful, energetic, I have a close relationship with the students and I am able to clearly explain somehow difficult concepts.

One word that describes my first time teaching:

Strong heart-beating

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

“Humble and Kind” from Tim McGraw

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

The students! They are my “reason to be”. If I can teach anything useful to them, something they can use in their future careers, it is worth the effort.

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

How challenging it is to manage so many different nationalities, each of them with their sense of humour and their preferences.

Professor you most admire and why:

There are so many! I do admire some because they know how to engage very well with students, like José Antonio Segarra (IESE). I admire others because their capacity to do academic research like Ethan Mollick (Wharton). Others are extremely smart, like Antonio Dávila (IESE), my PhD thesis adivsor. Others because of their strong ethical values, like Juan Carlos Vazquez-Dodero (IESE). Is not possible to say only one.

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

MBA students usually come from a successful early professional career, but they all want a change: more success, more challenges, a different industry, more international exposure, more responsibilities…It is a pleasure to hear their stories and concerns and help in this particular time of their lives, if possible.

What is most challenging?

To not disappoint and bore those that know a lot about the subject I teach and don’t lose those that do not know much. Keeping the appropriate level so that everyone enjoys the class.

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

Eager to learn

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

Passive

What is the most impressive thing one of your students has done?

Doing an MBA and, at the same time, having a family to take care of and a company to manage. Some students have an amazing capacity.

What is the least favorite thing one has done?

Being rude or disrespectful.

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

Participate, engage, enjoy, learn and perform.

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

Nice and fair.

But I would describe myself as…

Strict and fair.

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

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Fun fact about yourself:

I have three daughters and I am currently expecting…another girl!

What are your hobbies?

Inviting friends for dinner, cooking, chatting, reading

How will you spend your summer?

Hiking in the Pyrinees and always a small family trip with my husband and daughters.

Favorite place to vacation:

Alella, a small town in the coast, close to Barcelona, Spain.

Favorite book:

Recently, My Brilliant Friend from Elena Ferrante.

A classic: Man’s Search for Meaning from Victor Frankl

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

I don’t watch movies or television shows, so I cannot tell.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

Vasco Rossi and Bryan Adams, each of them bring me memories of great moments of my life.

Bucket list item #1:

Distinguish between important and urgent

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

My first publication. It was not in a very good journal, but just seeing my name there made me feel I started to really belong to the academic community.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?

The standing ovation of my students when I finished one of my courses. It made me feel they really appreciated me from the bottom of their hearts.

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

Much more ethical values, self-reflection, getting-to-know-yourself type of subjects. To be a good manager is not enough to have excellent technical knowledge and skills, but is also necessary to be a good person.

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what? Many companies and organizations can do a better job on environmental sustainability, on fairly treating their employees, on eliminating any type of discrimination… Companies and organizations play a big role on improving this planet.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you

Success would mean I have been able to form a happy and united family. To educate my daughters to be deep, not superficial. To have good friends and have contributed a little to a better world. Professionally, I would consider a success if I can continue working at IESE for many years. If I have been able to publish at top level and if students continue to enjoy my classes as much as I do enjoy teaching.

Students say…

“As a professor, she is very engaging and patient. She knows how to conduct the class with great structure, but allow for the discussion to flow injecting a little bit of humor from time to time. She demonstrates absolute care for her students and it is always available to solve any doubts or provide further help. Her dedication and professionalism in the classroom are bar none.”

Antonio Recio

“Some of the greatest and rarest attributes I believe we can find in any professor is (1) the ability to repeatedly keep an entire classroom of 70 students engaged with quantitative-heavy materials, at any given time of day, and (2), the ability to convey so much passion in teaching, to the extent that it inspires others to pursue careers out of passion and happiness, rather than financial gain.

Not only does Inés embody both these attributes, but she makes it very clear that they can only be achieved through dedication and hard work, which in her case means very careful class preparations, with so much detail to the extent of planning the jokes she will crack in class to keep students engaged, and anticipated reactions. I find this quite admirable especially considering that she is a mother of 3 and expecting her 4th child.”

Amna Alyamani

“A teacher who used real life decisions and examples to teach us Decision analysis and probability, using her sharp sense of humour, no nonsense approach and her fast passed exercises to get the message across. Whether it was asking us to guess the probability her child was a boy or a girl, telling us how her husband was diagnosed with a serious disease and then asking us what the probability was that the diagnosis was accurate, she kept us on our toes throughout the sessions. And she stepped out, beyond her role as a teacher, and became a mentor and a guide.  She knew how as managers, we needed to be reminded that economics of a deal was only ONE of the parameters to be considered, and we always had to look at the bigger picture. She always went out of her to ensure that we learned- academically and personally, You could always see that she truly cared, that we were her priority and this is why she was such an exceptional teacher!”

Eunice Mudialba (’19)

“Professor Alegre has been able to turn the Decision Analysis course into a learning experience, that makes you not only understand basic decision making processes but it makes you question your own biases in taking those decision. Professor Alegre is able to communicate difficult concepts in a variety of formats utilizing formats such as decision-making polling or simulations of betting situations in class. In addition to making each class a new and different learning format, Professor Alegre deeply cares about her students and makes them question not only the way they make professional decisions but also those of their personal life. Her belief in that learning is not only about becoming a better professional but also being a better individual has left a deep impression on me and is one of the reasons for my high regard for the IESE MBA program.

Maximilian Czymoch (’19)

Inés electrifies her Decision Analysis class and puts purpose on top of the decision processes. With her energy, even statistics are fascinating! Her cases describe real-world decision-making processes and their historical breath-taking failures. You can’t approach decisions processes the same old way after taking her class.”

Jean-Baptiste de Harenne (’19)

DON’T MISS: THE WORLD’S 40 BEST BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS UNDER THE AGE OF 40