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2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Yasin Alan, Owen Graduate School of Management

Yasin Alan

Assistant Professor

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

Oftentimes it’s the aha moments that make classroom learning such an impactful experience. Students say when they step inside Yasin Alan’s operations MBA course, these moments are not only frequent, they are phenomenal. In fact, as one student shares, “I have six years’ experience in a manufacturing environment specifically focused on operations, yet, during every Yasin Alan lecture I am able to learn something new or have a new “aha” moment.” Mostly, students love this operations management professor from Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management for his passion, precise teaching methods, and an obviously genuine dedication to students. This is exhibited by unfailing availability and a willingness to answer endless amounts of questions should students seek help clarifying course material. A business operations expert whose research examines the link between operations performance and financial performance, Professor Alan says the energy and passion students admire him for are ultimately driven by his motivation for being a professor which is to train future managers and leaders. Professor Alan is a multi-award winning researcher who has been recognized for his service to the operations management discipline.

Age: 34

At current institution since what year? 2012

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

PhD, Production and Operations Management, Cornell University – Johnson Graduate School of Management, 2012

MS, Operations Research, Cornell University – School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, 2008

BS, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Texas A&M University, 2006

List of courses you currently teach: Operations Management (MBA core class) and Supply Chain Management (MBA elective class).

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I was taking an MBA-level supply chain management class from Dean Joe Thomas at Cornell.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? In one of my research streams, I have been trying to establish links between operations and finance. My findings suggest that current operational performance can be a leading indicator of future financial performance. Indeed, operational performance metrics can be better predictors of future financial performance than some widely used financial ratios, but the right metric(s) to measure operational success varies from industry to industry. In another research stream, I have been trying to find ways to make better category management decisions in retailing.  My findings reveal that store brands (e.g., Wal-Mart’s Great Value), which are often overlooked in the operations literature, can significantly influence a retailer’s pricing and assortment decisions and interactions with its supply chain partners.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I would try to be an architect because of my obsession with megastructures.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?  I will go with the most common answer in my student evaluations: My energy in the classroom.

“One word that describes my first time teaching”:

Exhilarating

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

Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

Having the opportunity to train future managers and leaders

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

How much time it takes to prepare for a 90-minute class (regardless of how many times I have taught the same material before)

Professor you most admire and why: Professors Jack Muckstadt and Vishal Gaur at Cornell.  Their ability to balance family life with excellence in research, teaching, and service is phenomenal

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Classroom discussions. When students disagree with me, question the managerial relevance of my teaching content, and/or demand more clear explanations, I feel that I learn from them as much as they learn from me.

What is most challenging?

Again, classroom discussions. Keeping the entire class engaged while maintaining focus on the key learning points is a challenging yet rewarding task.  

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

Skeptical

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

Indifferent

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

A former student excelled at her classes while receiving cancer treatment. Her dedication to learning was beyond words.

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

Show interest in the subject matter and classroom discussions and follow the instructions (e.g., complete assigned readings before class, solve practice problems before quizzes, do not miss deadlines, etc.).

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

Lenient

“But I would describe myself as …”

Lenient but fair

Fill in the blank:

“If my students can name a few key learning points from my class a few years after graduation, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Fun fact about yourself:

You can hear three languages in my house as my wife’s native language is Russian, mine is Turkish, and we communicate in English.

What are your hobbies?

Soccer and cooking

How will you spend your summer?  

Research, research, and more research

Favorite place to vacation:

Mediterranean coastline

Favorite book:

As an operations management professor, I feel obligated to pick The Goal by Eli Goldratt

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

The Godfather trilogy. I cannot think of another movie with so many memorable characters. And the orange scenes are pretty cool.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

Classic rock

Bucket list item #1:

To watch a Barcelona – Real Madrid game in the Nou Camp

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Being part of the Owen faculty. I cannot imagine a more collegial group of scholars.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?  

The moment I read the acceptance email for my first academic publication

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

Cross-disciplinary experiential learning activities

“And much less of this…”

Student absences due to job interviews

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what? Please explain.

They need to do a better job at forming cross-functional teams. Many companies have dedicated teams for different business functions (e.g., operations and marketing) with very little interaction among those teams. I believe that having properly formed cross-functional teams that can foresee the impact of their actions on the entire organization can help organizations find better solutions to their challenges.

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

If I can reach half of my PhD advisor Vishal Gaur’s achievements, I will call it a success

Students say…

“Yasin is the reason I concentrated in Operations at Owen and his course offerings encourage many of my colleagues to appreciate and learn Operations here. His ability to communicate clearly the business impact of operational focus is impressive. He takes the theoretical and makes it tangible. He also has an uncanny ability to go about his daily life with an operational mind, timing simulations and course content to an incredible precision. He is also an amazingly generous professor who is always willing to meet and respond to emails, seemingly, before they are even sent.”

“Professor Alan possesses the ideal combination of intelligence, enthusiasm and willingness to help. As the professor for the Core Operations class, Professor Alan plays an integral role in each MBA student’s base of knowledge. He rises to the challenge by setting a rigorous pace, but also keeps weekly office hours and is additionally available by appointment, to ensure that no students is left behind.”

“I concentrate on finance and strategy at Owen. I mainly focus on investment banking and consulting as my post-MBA career. Prior to attending Prof. Alan’s Operations Management class, I was not very interested in operations itself. I also didn’t have a high expectation about what I could get out of this class. Prof. Alan re-shaped my perspective by putting operations in a much broader scope.”

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