Assistant Professor of Business Administration
Harvard Business School
Andy Wu describes his first time teaching business as intimidating. Considering he was 25-years-old and teaching full-time MBAs at Harvard Business School, intimidating might be an understatement. Now, at 28, Wu is just now catching up in age with current full-time MBAs at HBS. If that wasn’t intimidating enough, as a 27-year-old, the assistant professor of business administration was teaching an executive course to CEOs and presidents, all of which were between 45 and 65 years old.
“As one of the youngest professors who taught first-year strategy course at HBS, Andy brings life to our everyday case discussions,” one nominator told us. “Whether through bringing the entire SKU of energy drinks to class on a Red Bull case or getting the school to buy ice creams for the entire class for a discussion on Ben and Jerry’s, his dedication to quality and lively classroom discussion is always apparent. Always in tune with the cutting edge of technology, Andy authored technology-focused cases to bring the latest trends to our strategy course, which was dominated by older, classic cases. Although new to teaching, Andy has shown dedication to perfecting his teaching style, as shown as the briefcase of documents he wheeled in every class. Room for improvements aside, I believe Andy has the potential to be a great professor through his technology-heavy research and attention to teaching.”
As an undergraduate at MIT, Wu says he was coxswain for the crew team (the small person on the boat that doesn’t row and instead yells out directions). Plus, he honed his projection chops by leading undergraduate tours for future MIT students. It’s no wonder the majority of his nominations praised his energy and engagement in the classroom.
Current Age: 28
At current institution since what year? 2016
Ph.D. and M.S., in Applied Economics, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
S.B. in Economics and in Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
List of current MBA courses you currently teach: Strategy & Technology (Elective Curriculum), Strategy (Required Curriculum)
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR:
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was inspired to be a business school professor after I took my first entrepreneurship class, 15.390 New Enterprises, as an undergraduate at MIT, where I majored in the comparatively abstract subjects of economics and mathematics. This was the first applied class that I took. I loved the insights from the instructors and guest speakers, and the students in the class were deeply passionate about the topic, since they wanted to go out and take what they had learned into the real world. I wanted to be a part of this system that trained and mentored future business leaders.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
My research studies the role of organizational design in resource mobilization by technology ventures. In other words, I look at how technology entrepreneurs gather resources to serve the market opportunity they’ve identified, and how investors and other resource providers decide which entrepreneurs to support.
In the first-ever study of angel investments by venture capital (VC) partners, where VC partners invest in startups with their own money, I show that these “angel partners” make investments that appear worse on visible characteristics than their employing VC firm (e.g. angel partners founders with less experience), but perform equally as well if not better than the investments made by their employer.
This is best illustrated by an anecdote. C. Richard “Dick” Kramlich was a founding partner at VC firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Entrepreneur Rob Campbell sought additional venture funds for his company Forethought, where he was working on a new program called Presenter to generate text and graphics for overhead transparencies. Forethought faced a lot of challenges including: the engineering on the product was delayed, their largest distributor went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and they were running out of investment money fast. The partners of NEA were unsure about the future of the company and did not like Campbell either. They ultimately decided not to invest.
Dick did not want to let it go. He believed there was something special about the firm and its product that no one else could see. He asked his partners if he could invest with his own money, and they gave him the go ahead. He called his wife to tell her “Pam, stop work on the house. I’m going to fund this company myself.” The company survived, and in early 1987, they renamed their main product “PowerPoint”. Just four months later, Microsoft acquired ForeThought in a lucrative exit for everyone involved. Microsoft eventually integrated PowerPoint into its Office suite of desktop applications, and the rest is history.
Of course, I now exclusively use PowerPoint for all my presentations.
If I weren’t a business school professor… Most likely, I would be a technology entrepreneur. Ideally, I would be a DJ and music producer performing at music festivals and nightclubs. I am still holding out hope that it might happen one day.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I bring a lot of energy and presence to the classroom. A normal class session is quite long, so I make it a priority to keep things lively all the way through the entire class. When I was an undergraduate at MIT, I used to be a campus tour guide and coxswain—the small person on a rowing team that steers the boat and yells at the actual rowers—so I am quite loud.
I am also passionate about working with students one-on-one outside of the classroom on their various business ideas and career aspirations.
One word that describes my first-time teaching: Intimidating.
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:
Even though I dreamed about being a professor for years, I did not expect how terrified I was going to be the first time I walked into my own classroom as a professor. Harvard originally hired me as a professor when I was 25 years old, so when I started teaching, I was younger than the vast majority of my MBA students. I was pleasantly surprised when the HBS students turned out to be very supportive and encouraging of young faculty. I had a similar experience later teaching my first executive education class when I was 27 years old, where participants were 45 to 65 and all CEOs or Presidents.
Professor you most admire and why:
Professor Donald Sadoway of MIT teaches a very popular class on “Introduction to Solid State Chemistry”, available for free online. He brings a combination of passion for topic, intellectual seriousness, and humor that all teachers should strive for.
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
The research and teaching of management is inherently applied. My specific subject area, strategy for technology entrepreneurship, would be without meaning if it didn’t matter to practitioners. MBA students and Executive Education participants bring in years of relevant experience. I learn something new every time I step into the classroom or meet with a student. These insights inform both my scholarly research and course development activities.
What is most challenging?
It is easy for anyone to get caught in the hype or “irrational exuberance” of whatever trend is hot in the market, e.g., internet and information technology in the late 1990s and financial services in early 2000s. In the present moment, there is a lot of incorrect information, unfounded assumptions, and excess emotion floating around that is motivating the high valuation of several technology businesses. Sometimes that exuberance seeps into the classroom, which on the upside can liven the discussion, but to meet my own pedagogical goals I sometimes need to tamper down some of that excitement to ensure students evaluate businesses and industries as critically as possible. In other words, I sometimes have to take the punch bowl away at the party, but it isn’t fun to be that guy.
Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Expressive.
Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Passive.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Mechanical.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM:
What are your hobbies?
Golf, Biking, Skiing, Crew, Lacrosse, DJing, Watching Documentaries, Rubik’s Cubing, Airline Mileage Running
How will you spend your summer?
Conference travel. Teaching. Visiting friends and family.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Singapore. Orlando. Las Vegas. Anywhere in the US (I’ve driven to 47 US states so far).
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan
What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
The King’s Speech. This historical drama documents how King George VI, who suffered from a bad speech impediment, rose to the occasion to serve his country in a time of crisis (World War II). His stammer made him very shy and self-conscious. Speech therapist Lionel Logue steps in to help the king eliminate his stammer while also addressing the personal issues that caused the stammer.
For me, this movie reflects the best of the teacher-student or coach-player relationship. Sometimes, I see myself in the role of King George VI. When I first started teaching and doing research, it was intimidating and there was so much I didn’t know. I was deeply self-conscious whenever I presented research or taught a class. I owe so much to my mentors around me to helping me learn how to teach and do research. Other times, I am in the role of Logue for many of my students. For many years, I’ve been working with first-time entrepreneurs to develop early-stage strategy. These are students for which an opportunity often unexpectedly falls upon them, but they rise to the occasion to achieve the unexpected.
Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Electronic Dance Music (House), Hip-Hop
THOUGHTS OF REFLECTIONS:
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…
Harvard Business School and a small handful of institutions still define themselves by an education model orientated towards teaching students “judgement”, or how to effectively and efficiently make business decisions. I am worried that this has become less common across business schools as the field matures and as business schools proliferate globally. Even as organizations adopt more technology, sound decision-making remains an essential trait for a general manager. We still need to focus on training leaders with good judgement.
In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what?
Iterative management frameworks and practices, such as lean startup, design thinking, and agile, need to be more critically challenged. Managers need to cut through the hype and evaluate if these practices are appropriate for their particular industry and organization. For example, while these practices may work well in the small and flat software development organizations in which originate, they may not have the same value in large and hierarchical organizations in industries like aerospace or energy.
“Andy is an outstanding mentor, advisor, and teacher. After just two years at HBS, he was awarded the Wyss Award for Excellence in Mentoring for his success in mentoring students. From his very first day on campus, Andy has truly prioritized getting to know his students – not only as a mentor, but as a collaborator as well. Andy immediately comes to mind whenever I’m looking for advice. He is incredibly generous with his time and relishes helping others with problems big and small (and in my experience, no problem is too small!). I’ve received valuable guidance from him on everything from job search strategies to statistical coding tips. He’s always happy to share his insights whenever he learns something new. Andy has also been recognized with awards from the Academy of Management and Strategic Management Society (the primary professional organizations in his field) for his research on entrepreneurial ventures.”
“Andy is one of the most consequential professors I’ve had at HBS! He brings his own style to the case method – enthusiasm, passion, humor, and props! It’s no easy task for a professor to lead a case discussion at HBS (let alone someone who is younger like Andy). Outside of class Andy has always been interested in engaging with students. He’s been a trusted counselor/advisor to me on big career decisions and outside initiatives (helping me through my first stint as advisor to a family office on investments in gaming). Andy has also been generous with his time and knowledge as he’s routinely lead/moderated my panel on video gaming during the Asia Business Conference. Andy is a great example of Professors who care deeply about their students inside and outside the classroom. The HBS community and myself are much better off for having Andy!”
“As one of the youngest professors who taught first-year strategy course at HBS, Andy brings life to our everyday case discussions. Whether through bringing the entire SKU of energy drinks to class on a Red Bull case or getting the school to buy ice creams for the entire class for a discussion on Ben and Jerry’s, his dedication to quality and lively classroom discussion is always apparent. Always in tune with the cutting edge of technology, Andy authored technology-focused cases to bring the latest trends to our strategy course, which was dominated by older, classic cases. Although new to teaching, Andy has shown dedication to perfecting his teaching style, as shown as the briefcase of documents he wheeled in every class. Room for improvements aside, I believe Andy has a potential to be a great professor through his technology-heavy research and attention to teaching.”
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