Some people are just born to teach. That’s the case with Auyon Siddiq. The 32-year-old assistant professor of Decisions, Operations, and Technology Management at the University of California-Los Angeles Anderson School of Management didn’t receive the most nominations out of all the professors included on this year’s Best 40 Under 40 List. But he might’ve received the most in-depth and thoughtful endorsements. He’s truly an overwhelming student-favorite, which is impressive considering he’s one of the youngest professors on this year’s honor roll.
“Siddiq went above and beyond as a professor,” one nominator told us. “He found fresh and exciting ways to teach Statistics and periodically checked-in on our progress. If we struggled, he spent extra time outside of the classroom to explain using a new approach.”
Added an admiring teaching colleague: “I have co-taught with Auyon for the past two years. He is a gifted and creative teacher and works tirelessly to convey difficult material (statistics) to students in an easy-to-digest manner. He is also doing cutting edge research in optimization, machine learning, and healthcare.”
While he’s only been at UCLA as a full-time professor for about two years, he brought loads of experience — and awards — from his time as a Ph.D. student at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. At Haas, he won the Executive MBA Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award as well as a UC Berkeley Teaching Effectiveness Award.
“Professor Siddiq is a fantastic instructor and was able to take complicated concepts in statistics and distill them in a way to help students from non-quant backgrounds,” wrote another recommender. “He was extremely patient and thorough in his explanations and would always go the extra mile to ensure his material was valuable, relatable, and well-understood. I also had the opportunity to TA for Professor Siddiq, and he treated me with nothing but respect. He took an active interest in my professional and personal life and I truly felt like this was someone who deeply cared about those around him.”
Outside of the classroom, Siddiq says he plays electric guitar, follows the NBA, and binge-watches comedy with his wife and cat.
Assistant Professor (Decisions, Operations & Technology Management)
Current age: 32
At current institution since what year? 2018
Education: Ph.D. in Operations Research, UC Berkeley
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Data and Decisions
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I realized being a professor allows you to wear many different hats. At Anderson, I have the opportunity to interact with energetic students in the classroom, conduct research on important problems that interest me and mentor our fantastic Ph.D. students. It has been a very rewarding experience so far.
What are you currently researching?
My current research focus is to build models to investigate incentive problems that arise in public policy. For example, how should the federal government design payment contracts for Medicare providers to improve the cost-efficiency of healthcare delivery? How can a municipal government use consumer subsidies to incentivize greater adoption of public transit? My work aims to combine ideas from statistics, optimization, and game theory to shed light on these and other issues that are vital to the public interest.
If I weren’t a business school professor… I would probably be getting re-acquainted with my engineering roots by working in a startup.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I try to bring a lot of empathy into the classroom, which I hope keeps students engaged in the course material. I am a big believer that confidence is key when learning anything new, and so I try my best to cultivate that in my students, no matter their prior experience in the subject matter.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Humbling.
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:
Keep it simple in the classroom, and slow down. I learned in my first year of teaching that a quantitative concept that is straightforward for me may not be for a student that is seeing it for the first time. Less is usually more.
Professor I most admire and why:
My pick is a historical figure: Richard Feynman. He was a legendary Nobel prize-winning physicist, but almost equally celebrated for what he emphasized as a teacher: simplicity, clarity, and precision. I think those pedagogical values cut across all disciplines.
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
Anderson MBA students are definitely not a shy bunch – they challenge me and hold me accountable in the classroom. I welcome this because it pushes me to improve as a teacher and communicator.
What is most challenging?
I teach the core MBA statistics course at Anderson. It can sometimes be challenging to connect the more abstract concepts that arise in probability and statistics to business practice. This forces me to think carefully about how to best engage my students in the course material, and is something I am always working on improving.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Enthusiastic.
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Late-for-class.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Reasonable.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
I play electric guitar, follow the NBA, and binge stand-up comedy with my wife and cat.
How will you spend your summer?
Working on my research and preparing for fall semester teaching.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Bali, Indonesia.
Favorite book(s): A Clockwork Orange.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
The Sopranos. It laid the groundwork for a lot of modern TV!
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
I’ve been a big fan of Queen since I was a teenager.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Experiential learning. I think the “sage on a stage” lecture format has its limitations, and business schools would do well to emphasize collaborative and hands-on learning in addition to lectures.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…
Building a culture of data literacy. Many organizations have taken significant and important steps towards developing their analytics capabilities, often by hiring data scientists. What I think is equally (if not more) valuable than building a specialized team of experts is to develop an organization-wide appreciation for the fundamentals, such as using data to quantify uncertainty, or identifying and tracking key metrics. Organizations that emphasize broad data literacy alongside hiring specialists will be ahead of the curve in their ability to extract value from data.
I’m grateful for… The extremely supportive work environment at Anderson, and being able to walk through the beautiful UCLA campus every day.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“Professor Siddiq translates complex concepts in statistics to understandable, impactful blocks. After taking his course, I feel more prepared to not only understand advances in statistics, big data, and machine learning in my career, but also understand how to spot manipulated data that can be harmful to consumers and citizens.”
“Professor Siddiq is very patient and cares deeply about the learning experience of his students. He did a good job making statistics interesting. I enjoyed his instruction and his class really built a great foundation for the remaining advanced classes in business schools.”
“Professor Siddiq is one of the most well-liked and well-respected professors at UCLA Anderson. He teaches stats in way that is both intuitive and enjoyable. His greatest skill is his ability to connect concepts back to the real world while maintaining a high level of engagement from the rest of the class.”