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2020 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Alessandro Giudici, City University of London Cass Business School

Alessandro Giudici of City University of London is a Poets&Quants Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professor

With nearly 200 nominations, Cass Business School’s Alessandro Giudici was one of — if not the most — nominated professor on this year’s list. It was tough to ignore the outpouring of praise and positive affirmations, but the 39-year-old strategy professor was a solid candidate even without that massive amount of support. We’re particularly fond of Giudici’s research and work looking at the impact of accelerators, incubators, and venture associations on the growth of sub-Saharan Africa. The research and work has led to the Kenya – Tech for Social Good MBA elective, which Giudici says is a by-product of that research and work. We were also impressed that Giudici won the City, University of London’s university-wide teaching award — the “President’s Award for Excellence in Learning & Teaching” in 2018.

“Outstanding contribution to my research and career, taking what would otherwise be a satisficing piece of research and pushing me to bring it to much higher standards, resulting in findings that are now being applied in the industry through my work as a Business Design Director at Accenture in Hong Kong,” one nominator said of Giudici. Said another: “A genuinely wonderful professor whose devotion to his work is admirable. His passion for the field means his work doesn’t end when he leaves the office, he always has advice when is asked and brings Italian flair and joy to each lecture. The tutor and mentor all business students would deserve. I hope Alessandro gets credit where it’s due.”

In his spare time, Giudici says he is all about the family time. He enjoys the Alps and Dolomites for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. But, “Obviously, the rest of the family prefers going to the beach,” he says.

Alessandro Giudici

Senior Lecturer in Strategy & Director of Modular Executive MBA

Cass Business School (City, University of London – UK)

Current age: 39

At current institution since what year? January 2014

Education: Ph.D. in Strategy & Master of Research from Cranfield School of Management (Cranfield University; UK); 2-year FT MSc degree in Strategic Management & UG degree in Management from University of Pisa (Italy).

List of MBA courses you currently teach:

  • Strategy Project (core module for FTMBA – 5-month long applied consulting project with corporate clients)
  • Introduction to Strategy (induction module for FTMBA)
  • Consulting to Management (elective module run twice for FTMBA and Executive MBAs)
  • International Consulting Week (international core in Vietnam for Modular Executive MBAs)
  • Tech for Good (cross-MBA international elective in Kenya)

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… It all goes down to conversations I had just before completing my studies at the University of Pisa. The owner-CEO of a multinational FMCG company – Luigi Lazzareschi, Sofidel Group – delivered a couple of seminars in the final strategy module and, after a short interview, offered me a job in the UK. It was the sort of first corporate job I really wanted. However, one month later, just before graduation, my supervisor, Umberto Bertini, told me that he believed I should consider becoming an academic. That was a life-changing conversation. After some reflection, I went back to the CEO, who respected this professor greatly, and told him that I was going to accept the job but needed the flexibility to work towards being accepted in a UK PhD program. He agreed and two years later I started my academic journey.

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

I am passionate about understanding how organizations such as incubators and accelerators, venture associations, hubs and the likes orchestrate networks of innovation to create social value. I am also particularly interested in sub-themes like digital innovation and innovation in emerging economies, especially Africa. In one project, I am currently looking at how a large league of cooperatives uses open innovation initiatives to support the creation of digitally savvy cooperative startups. One interesting finding is that over time innovation is ‘trickling up’ to rejuvenate the league itself despite historically strong resistance to change. Other projects look at networks of social innovation across sub-Saharan Africa. My MBA Tech for Good elective in Kenya is a by-product of this research.

If I weren’t a business school professor… ‘Once upon a time’, my vision was a career in corporate management. Therefore, had I not done the PhD, I would have probably continued to pursue a career in FMGC. However, nowadays I am really excited by entrepreneurship. I have my own impact-driven food-tech startup with friends (my students know how much passionate I am about it!) and we raised a couple of seeds from an international investor. We are literally opening to beta-users these days and we will start pilot selling soon. If I wasn’t enjoying academia so much, I’d probably work full time on it. Thankfully, we have a great team.

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

Who knows?! Perhaps two things. First, some my Executive MBA students joke that ‘I care even too much’, which is actually the case. I used to be a student representative as an UG, MSc, and even Ph.D. student. This advocacy mindset is still with me as a faculty and it pushes me both in terms of pedagogy and care. Second, I love applied strategy problems and I lost count of how many projects with corporate clients and technology startups I integrated into my MBA classes or supervised as dissertations. It’s the kind of MBA experience I would have wanted, and I think students appreciate it.

One word that describes my first-time teaching:

In the second year of the PhD, my supervisor asked me to substitute him last minute in an executive MBA class. He told me, with a smile, ‘sink or swim’. Not my best performance, but I guess ‘swim’ is the word. 

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

“Academia is a marathon, not a sprint. Develop routines early on research, teaching and family.” My wife works full time in a high-pressure environment, and we have three young kids. We managed to develop and finetune family routines but that created some delays in finding good ones for research and teaching. Nonetheless, it was the appropriate order for us.

Professor I most admire and why:

I am truly indebted to those who taught me at the University of Pisa, especially Umberto Bertini, Elena Cenderelli, and Stefano Garzella. They took me seriously and planted seeds that shaped my career (and life) substantially. Later, I am very grateful to Patrick Reinmoeller, Gianvito Lanzolla, and Charles Baden-Fuller who mentored me extensively on research and teaching. I learnt tremendously about writing from senior co-authors like Jim Combs and Davide Ravasi. I also admired sincerely Duane Ireland and Mike Hitt who encouraged me in a difficult period of the PhD while I was visiting them at Texas A&M.

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I love sitting with MBA groups for hours discussing their consulting projects. There are always mixed feelings in the room… most students listen and double-down on their effort, some perhaps hate me due to the extra work, but there is always true respect on both sides. We are learning and trying to find solutions together.

What is most challenging?

Bureaucracy. I say it both as a teacher and program director.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student:

At Cass we say that we like ‘dolphins’, i.e., students who are ready to work hard together with us and their peers but also have a positive attitude and are ready to provide constructive feedback. I run nearly all admission interviews the Modular Executive MBA, and my priority is to build a cohort of dolphins with strong CVs. The latter alone is rarely enough to be accepted.

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Arrogant.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Tough, but fair and transparent.

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies?

Family time – especially watching movies with my kids and taking my wife out for mystery (for her) dinners, – traveling, reading, and running.

How will you spend your summer?

Normally, I would spend most of the time juggling kids between grandparents, going to conferences, and volunteering. This Summer, if traveling back is still problematic due to COVID-19, I might actually relax and work on research.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Alps and Dolomites, skiing in Winter and hiking in Summer. Obviously, the rest of the family prefers going to the beach.

Favorite book(s): The Lord of the Rings and the whole series of Nero Wolfe and Shannara.

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

I don’t watch much tv, but I loved Games of Thrones and Star Wars. At the moment, I am following The Mandalorian, but I still have mixed feelings because it has an interesting plot but it is also a bit too slow.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

I have a playlist titled “Writing Mood”. I listen it repeatedly when writing research papers. It protects my concentration – because I don’t listen to the songs after so many times – but also keep my mood high. It’s a mix of Maroon 5, Sia, Cranberries, plus a hint of Oasis, Adele, and Gerry Cinnamon.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this More research and teaching on strategy for social impact and on impact investing; cross-disciplinary integration with arts, humanities and computer science; advanced blended learning.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… At making moral choices. I hear a lot of high-level discussions about ‘changing the system’, e.g. about capitalism, inequality, climate change, and so on. These are all critical issues and require a degree of top-down intervention and system-level coordination. However, I believe that the crux of the matter goes down to our own moral choices about human dignity and the common good. Better laws and regulation would be welcomed but what does stop us from paying people properly and equally or from investing sustainably right now? Sometimes saying ‘it’s the system’ is an excuse not to change and start change ourselves. When it comes to companies and organizations, business schools need to take the education challenge seriously at this level. Strategy is about choices.

I’m grateful for… My job is incredibly stimulating, I have wonderful colleagues and students, and London is truly exciting. My gratitude is primarily for the possibility to be on this journey with my family.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:

“Alessandro is one of the most inspiring colleagues in our school. I started teaching Executive classes recently and Alessandro shared his expertise with me and provided me with teaching advice and techniques that turned out to be extremely helpful. My teaching experience was much better thanks to Alessandro. His unbridled enthusiasm for both research and teaching are definitely contagious! I had the pleasure to teach the same students as Alessandro and the impact that he had on them was highly visible. I feel very fortunate to learn from Alessandro!”

“During our full-time MBA Alessandro led our strategy project module, where is showed real dedication, interest in each of us and our projects personally and consistently, and provided us with invaluable insight into strategy and the consulting world. He pushed our whole cohort to achieve more than we thought possible.”

“Alessandro has many great qualities. Although, his leadership and passion really shone through on the study trip to Kenya for Tech for Social Good. The trip he arranged was pioneering and a first of its kind, which opened the eyes of all the students. It had a major impact on my learning. Alessandro showed us something out of ordinary from a standard MBA experience.”

“Prof. Giudici has been my mentor during the international consulting week and my Business Mastery Project supervisor. His strategic guidance has been invaluable during both these key stages of the MBA journey and he has shared a wealth of knowledge, both theoretical and practical. His enthusiasm and willing to bring in the best in his students really sets him apart from his colleagues.”

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE 2020 LIST OF THE WORLD’S BEST 40-UNDER-40 BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS