2020 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Alireza Ahmadsimab, HEC Montreal

Alireza Ahmadsimab of HEC Montreal is a Poets&Quants Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professor

Receiving more than 150 nominations this year, Alireza Ahmadsimab has clearly made a meaningful impression the people in his orbit: students, faculty, and administrators eager to sing his praises. The 38-year-old assistant professor at HEC Montreal was not only one of our most-nominated professors this year, he also had an immense amount of depth in his support that spanned the different universities where he has studied and taught.

“A Dean is typically only able to access the impact that an individual junior faculty member has on their students by reviewing teaching evaluations and contributions on committees,” said Patricia Bradshaw, who was the dean of the Sobey School of Business and Saint Mary’s University when Ahmadsimab was there. “In an exceptional case, however, you can see the impact in more tangible ways. In Ali’s case I could see his impact by observing the students who came to his office and the smiles on their faces after a challenging in-person conversation with him. I could hear it in their comments about the stimulating classes they took with him and how they wanted to take more classes with him. I could experience their feelings about Ali’s warmth and care and his teaching style and pedagogy. Ali is an outstanding, engaging, and challenging professor who deserves this recognition as he grows into his academic career.”

Students described Ahmadsimab as “one of the best and brightest professors,” and “inviting and open,” and “a caring individual.” It is that care and desire to help his students achieve their goals inside and outside of the classroom that earned him the highest teaching score from our editorial staff of all professors to be included this year.

Ahmadsimab says he is currently researching and studying partnerships between firms and nonprofit organizations. His research has looked into how those sorts of partnerships can be stabilized — even with conflicting goals of shareholder profit for firms and public good for nonprofits — if a mutual dependence is established. Outside of the classroom, Ahmadsimab says he enjoys playing guitar, watching movies, salsa dancing, photography, and traveling. And now that he is teaching at HEC Montreal in Canada, he’s added skiing and ice skating to his list of hobbies.

Alireza Ahmadsimab

Assistant Professor

HEC Montreal

Current age: 38

At current institution since what year? 2018

Education: Ph.D., Business Administration, ESSEC Business School (2015); MBA, Sharif University of Technology (2007); B.E., Industrial Engineering, Iran University of Science and Technology (2004).

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Strategic Management


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I realized I could get paid for an autonomous, flexible job by handlining reviewers’ criticism in the publication process and kvetching about companies’ performance in the class.

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

In my research, I study partnerships between firms and non-profit organizations. A distinctive feature of these partnerships is that organizations are driven by divergent logics. Firms usually operate under a market logic. The primary objective of firm is generating wealth for shareholders. In contrast, a public good logic is the dominant logic of non-profits, and they usually seek non-economic objectives and social value creation. My findings revealed that the challenges posed by divergent logics in a partnership could be mitigated by the degree of resource interdependence between partners. I showed that mutual dependence between partners can stabilize a partnership, so long as a balance of power is achieved between organizations.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I’d probably be a film director, an astrophysicist or a flamenco guitar player.

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

Based on the most common answers of my students in teaching evaluations: Being authentic and approachable, maintaining classroom discipline, providing detailed feedback.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Fake-it-til-you-make-it.

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

Research and teaching require a different set of skills. Balancing between these two tasks is essential for long term success.

Professor I most admire and why:

It’s hard to single out one. I was fortunate to have professors such as Peter Smith Ring, Marie-Lauer Djelic, and Taïeb Hafsi. I admire them as outstanding scholars, knowledgable teachers and great human beings. I extend my gratitude to all the professors who trained, pushed, mentored and encouraged me throughout my education.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

It’s a fulfilling experience to train future managers. A business school is an excellent place for learning and growing. In MBA classes, the different perspectives of students coming from their diverse backgrounds and professional experiences enrich discussions. The various interactions I have with students in and out of the classroom setting push me to regularly update my materials to be able to deliver relevant content in my courses.

What is most challenging?

Students’ short span of attention

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Curious

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair (I hope)


What are your hobbies?

Watching movies; playing guitar; photography; traveling; Salsa. After moving to Canada, skiing & ice skating were also added to my hobbies.

How will you spend your summer?

Traveling (Coronavirus permitting)

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Andalusia, Aix-en-Provence, Sorrento, Costa Rica, Cape Breton Highlands, Melbourne, Prague

Favorite book(s):

Favorite books in my academic life: History of economic analysis (Joseph Schumpeter) & The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Max Weber). Other books that I enjoyed reading: Animal Farm (George Orwell); Sapiens (Noah Harari); Les Misérables (Viktor Hugo); Boof-e Koor (Sadegh Hedayat).

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

It’s a difficult question for a film buff. I like almost all films directed by Theo Angelopoulos, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Chris Nolan, and Abbas Kia Rostami. I immensely enjoyed watching The Tree of Life (2011), Gravity (2013), Long Day’s Journey into Night (2018). I rarely watch TV shows, except for Game of Thrones, that I eagerly watched it to the end.

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

I like flamenco music because of its rhythm, boldness, elegance and complexity. I admire Paco de Lucia for his technique, passion and innovation in playing guitar. I also like Mark Knopfler. He plays the electric guitar beautifully using his fingers (not a guitar pick).


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… New courses should be developed that correspond to market needs. A greater emphasis should be made on innovation and critical thinking. Cross-disciplinary experiential learning is needed. More insights should be brought from different branches of science and arts to management classes.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Caring about people and Earth. 

I’m grateful for… My Family & friends, health, and achievements.

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

“We had high-quality learning experiences. We truly enjoyed coming to class as we could relate the concepts and examples we learned in class with our experience at work. Each class session was interactive, and we could tell the professor was goal-focused, although not route-specific in terms of pedagogy. He did not mind using our own examples or methodology to help us understand. This was particularly helpful since we all had different learning backgrounds and were from different countries. He slowed down or accelerated the pace of the class as appropriate. He asked us questions to make us think instead of passing the thinking.” – Student

“Alireza is a great and very caring professor. Tests are based on class notes along with some textbook readings. Lectures are always fun to go to. Great class! was very responsive to any questions asked and was helpful in understanding the course material. He sent out emailed lecture briefs on a daily basis that were very interesting and I felt like I learned a lot through this class.” – Student

“During my Management & Strategy class at ESSEC, I had the pleasure to attend Alireza’s class. Alireza is one of those teachers who is capable of captivating an audience by being genuinely passionate at transfering his knowledge, instilling curiosity and always being open to discussion. I remember having being really impressed by the high level of knowledge he has, which exceed the boundaries of his area of expertise. Combined with his open mind, it gave him the ability to debate with anyone in the class and to adapt his explanations to his interlocutors. Alireza is remembered by the students of my class as incredibly talented, kind and available to help us in our researches. His name was actually always mentioned as one the best teacher to have at the school and he was the only one in this list without a 30 year career behind him. For all the reasons above, I am convinced that he will have a bright future. Therefore, I had to sum up in one sentence why I fully support Alireza’s nomination as the Best B-School professors under the age of 40, it would be for the simple and good reason that he literally falls into this very description.” – Student


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