For some professors, academia is in their path from a young age. That was the case for Tristan Botelho who says he used to read history books as a kid and wonder, who writes these books? A first-generation college student, the 35-year-old assistant professor of organizational behavior at Yale’s School of Management has landed on this year’s Best 40 Under 40 Professors list. Similar to many other professors who made the cut, Botelho is an award-winning researcher and received dozens of glowing nominations.
Most recently, his research has examined how employers perceive startup founders whose ventures failed. With a Ph.D. student, Botelho discovered that unsuccessful founders are more likely to get a callback from investors than founders who have succeeded. They also, however, are less likely to get a callback than non-founders. Currently teaching the course Entrepreneurship and New Ventures, the research is aligned with Botelho’s expertise.
“Tristan is a fantastic professor with direct experience in the entrepreneurship and VC industries,” one nominator told us. “Beyond academics, and his corresponding research, Tristan remains highly plugged into the VC community and brings that knowledge and background into the classroom. He provides an unbelievable launchpad for any student looking to enter an entrepreneurial venture, venture capital, or even just maintain an entrepreneurial mindset in a large corporation.”
Said another: “Professor Botelho is a huge asset to Yale SOM. He brings his enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and research into the classroom and helps students, like me, think through my post-graduation options in VC and entrepreneurship. I liked his class so much that I effectively took it twice — once as a student and a second time as his teaching assistant.”
For fun, Botelho says he enjoys spending time with his family and cooking as well as playing golf and tennis. Botelho also says he’s started learning how to play the piano.
Tristan L. Botelho
Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior
Current age: 35
At current institution since what year? 2017
Education: BA in History and BS Finance, Providence College, SM and Ph.D. in Management, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Entrepreneurship and New Ventures
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I first got interested in academia as a kid. I would read a lot of history and wonder, ‘who writes these books?’ (Some may say that I also asked lots of questions…). As a first-generation college student, I became enamored by the fact that it was someone’s job to research interesting questions and then write and teach about them. After undergrad, I worked in investment banking during the financial crisis, which changed the set of questions I found interesting. When I looked to see who were discussing these questions, many of those faculty were in business schools.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
One of my longstanding interests is around the factors that affect evaluation processes (e.g., online ratings, hiring, etc.) and more recently I have been thinking about failure (from an entrepreneurship perspective). In a recent project, my Ph.D. student (Melody Chang) and I conducted a field experiment to understand how former founders whose venture failed were evaluated when applying to traditional jobs in the labor market, relative to founders who succeeded and non-founders. We found that after applying to job openings, former founders were less likely than non-founders to receive a callback for an interview. However, former founders who failed, received more callbacks than former founders who succeeded. We talked with recruiters at some of these firms—after the experiment—to gain insight into some of the mechanisms responsible for these results. They stated that they have concerns about whether former founders can fit into traditional employment. These recruiters were also especially concerned that former successful founders would not be committed to their firm.
If I weren’t a business school professor… I would be working at a startup or the GM of a sports team.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I think (hope) it is a mix of a few things. I care a lot about my students: how they are doing, what they are learning, what they need, etc. But, I also push my students to be critical of prevailing norms, their opinions, and the opinions of their colleagues, so things can get intense at times. Oh, and my relevant and impeccable humor…
One word that describes my first time teaching: Excited
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: How interested students are to discuss faculty research and understand how it fits into the things they are thinking through.
Professor I most admire and why:
My advisors (Ezra Zuckerman, Roberto Fernandez, and Ray Reagans) have been there for me throughout my career. I admire their ability to write great research, support their students, and set the bar high for what it means to be a good member of the community. I have also been fortunate to find those same characteristics in my colleagues in my group (Organizational Behavior), as well as throughout SOM. Also, a special shout out to my sister, Mabel Abraham, who I have admired since before she was a professor.
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
We have a great set of students who are curious and enthusiastic, which motivates me to step my game up every lecture.
What is most challenging?
Teaching an introductory survey course on entrepreneurship means that I have to cover an array of topics: from accounting to economics to finance to organizational behavior to strategy. I am always thinking about the intersection of these various viewpoints in my research—so I enjoy it—but juggling these frameworks within one class can be challenging.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Engaged
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Disengaged (thankfully this is rare—self-selection in an elective is helpful)
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair and a leaver of detailed comments, which I hope matters most to them.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
Spending time with my family, cooking, golf, tennis, and I am also learning piano
How will you spend your summer?
I always aim for a mix of going on fun adventures with my family, starting new research, and trying something new
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Lots of places, but Newport, RI is a special place for me
Non-fiction: 1776, fiction: Harry Potter (We started with our daughter this year, which brought back good memories)
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
It is TV over movies for me: Game of Thrones, The Office, Lost, Parks and Recreation, Schitt’s Creek, Seinfeld, The Wire. I like stuff that makes me think or laugh.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
I am a fan of most music, but rap and acoustic indie rock vie for first place depending on the day.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…
A focus on big questions and bringing together a diverse perspective to tackle these questions. I understand that many want graduate education to be more tailored, and there are merits to this view. However, I think many of the most challenging and pressing questions in business and society need people from all backgrounds and ambitions to come together in order to innovate effective solutions.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…
Understanding their data and why they are implementing a given practice. I often talk to firm leaders (many of which are founders) and they either are not collecting data that are critical to their strategy or success, or they are not thinking through the data-generating process in order to use their data effectively. Similarly, the reasoning I hear about why they are implementing a certain practice, especially around human capital (e.g., evaluations) and strategy, are more about what others are doing and less about what will work at their firm to hit their goals.
I’m grateful for… My daughter, Rowan. She motivates me to be the best version of myself and reminds me of what is important.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“First of all, Professor Botelho is one of the most amazing, knowledgeable, approachable and down-to-earth professors that I have experienced from my academic experiences in France (HEC Paris), Germany (Frankfurt School of Finance & Management) and South Africa (University of Stellenbosch). He not only discusses entrepreneurship cases holistically and is a great moderator of business school case discussions, but also allows us to talk to the very CEOs of the cases we discuss in class. His personal network and blending in academic knowledge with hands-on experience and the opportunity to make a cold case tangible by allowing us to ask our questions to the people involved was one of my favourite university experiences so far.”
“Tristan is first and foremost deeply passionate about empowering all students. He built the entrepreneurship curriculum at Yale and works tirelessly to share his knowledge and expertise with students ranging from seasoned entrepreneurs to those just wanting to hone their entrepreneurial mindset.”
“A fantastic teacher. Expert in entrepreneurship. Tristan is the most passionate and knowledgable professor I have ever had and cares so much about his students. I have never learned so much in a class as I have in Tristan’s Entrepreneurship & New Ventures Class. His courses are so thoughtful and dynamic and he offers his time to all of his current and past students outside of the classroom despite his busy schedule.”