2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Yangjie Gu, HEC Paris

Yangjie Gu

HEC Paris

“Yangjie brought enthusiasm and deep industry knowledge into all her lectures. She brought real world scenarios into all the content and inspired discussion and debate between people from diverse backgrounds. She created a stretching curriculum that gave the entire cohort a strong grounding in marketing, and inspired many (including myself) to pursue further learning through the HEC Marketing club and in my job search. Above all her obvious passion for the subject and for the discussions that arose created a dynamic and energising learning environment.” – Simon Ware

Yangjie Gu, 38, is Associate Professor of Marketing at HEC Paris. She is the L’Oréal International Research Chair, Customer-driven Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

Her research interests lie in the domain of consumer behavior and decision-making. She has been published in the top journals in marketing, and her contributions have been recognized widely. She won the Ferber Award for the best Journal of Consumer Research article based on a doctoral dissertation, and she has been invited to participate as a faculty fellow in the doctoral colloquia associated with the leading conferences in the field. 

Her research has been published in top journal articles and has been covered by more than 40 media outlets such as Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and ABC News.  

BACKGROUND

At current institution since what year? 2015

Education: PhD in Marketing, London Business School (2013)

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Managing Customer Value through Marketing (MBA core course); Customer Intelligence

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… Ever since I was a little kid, I have always wanted to be a teacher. I had a nice chalkboard and always practiced with my little cousins. At school, I would always love to be my teachers’ little “helper”. 

When I was in my master’s program, I had a chance to work for professors as a research assistant and discovered my passion for doing research on consumer behavior. I was happy to find out that pursuing an academic career would satisfy both of my interests: teaching and research. Then this was how I started my academic life. 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My research interests lie in the area of consumer judgment and decision-making. I am interested in consumers’ subjective feelings related to a decision-making process. Within this broad line of work, I have developed several interrelated streams of research, which have substantial implications for consumers’ well-being, and practical implications for marketers and policy-makers. My most recent research examines factors influencing consumers’ assortment decisions and consumers’ post-choice consumption experiences. In particular, I address two interrelated questions, each mapped into two different stages of the hierarchical decision process. The first research question is related to the first stage, in which consumers select an assortment. Existing research has shown that consumers generally prefer larger product assortments. My work aims to deepen our understanding of why and when consumers’ relative preference for a larger assortment occurs. The second research question focuses on the second stage of the hierarchical decision process, in which consumers select a particular item from a given assortment. I am especially interested in consumers’ consumption experience with such a choice. Specifically, my work aims to identify factors that help maximize consumers’ consumption experience during their post-decision stage.

If I weren’t a business school professor…  I have a long list of dream jobs that I would love to pursue from musician, presenter, theater performer, to travel blogger, to name a few. 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I am a dedicated teacher and passionate about teaching. I care for my students and enjoy watching them develop. 

One word that describes my first time teaching: Motivated.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:  How much research and teaching freedom you have; how many inspiring and top-notch professionals you will encounter; how extraordinary and talented colleagues you will be surrounded with; and how rewarding and stimulating it would be to teach a group of talented students. 

Professor I most admire and why: I have been lucky to encounter so many inspiring professors who have been my role models. In particular, I would like to mention Simona Botti and David Faro, who are my PhD advisors at LBS. I learned a lot from them: their dedication to research and their experience as a teacher. 

TEACHING MBA STUDENTS 

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I learned so much from them! Time and time again, I get many inspirations from students not only for teaching but also for research.  

What is most challenging? One of the challenges in my core marketing course has come from the “subjective” nature of the topic, which leaves room for varied opinions and debates. As a result, a typical class discussion has always led to several viable “answers”. This is uncomfortable for some students, especially those who are used to expecting “right” answers. I am grateful to have these challenges, as it pushes me to come up with a logical framework for analyzing subjective business situations. Students have often told me that they are now able to analyze business cases with logical reasoning, which is essential for their post-MBA careers. 

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

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Close-minded

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

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? Music, running, skiing, traveling

How will you spend your summer? In a typical summer, I would split time between Europe and China: advancing my research as well as having family time with my families and friends. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: West part of China (e.g., Yunnan Province, Xinjiang Province)

Favorite book(s): I love science fiction and suspense novels.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?  I love documentaries, The Social Dilemma and Seaspiracy, for example, are two of my favorites. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I love the composers in the Romantic period and the Impressionist painters. In general, I enjoy any type of art that symbolizes freedom, intense energy, and passion.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… 1) Embracing more diversity and giving more opportunities to the underprivilege; 2) Encouraging creativity and outside-of-box thinking, and 3) emphasizing more social responsibility and preparing upcoming leaders and entrepreneurs for a more sustainable future. 

In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at… coping with fear, managing uncertainty, and preparing for a sustainable future.

I’m grateful for… the best possible support that HEC Paris provides me to ensure my success as a researcher and a teacher; most importantly, the unconditional support and understanding of my husband and our parents, and the tolerance of my two young sons.

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE 2022 ROSTER OF THE WORD’S BEST 40-UNDER-40 MBA PROFESSORS

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