2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Yiting Deng, University College London, UCL School of Management

 

Yiting Deng

University College London UCL School of Management

“Dr Deng is an extremely conscientious and talented teacher who not only takes time to establish solid frameworks in the minds of her students but challenges us to improve academically, technically, and professionally each and every day. She is not afraid to link novel and seemingly unrelated ideas in an expert manner to show their crucial interactions and demonstrate how they may be applied in non-conventional approaches to develop a competitive business edge even for students starting on their professional careers. Her inspiring lectures and carefully thought-out tutorials provided me with the confidence to undertake a significant machine learning project (my first ever) which was beyond the requirements because she had instilled in us the belief and understanding on how to tackle broader challenges with real-world applications. The resulting score I achieved formed a significant portion of my final grade that led to me topping my class. I know for a fact that it would not have been possible without Dr Deng. I am proud to have been her student and will always be grateful to her for her exceptional mentorship.” – Azmaeen Zarif

Yiting Deng, 38, is Assistant Professor at University College London’s UCL School of Management. Prior to joining UCL, she was an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. 

Yiting’s main research interests are in digital platforms, advertising, media consumption, and two-sided markets. Her research has been published in academic journals such as Management Science, Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, International Journal of Research in Marketing, and Statistical Science. Her work on TV advertising was finalist for the Robert D. Buzzell MSI Best Paper Award and Runner-up for the Don Lehmann Award. 

BACKGROUND

At current institution since what year? 2016

Education: 

  • Ph.D. in Marketing, M.S. in Statistics, Duke University
  • M.A. in Economics, B.A. in Economics, B.S. in Statistics, Peking University 

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Marketing Science 

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… My parents were both academics, so growing up, it felt natural for me to pursue an academic career which affords the privilege to pursue one’s own research interests. However, the idea of becoming a business professor did not come to me until around 15 years ago when I worked as a Teaching Assistant on Peking University’s BiMBA program. I was in awe of the business professors who were so persuasive and graceful in the classroom, and I was profoundly attracted to research conducted by marketing professors that are rigorous and deeply connected to business practice.  

It was absolutely fascinating (and surreal) that 10 years later, I went back to the same campus to teach the Marketing core course for the MBA program jointly run by Peking University and my home university, UCL. 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My research broadly uses empirical models to answer questions related to digital platforms, such as ecommerce platforms, mobile app platforms, consumer review platforms, and ride-sharing platforms. 

In one recent paper, forthcoming in Management Science, my co-authors and I investigate the effectiveness of the “freemium” pricing strategy, which is an increasingly popular business model, in the context of mobile apps. Introducing a free version of an app to an existing paid app may have two countervailing effects:  while it may tempt consumers to purchase the paid version, it may also cannibalize the sales of the paid version. Using a comprehensive data set on game apps from the Apple App Store that tracks the launch of individual apps on a daily level, we find that the launch of a free version increases demand of the paid version of the same app. We demonstrate two mechanisms at work: First, consumers use free versions to sample and later upgrade to the paid versions, and this effect is more prominent for apps with a moderate quality level. Second, a new version of an app may increase the initial version’s demand by enhancing the app’s visibility (and thus its chance to be discovered). 

The results are not only important for app developers, but also more broadly relevant for digital firms who offer freemium pricing. First, they confirm that a freemium strategy can indeed increase demand for the paid version of a product. Second, products with a moderate quality level can benefit more from freemium pricing. Third, to truly benefit from a freemium strategy, firms need to ensure sufficient difference in consumer utility between the free product and the paid product to induce upgrades. Fourth, we document that in a highly crowded market, simply the fact that an additional version is available can increase demand of the paid version by making it easier for consumers to discover the product.

If I weren’t a business school professor… If I were not a business school professor but had already gone through my PhD training, I might have been an Economist at a tech firm, conducting research to solve imminent business problems. If I had not pursued a PhD, I might have wanted to attend law school. 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I am passionate about what I teach, and I deeply care about students’ learning experience. My diverse teaching experiences across different levels and countries enabled me to understand, appreciate, and accommodate students with diverse backgrounds in terms of age, culture, work experience, etc. I have kept in touch with many former students, who have greatly helped me design, develop and revise my courses over time, ensuring content is evocative and relevant and closely connected to the most recent developments in the industry.   

One word that describes my first time teaching: Stressful. 

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: As a business professor, you should always design your own course material, which requires tremendous upfront cost but gives you a lot of flexibility and autonomy. As a business school professor, teaching can often times be more gratifying and rewarding than research, because students are very supportive of professors and you can see the immediate impact of what you teach on students. 

Professor I most admire and why: It is difficult to name one, because I have had the privilege to interact with and learn from a number of inspiring professors and mentors since I embarked on my academic journey, to whom I look up and owe a lot to. I am indebted to my PhD advisors, Carl Mela, who is an exemplary scholar with relentless enthusiasm for rigor and impact and unbelievable energy, and Rick Staelin, who always believed in me and taught me to treat myself with love and compassion. In my journey as an Assistant Professor, I am extremely fortunate to have met incredible mentors who truly made a difference to my life and career path and this is by no means an exhaustive list. I am particularly grateful to Puneet Manchanda, who sees more potential in me than I see in myself and always encourages me to be a better version of myself; for Anja Lambrecht, who constantly encourages me to pursue my ideas further; for Catherine Tucker, who inspires me to become a better and more impactful researcher; for Imran Currim, who is always amazingly energetic and supportive; for Chris Tang, who is one of the most hard-working, productive and compassionate people I have known and inspires me to think big; and for Jeannette Song, who inspires me with her exemplary research and positive attitude. 

TEACHING MBA STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I get to interact with and learn from competent, energetic business professionals who are eager to learn state-of-the-art techniques and to share their diverse experiences in the classroom. Integration of such diverse experiences makes each session unique and exciting. 

What is most challenging? Trying to remember students’ names and background before class starts (especially with large classes), balancing demand of students from different industries and with different educational backgrounds, and overcoming a common student mindset that marketing is a “soft” discipline. 

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair with care

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? I love running, which is my sanctuary when stressed. Since 2017, I have completed full marathons in Beijing, Paris, London, Chicago, and most recently, Boston. 

How will you spend your summer? Try to make good progress on research projects. Short trips with my family. Run a bit more than the past year (if my knee problem subsides). 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Places with plenty of sunshine, such as Spain and California. 

Favorite book(s): Hard to pick a favorite, but I have been deeply inspired by books such as “1587, a Year of No Significance” (Ray Huang), “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (George Orwell), and “Educated” (Tara Westover). 

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Movies: “The Matrix” and “Coco”, for fascinating and profound perspectives about life, death, reality, and destiny. 

TV Show: “Downton Abbey”, a time machine to the “good” old days with amazing cast, costumes and music, helping me understand the pride and glory of the Britain before moving to the Britain. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I always find it difficult to answer this question as I am not musical inclined. But generally, I find it relaxing to have classical piano music in background when working. 

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… My dream for all business schools of the future would include a more diverse set of practically motivated elective courses, more interactions with businesses, smaller class sizes, and more knowledge provision to the general public by means such as free webinars. In addition, courses would put more emphases on the importance of differentiation between correlation and causation and field experimentations in business decisions. 

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… promoting work-life balance for employees; balancing profit maximization and social responsibilities (especially when it comes to generating advertising revenue).  

I’m grateful for… being in a profession that offers not only tremendous flexibility and autonomy, but also endless opportunities to learn. I am also deeply grateful for the unwavering support of my family, and for my supportive mentors, colleagues and friends, who help me become who I am today. Last but not least, I truly appreciate my former students, who worked extremely hard and generously shared with me their experiences and feedback which are invaluable to my teaching experience. 

 

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

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