2024 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Federica De Stefano, HEC Paris

Federica De Stefano
HEC Paris

“Federica is consistently one of our most energetic and dynamic professors, tackling difficult concepts like business and people analytics. She makes challenging statistical procedures, which are often resisted by students, come to life in accessible and practical ways. Moreover, she does not shy away from the hard questions: What is the impact of diversity (or lack thereof) on the business? How can data be used to drive meaningful societal change?

“Federica excels in multiple programs and is constantly innovating in her delivery, experiential activities, and audiences. As one example, Federica has been instrumental in launching an analytics ‘summer school’ that shares her powerful skill set with even more students. We are in the business of changing lives, and Federica is a great example of someone who connects with students, challenges their assumptions, and then helps them build a better version of themselves.” – Brad Harris

Federica De Stefano, 36, is Assistant Professor of Management and Human Resources at HEC Paris.

Her research examines how decisions on people management shape organizational and individual outcomes. She developed two interrelated research streams that analyze employee mobility as well as occupational health and safety.

She is a member of the Editorial Review Board of Organization Science, Human Resource Management, and Human Resource Management Review.

She has been awarded with several research grants, including the SHRM Foundation Dissertation Grant and the Ralph Alexander Best Dissertation Award from the HR Division of the Academy of Management, and a Marie Curie grant from the European Commission to examine employees’ health and safety (SAW – MSCA-IF-EF-RI).

She serves as Representative at Large for the Competitive Strategy Interest Group and as Engagement Officer for the Strategic Human Capital Interest Group of the Strategic Management Society (SMS). She is also a Senior Fellow of the Wharton People Analytics Initiative.


At current institution since what year? 2020
Education: PhD in Business Administration and Management, Bocconi University; M.Sc. in International Management, Bocconi; M.Sc. in Management Science and Corporate Management, Fudan University in Shanghai in China
List of MBA courses you currently teach: People Analytics: Data for People Management


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… One week after graduating from my Master of Science, in my early 20s, I was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. This happened when my career had just started. I had no experience and a lot of questions on what to do next to balance my treatments and my career aspirations. I then took a job as a Research Assistant at Bocconi University and started reading research on work, careers, and human resources.

That research had a tremendous impact on my ability to navigate that phase of my life in an informed way. It answered some of my questions and left me with some more. I therefore decided that I wanted to find those answers to support people like me in navigating their work life, and that a business school was the right place to develop and share knowledge on this topic.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? In my research, I examine employee mobility in contexts in which organizations use mobility to attain flexibility. Some of my work in this area has examined the financial consequences of temporary workers’ turnover. Using unique longitudinal data from a retail chain, my work finds that there are meaningful financial costs associated with churning temporary workers in and out. In so doing, we challenge the commonly held assumption that temporary workers in entry level jobs are disposable resources and that dismissing them to buffer demand fluctuations has negligible costs.

If I weren’t a business school professor… Career coach

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I extensively use evidence from academic research in my teaching. I invite students to leverage research-based insights to challenge widespread assumptions on people management and reflect on evidence-based approaches to improve how people are managed within organizations.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Hard.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Effective teaching is often more about facilitating the students’ self-discovery and learning process than about delivering content.

Professor I most admire and why: I have a long list of professors who I admire and have had a huge impact on my career. The one that has shaped my teaching the most is probably my post-doc advisor Matthew Bidwell (Xingmei Zhang and Yongge Dai Professor Professor of Management at the Wharton School). I especially admire how he integrates academic research into teaching and contributes to the diffusion of knowledge on evidence-based approaches to people management.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The opportunity to apply business research to real-world cases and get novel perspectives on those applications.

What is most challenging? Managing diverse disciplinary backgrounds and expectations. My course is targeted to students with diverse disciplinary backgrounds, including business, engineering, and data science, and who often do not intend to pursue careers in human resources. Leveraging such a diverse array of disciplinary assumptions and expectations to design a fruitful learning experience is challenging.

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

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

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


What are your hobbies? I’m a foodie. I love to cook, scout for new places to eat, and shop for food.

How will you spend your summer? In June, I will be visiting IE Business School in Madrid to conduct research with my co-authors. I will then travel for conferences and take some time off with my family.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Spain.

Favorite book(s): The Unbearable Lightness of Being (by Milan Kundera).

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Poor Creatures by Yorgos Lanthimos because it pushed me to think about the beauty of asserting your voice and pursuing your truth.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Jennifer Lopez because she’s powerful and always makes me dance.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Training in evidence-based management.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Integrating research into evidence-based business practices.

I’m grateful for… Having made it through my first four years as an Assistant Professor while facing cancer. As a survivor, I’m grateful for the so many amazing humans who have made this possible, giving me time and space to recover. I’m grateful for the other survivors I’ve met and who don’t cease to inspire me. I’m grateful for my mentors and co-authors who have been kind, patient, and not giving up on me. I’m grateful for the institutional and human support of my colleagues at HEC Paris during my disease and recovery. I’m eternally grateful for the unwavering support of my family and my beloved partner, who never gets tired of reminding me that “we’re going to be fine.”


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