2024 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Jermain Kaminski, Maastricht University School of Business and Economics

Jermain Kaminski
Maastricht University School of Business and Economics

“Classes with Jermain are consistently the highlight of any MBA educational week. He is a teacher who truly cares about engaging students in learning (compared to so many teachers who just talk at us). He facilitates a learning environment that encourages us to think, share, reflect, experiment, consider, and challenge.  Jermain has abundant and infectious energy and is clearly so passionate about connecting with students.” – Liz Parsons

Jermain Kaminski, 38, is Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Maastricht University School of Business and Economics.

In his research, he combines methods from machine learning and natural language processing, with a specific focus on large text, audio and video data in entrepreneurship. Another venue of research concentrates on strategic decision-making with causal machine learning.

His work has been published in the Journal of Business Venturing, Journal of Business Venturing Insights, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Small Business Economics, ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Harvard Business Review, among others.

He studied at Witten/Herdecke University, Germany, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, he was a visiting student at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence at the Sloan School of Management and a visiting researcher at the MIT Media Lab. Jermain completed his PhD studies at RWTH Aachen University.

He is a co-founder and co-chair of the Causal Data Science Meeting, and manages the website for the Academy of Management TIM Division. Kaminski is a Marshall Memorial Fellow of the German Marshall Fund and co-recipient of an NWO Starter Grant.

In 2021, he was awarded the best tutor award at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics in recognition of his graduate and undergraduate teaching performance across entrepreneurship courses in three faculties.


At current institution since what year? 2019
Education: Witten/Herdecke University, Germany (BA/MA); RWTH Aachen University (PhD); MIT Sloan School of Management, MIT Media Lab (Visiting Student & Reseacher)
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Entrepreneurship and New Business Development


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I’ve come to understand that teaching business isn’t just about lofty discussions; it’s a powerful fulcrum that can leverage the potential of those with brilliant ideas. Bill Aulet, who leads the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, encapsulated this in his book formula: Innovation = Invention x Commercialization. In my teaching, I particularly emphasize the second aspect of this equation. This focus is crucial, especially since a good half of my students come from STEM backgrounds and are learning how to transform ideas from hotbed to patient. I believe MIT and RWTH are excellent institutions for learning about this, as both place a strong emphasis on ‘mens et manus’ (mind and hand) at the very core of their educational philosophy.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Our group’s current research focuses on causal inference in innovation and entrepreneurship. In this, we explore how new machine learning methods can be used for a better understanding of causal mechanisms. Through our studies, we have identified an interesting gap: while businesses commonly employ correlation-based methods for predictive analytics, effective strategic planning necessitates a robust understanding of causality and embedding of expertise. However, this shift towards causality-driven strategizing has not yet been fully realized in practice.

If I weren’t a business school professor… The movie Airplane inspired me to consider commercial flight, with not really any more serious advanced attempts into that direction.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? Technical understanding and experience as a founder in the past. Although business and entrepreneurship are often viewed as less rigorous disciplines, the reality of practicing them is quite challenging. As an instructor, it’s important to make students believe in your expertise, especially in entrepreneurship. They sense if you only talk the walk or walk the talk once yourself. I personally think I would need to practice the last again and again to improve.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Fun.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Expect to see more spreadsheets than you ever thought possible.

Professor I most admire and why: Dr. Sean Maguire. On a more serious note, I had many great role models throughout my career. Christian Hopp, my PhD supervisor, was always optimistic and supportive, just as Frank Piller, Kathrin Möslein, and Markus Giesler, who likely ignited my flame for science a long time ago. During my time in the US, I particularly enjoyed the support of Cesar Hidalgo, Peter Gloor, Eric von Hippel, and Thomas Malone. When you work with such professors, you realize quickly that they all have traits that set them unique apart from everyone else. Yet, what they all have in common is the light in their eyes when they speak about topics they devote their research towards.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Watching them turn from timid freshmen into boardroom sharks. Jokes aside, I think business students can potentially be good at the hermeneutic competencies, e.g. the capability to connect the dots. Many business students I teach in fact have a background in engineering, physics, biotechnology, or medical sciences, or even have been airline pilots. Seeing these students grow a new career or a startup and making a difference with the little skills that I added to their curriculum, is one of the pleasures in my job. Now five years into the job, it starts to pay back by seeing funding rounds, exists, patents for those I witnessed early in the classroom. In my first career year I met a professor at RWTH who had a surgical intervention with a new device that was invented by former students. Isn’t that nice? I’m counting on my students to develop my future heart pump, or a self-driving chair that always finds the sunny spot.

What is most challenging? One of the most challenging aspects of teaching students is keeping up with the rapid technological change and ensuring that a curriculum remains relevant and cutting-edge. I usually update a good 20% in my syllabus every six months.

You also need to make sure to not teach oversimplified concepts. These days, you can throw a random stone at any conference, and you will always hit a self-acclaimed AI expert, but very unlikely someone developing these systems. Understanding what you can do with AI is the easy part, developing it further and experimenting with vulnerabilities is obviously the challenging one. So that’s why I tell my students to think like hackers who are trained to explore loopholes in existing systems, as this will enable them to develop improvements.

Additionally, there is the challenge of teaching students to handle the uncertainty of technological disruption in markets. It is like a game of Monopoly – you think you have a strategy until you land on Boardwalk with a hotel.

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair, reasoned, but non-negotiable.


What are your hobbies? I play tennis in my free time, often outplayed by the wind. Off the court, I’m practicing bedtime negotiations with toddlers and figuring out how to remove crayon from walls without a paint job.

How will you spend your summer? We’re renovating an entire house, with likely some relaxing days at the Dutch beachside. Also, happy to attend the Academy of Management in Chicago!

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Italy, France, Canada

Favorite book(s): “Marconi” by Marc Raboy

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 French films that offer a mix of humor, unique storytelling, and sometimes an unexpected twist. More recently, I liked La Belle Époque, and The Specials.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Jazz, French Hip-Hop, Dancehall, Electro


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… My business school of the future would practice more of what it preaches. I think we are often incredibly bad at practicing the theory we recommend to our students and partners.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Turning change into a sprint, not a stumble. It is also important to allow for chaos and quick hands-on decisions. Too many institutions embrace cosmos, order, and clear processes, not realizing they cannibalize creativity with much of that. “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star”, as Nietzsche said in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

I’m grateful for… The support of my family, friends, and for being healthy. I’m also thankful to Georg Fischer-Varvitsiotis for accompanying me over the past years with his help and expertise.


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