Ten Questions

February 9, 2014 11:19 pm

Women at business school – Allègre Hadida, professor

Allegre Hadida

Allègre Hadida, who is director of the MPhil in Management programme at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School in the UK, has pioneered teaching and research in creative, arts and media management

Allègre Hadida is director of the MPhil in Management programme at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School in the UK and has pioneered teaching and research in creative, arts and media management. She recently helped establish an entertainment masterclass at the school, aimed at entertainment executives and digital media entrepreneurs.

Professor Hadida has a PhD in strategy from HEC Paris and has worked at UCLA Anderson School of Management and MIT Sloan School of Management in the US, CRG-Ecole Polytechnique in France and Tel Aviv University in Israel. In her spare time, she enjoys windsurfing, photography and collecting comic book art.

1. Who are your business influences?

I particularly relate to Henry Ford’s efforts to make the automobile affordable to all, including his own factory workers, and to Steve Jobs’s visionary approach to every industry Apple entered. I am also inspired by chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi Kevin Roberts’s confidence that nothing is impossible, and by Gavriel Iddan for his tireless efforts to adapt cameras to fit into easy-to-swallow pills that radically change the experience of uncomfortable and invasive medical tests.

2. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the diversity and freedom my job allows. How many activities allow you to: share your research on creative performance with award-winning content producers and directors on Monday; teach creativity on stage with professional classical musicians and coach MBA students for an international case competition on Tuesday; discuss ways forward in development and dine with Nobel Prize winning colleagues in college on Wednesday; brainstorm with co-authors on Thursday; revise the format and curriculum of a flagship MPhil programme on Friday; and advise alumni on the strategy of their developing start-up on the weekend?

3. What would you do if you were dean for the day?

The divide I see in some institutions between faculty, administrative staff members and students saddens me, as it is often based on genuine misunderstandings of the reality of the other person’s work life. In order to try and bridge this divide, I would transform my day as dean into a ‘Freaky Friday’: I would make some key faculty members and administrators switch roles, and invite the most difficult students to teach a class. Switching roles, if only for a day, may help us all start to understand better and empathise more with the challenges of our respective roles.

4. Given your interest in the entertainment industry, which TV/film star would you choose to teach a course and why?

Will.i.am is a creative powerhouse. He has a unique gift for sensing the pulse of the world and anticipating and spearheading the next innovation waves. His collaborative ventures in the music, television, high-tech and consumer goods industries make him the perfect incarnation of Steve Jobs’s definition of creativity as “connecting stuff”. I would invite him any day to teach a course on strategy and entrepreneurship in fast-moving, networked environments or on creativity in business. I would relish witnessing him reframe and remodel fairly traditional management concepts in completely new and mind-blowing ways. This would be Dope (that is, in Will-i-am’s own words: disruptive, optimistic, progressive, entrepreneurial)!

5. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

Never do anything halfheartedly. Even when you are told that a particular meeting, lecture, or event is not important, you never know what may unfold during it, what impact the discussions may have on their participants and what tangible actions and new ideas will result from them.

6. What advice would you give to women in business?

I would give three pieces of advice to younger women in business.

Don’t be too hard on yourselves. Do your best at home and at work, and stop obsessing about trying and failing to be perfect. None of us, men and women alike, are.

Become your own champion. Many of us women fail to achieve our potential at work because unlike some of our male colleagues, we tend not to blow our own trumpet. Occasionally telling your peers, superiors and subordinates about your latest achievements (facts, not brags) helps.

Let go of your imposter syndrome. Banish “yes, but…” when talking or thinking about yourself, be more confident about your abilities (while evidently also recognising your weaknesses and being honest in addressing them), and embrace and celebrate your achievements.

7. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

Being young and often the only woman on a specific committee, project or programme can sometimes feel quite daunting, and very lonely. For instance, I am regularly the only woman teaching a core module on some of our postgraduate courses and executive education programmes. I deal with this by being myself, trying to be as good, if not better, than my male colleagues, and standing my ground when I strongly believe that a decision or deed is timely, fair and right. All in all, actions speak louder than words or gender.

8. Do you have a teaching routine?

I get to the lecture theatre at least 30 minutes before everyone else to familiarise myself with the place, soak in its atmosphere and acoustics and make sure that the technical equipment, if any, is properly working. Once everything is set up, I play energising music and short contextual videos prior to the start of a lecture. They allow both participants and lecturer to get “in the zone” and open themselves to learning and sharing ideas and experiences. When the music and videos stop, I use a mix of traditional lectures, interactive discussions, simulations, music, film and TV sequences and improvisation.

9. What is the last book you read?

I recently devoured the ten volumes of Ayrolles and Masbou’s graphic novel De Capes et de Crocs. This is a brilliant series, and I thoroughly enjoyed the authors’ tongue-in-cheek references to classical literary works and modern pop culture.

10. What is your favourite memory of being a student?

My favourite memories are all associated with being on stage. I personally find standing up and speaking in front of an audience terrifying, and I am immensely grateful to Yves Steinmetz, an inspirational professor at Lycee Molière in Paris, for opening the world of theatre and acting to me. Prepping for a play taught me discipline and teamwork, and my classmates and I went through incredibly emotional experiences on and off stage. Even though I did not become a professional actress, when I was a student I wrote and performed a play that had a successful run in Paris and was selected for an amateur theatre festival. To this day, I still find myself applying some of what I learned with Monsieur Steinmetz every time I lecture.

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