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Ten Questions

August 23, 2011 1:46 pm

Ten Questions - Marie Laure Djelic

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Marie Laure Djelic: "My teaching routine is to take risks"

Marie Laure Djelic is a professor at Essec Business School in France. She teaches organisation theory, business history and comparative capitalism and her research interests include the role of professions and social networks in global practices.

Prof Djelic has a masters degree and PhD from Harvard University. She is also the author of Exporting the American Model and has edited several other books.

1. When did you know you wanted to become a professor?

After I finished college, I started to work in a junior managerial position within a publishing company. Within a few months, I was asking myself a lot of why questions. Why do I do what I do in this particular way? Couldn’t we organise the work process differently? Who are these people we never meet and who appear to be the masters of our collective destiny (top managers, directors…)? Hence, I turned to the idea of doing a PhD and orienting myself to an academic career.

2. What does it mean to be a professor?

It means a constant dissatisfaction and the profound conviction that there is always another question to explore. It means the great privilege of being a citizen in the global world of academia. It means the (always) possible frustration of having an article rejected. It means immense satisfaction when waking the curiosity of students. It means pride when holding your latest published book in your hands.

3. What academic achievement are you most proud of?

Receiving the Max Weber Award in 2000 for my first book: Exporting the American Model (Oxford University Press, 1998). This award is granted annually by the American Sociological Association.

4. What is the last book you read?

Alltid hos dig (Always With You) by Maria Ernestam. This is a beautiful novel by a Swedish author, where a profound love story between a man and his wife is broken by death. In general, I am a big fan of Scandinavian literature - I am exploring it in a quite systematic manner.

5. What is your favourite business book?

Creative Experience by Mary Parker Follett, 1924. Ms Follett is one of the most modern of our classic organisation thinkers. She distinguished between “power over” and “power with.” Managers have a spontaneous tendency to turn to “power over” because they don’t have the patience to “wait for the slower process of education and co-action” that she calls “power with.” Well before Anita Roddick, from the Body Shop, she believed that real leadership should increase the freedom and individuality of those who are led. She was also a rare woman in a pantheon of men.

6. How do you deal with pressure?

I turn off my iphone for the evening and I pretend the computer does not exist. Then I go to a restaurant with my partner or cook for my two daughters and listen to the stories of their day.

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

When I started my career, things were definitely more difficult in that respect. Being a young woman in the world of academia does call for an extra level of energy. You need to be extra careful with what you do and the way in which you do it. You have to stay calm when people believe you are either the secretary or the PhD student. You have to brace yourself when you enter the MBA classroom. But then, as you gain in experience and notoriety, things change. It may then in fact become easier to be a woman than a man. The idea that at least some degree of diversity is necessary, if not required has imposed itself in our contemporary western societies.

8. What inspires you?

I am inspired by those individuals who have the courage to express what they really think, including situations where this might be going against their own personal interest.

9. Do you have a teaching routine?

My teaching routine is to take risks. I tend to get bored if I follow a strict teaching pattern. This sometimes happens at the beginning of the course or suddenly along the way. I will not stray away from the theme of the particular class but I will suddenly introduce a new angle for discussion.

10. What is your plan B?

I have two plan Bs. One: novel writing. Finally taking the big jump and writing for a large number of people; taking them away from the daily realities of their lives. Two: open up a bookstore - somewhere in a French provincial town. I would live a completely different life: renovate an old country house, create a dense local network and sing in a choir.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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