Caroline Wiertz is a reader in marketing at City University Cass Business School, where she teaches on the MSc in Management and Executive MBA programmes, and co-founder of City Unrulyversity, a free pop-up university led by City University London and the global social video advertising company Unruly. City Unrulyversity aims to deliver business education and practical academic guidance to the innovative media start-up companies of Tech City in London.
Prof Wiertz grew up in Germany before moving to the Netherlands to study for a masters in international business and a PhD in marketing at the University of Maastricht. She joined Cass after graduation in 2004.
In her spare time, Prof Wiertz enjoys taking her dog for long walks, cooking, playing the piano, skiing and scuba-diving.
1. What is an average day at work like?
One of the great things about being an academic is that there is no average work day. Today started out with breakfast at Google to explore possible collaborations, followed by a brainstorming session with a co-author about a new research project, then some organisational stuff for the course I am currently teaching. My day tomorrow will be completely different.
2. What is the strangest thing you have ever done when teaching?
Take your pick: In my current course, for example, we are going to a football match, a pop-up supper club, a couple of museums and a theatre performance. I also move lectures deliberately into the evening and to unexpected places. It is interesting to see what happens when you take students out of their comfort zone.
3. What would you do if you were dean for the day?
I have no aspirations to be a dean – not even for a single day! There is also no need as we are incredibly spoiled at Cass: our dean is very approachable and actively seeks our opinions on many issues.
4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
“The only good piece of work is a finished one” – from my PhD adviser Prof Ko de Ruyter. It is so true, but being your typical academic perfectionist I still struggle with it.
5. What academic achievement are you most proud of?
At the moment, I am really proud of co-founding City Unrulyversity. We pop up once a week at Unruly’s headquarters and teach a session to 30-40 entrepreneurs. We have different types of sessions, ranging from “how to” workshops to master classes to “theory meets practice” sessions and cover mostly business, tech and design topics. It has been a lot of fun to co-operate more closely with other parts of the university and the feedback of the entrepreneurs has been positive so far.
6. What is the worst job you have ever had?
As a student, I worked eight-hour shifts in a chocolate factory during the summer holiday. It had no resemblance to Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a children’s book by Roald Dahl, and if I ever needed more motivation to go to university, that did the trick.
7. What advice would you give to women in business?
Just be yourself and embrace your femininity – there is no point pretending to be anything else. Of course you will be treated differently than a man, simply because you aren’t one, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I have never felt that I was taken less seriously because I am a woman.
8. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
I hire more women!
9. What is the last book you read?
I feel pressure to say something really intelligent here but to be honest I have just read Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. In my defence, I had to a read it for a research project about the consumption of “trash” media products. I quite enjoyed it, actually.
10. What is your plan B?
That’s easy: join one of the tech start-ups or start a company on my own.