Marta Elvira has been a professor of managing people in organisations at Iese Business School Spain since 2009. She has also recently become the first female academic member of the school’s executive board.
Prof Elvira has a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley Haas School of Business in the US. She has worked at the University of California at Irvine Paul Merage School of Business and MIT Sloan School of Management in the US, Insead in France and Egade Business School in Mexico. Her research examines management practices with a focus on social inequality and human capital development.
In her spare time, Prof Elvira enjoys travelling, visiting museums and exhibitions and being in the outdoors. She has also co-edited two books and numerous articles on management in Latin America.
1. When did you know you wanted to teach?
I knew I wanted to teach ever since I gave private lessons to the younger students in both my high school and college (to help fund myself through higher education). I discovered that I enjoyed it and had a talent for helping others learn. My family’s experience of unemployment also left an indelible mark on me at a young age and that has guided my research and teaching.
2. What do you enjoy most about your job?
I’m in an environment where I can continually discover new things. Even better, I get to share that knowledge and guide others. It is so rewarding to see former students contributing their talents and good work to society at large.
3. What would you do if you were dean for the day?
I would probably declare it a “humanities and humanism day” so that all school members – students, staff and professors – would be able to participate in and develop seminars that were rich in the humanities. There would be sessions on the arts and literature, as well as cultural life.
4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
A very profound question was posed to me by a senior faculty member at UC Irvine when I was an assistant professor striving to get work published. He asked: who is Marta Elvira? That inner search to determine my identity as a researcher and scholar and ultimately what I cared most about, brought me back to my original goal of helping people within business to thrive.
5. What is your earliest memory of school?
My earliest memory of school dates back to kindergarten! The best part of school was my teacher. Although we lost contact when I moved to college and abroad, one morning 15 years ago she called me in California. She had seen my parents, who told her I had become a professor and she wanted to congratulate me as well as share some life experiences. Since then we have never lost contact and I visit her as often as I can.
6. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
My biggest lesson came from getting international experience and working in universities with people from all over the world. I found that with regard to the values I care about - fairness and justice, social or otherwise - cultures are not all that different. I also learnt that wisdom is not related to the years of education but to having lived a good life.
7. What advice would you give to women in business?
Figure out who you are and where your true values lie. Remember to pursue interests and work that fulfils you as a whole person, not just the business side of your interests, or the personal side; try to unify the two. Luckily, many women now no longer have to sacrifice all their personal life and interests just for work or money (a much more satisfying situation.)
8. What is the last book you read?
Currently, I´m with the audio version of Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized ambition, greed and corruption created the worst financial crisis of our time by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner. The title is self-explanatory (a sobering yet illuminating account of the origins of the crisis, where individual and organisational responsibility are outlined). It´s very well written and so it helps with my English pronunciation!
9. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I would try to learn as many languages as possible from early on. I would also postpone managerial work within the university until I had developed my research phase further…and I would definitely devote more time to cultivating leisure and culture.
10. What is your plan B?
I would somehow be involved in care - probably in health or the social services (I originally planned to go to medical school). My recent research into the integration of health and social systems has awakened a great interest in care giving.
Compiled by Charlotte Clarke