Ten Questions - Kristine De Valck

The associate professor is not afraid to make unconventional decisions

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Kristine De Valck is an associate professor in marketing at HEC Paris, where she started her academic career in 2004. She has a PhD from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University in the Netherlands, where she was born and her research focuses on interpersonal influence and the role of new communication technologies in marketing.

In her spare time, Prof De Valck enjoys art cinema and dance performances, having studied film and television studies at university.

1. What do you enjoy most about your job?

The freedom! Academics enjoy the luxury of focusing on whatever they find of interest – and to change focus whenever they feel like it.

2. What is an average day at work like?

Since I obtained tenure: crazy. Too many emails to respond to, too many administrative and co-ordination tasks to take care of, too many meetings to attend. I need to plan my weeks well in advance to make sure I have enough time for my research. I am getting better at it, but I still remember the words of my thesis supervisor on the first day of my PhD programme: “The coming four years will be the best of your academic career as you can fully concentrate on doing research.” He was so right.

3. Do you have a teaching routine?

It is a routine I would like to break, but I am always still preparing until the last minute.

4. What is the best piece of advice given to you?

My master thesis supervisor advised me to go where my efforts are recognised and appreciated. And one of my Chinese exchange students advised me to keep up my ‘teaching style and peculiar way of dressing’. I do my best to put both pieces of advice into practice.

5. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

Not to ‘sit on’ things for too long. I always had a tendency to give a paper to my PhD thesis supervisors only when I thought it was perfect, and, of course, it never was. That was sometimes hard to swallow. I had to learn to ask for and be really open to the feedback of others. If you are not able to do this, then life as an academic will be quite miserable, as you are always criticised (by peers, reviewers, students, etc).

6. What academic achievement are you most proud of?

I am proud of the fact that my web 2.0 marketing communications course is a big success on iTunesU. It has been in the top 10 business downloads for many months. The course is a culmination of all my expertise in the area of online word of mouth, consumer communities and a changing marketing paradigm that acknowledges the importance of consumers as equal partners in the marketplace.

7. What is the worst job you have ever had?

While working for a Dutch broadcasting company, a TV producer asked my opinion about the position of the cameras in the studio. With my background in film and television studies, I dared to answer him. The next day, my boss, who had been present as well, informed me that (a) in future, I was supposed to smile and shut up – camera positions were not my business and (b) if I wanted to evolve in my job, it would be good if I could start wearing some more make-up. That was the day that I decided to pursue a PhD.

8. What is your favourite business book?

Currently, I would recommend Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity by Avinash Kaushik. It is a great read for anyone who likes detailed, hands-on explanations of how to optimise their web 2.0 activities by carefully tracking relevant data.

9. What is your life philosophy?

My parents always insisted that we did things our own way. That ‘everyone else was doing/having it’ did not carry any weight in my parents’ decisions about what my sister and I could do and have. Although very irritating when you are a kid that just wants to fit in, this life philosophy has allowed me to be a self-confident adult who is not afraid to make unconventional decisions.

10. What are your future plans?

Right now, I live very much in the present. However, in two years time I am looking forward to taking a sabbatical. I want to use it as a real break to get new inspiration and build new networks; there are so many exciting developments in our field that I would like to explore further - low consumption, augmented reality and neuromarketing, to name a few.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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