I teach Marketing at Darden, where I’m the area head for Marketing. My specialty is in technology and marketing as well as AI in marketing.
My undergraduate degree is in Computer Engineering, which I completed in 1997. In my final year of undergrad, I took classes in this new thing called neural networks, and I did my final project on genetic algorithms – both of which are now the mainstay of the AI toolkits of today. And neural networks have evolved into deep learning networks. And so that was my first introduction to AI and analytics, and data science.
And I came to the United States to do my PhD in Marketing. My PhD adviser – who was very prescient – told me that technology and computers are going to play a big role in marketing. Earlier marketing was all the magic and the “Mad Men” era, and, you know, there is a lot of creativity; inspiration strikes you one day, and you create this mega campaign. But things were beginning to shift even in the mid to late ’90s. I wanted to be part of the shift, and so I took classes in econ marketing, consumer behavior, and found it really fascinating.
I was an Engineering major – and this was my first time hearing about supply and demand – but to me, the world made sense after I saw the supply and demand curves. So I stuck around and finished my PhD and taught Marketing Research at the University of Connecticut. I began teaching Marketing Analytics at UVA since 2006, and Digital Marketing since 2015.
One of the main things that attracted to me to Darden was the mission of the school – to develop responsible leaders through transformational learning experiences. This statement reflects the balance between teaching and research with this emphasis on practice, through all the activities that we do, which is unique among business schools, and I agree with this mission with my research. I am always looking at how trends in the industry are affecting marketing and what we as academics have to say about it, and also how marketing can evolve with technology.
It’s one of the great pleasures of my life. First of all, I respect the balancing act that our working professional students do to maintain a full-time job, spend time with their family, as many of our students are married with kids, and complete a full-time degree.
I find it rewarding to teach these students because they are able to directly apply what they’re learning in class to their work. And they also bring their experience at work into the class discussions. This makes the experience all the better for me and for everyone in the class. When we go through cases, there also seems to be someone who works in the industry or for a similar company, who is going through this, which helps make the lesson more concrete.
I’m also very thrilled whenever our professional students tell me they apply the tools, techniques, or concepts they learned in school and their work. That’s what we strive for – it’s a very fulfilling experience. The classroom is focused on the now and the practical, but we also learn about theories and fundamentals. We strategize about long-term effects; we speculate about scenarios and different worlds. This is cool. After all, where else can you have the liberty to think like that? Big thoughts. But we also focus on the now and the present. That nice mix of practice and theory really makes the working professional students a joy to work with.
The MSBA program is future focused. It’s about how business is changing. It’s addressing some of the changes I’ve mentioned, and it is really homing in on this whole transformation of business to be more data driven and preparing students for this new world, which is really consistent with the beliefs that I hold and what I have spent my career working on.
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