Interview by Sakshi Aggarwal
Dr. Nina Jacob is currently working as a Professor, Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management at the IFIM Business School, Bangalore and Chairperson, VB Padode Centre for Sustainability, IFIM. Her work experience includes 4 and half years as an Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore; one year as a visiting professor at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, the Netherlands; one year five months as a visiting professor at the KS Kaderschule, St. Gallen Switzerland; and three months at the IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain. (The IESE Business School, Barcelona has been rated as the 11th best in the world by the London Financial Times, 2018).
Dr. Nina is the author of 3 academic books and several academic papers. She also writes for business magazines, her latest publication being “The Curious Case of Workplace Inclusivity” published in the February, 2018 issue of “Human Capital”. Her book, “Intercultural Management” was published by Kogan-Page, UK. At IFIM Business School she teaches “Human Capital Management”, “Competency-Based Strategic Staffing”, “Strategic Human Resource Management”, “Human Resource Management – Industrial Relations”, “Cross-Cultural Management”, “Principles of Management”, and “The Case Method”. Her doctoral work is in the area of organizational and managerial creativity.
Dr. Nina’s experience in the education sector
I have always wanted to work in the education sector so being able to spend an entire career in academics has been a dream come true. My experience has been mostly positive. It has been interesting to observe how the student body has become increasingly more assertive over the years. There is a great deal of variety in the job of a professor making it always interesting. It is the best sector in the world to be in if a person likes students. Then every educational activity becomes interesting and fulfilling, whether it is running a half marathon with students, or taking classes for them. It is a knowledge generation sector, which in and of itself is noble and uplifting. It is always satisfying when students make something of themselves and contribute to society in later life. A Professor then feels proud of their wards and proud of their profession.
Dr. Nina’s philosophy of leadership and her leadership style
I do not consider myself a leader at all. All professors hold some sort of administrative position for a fixed period of time. That time period can get extended, or the role may pass on to somebody else. During that period, the professor co-ordinates the activities of the unit she/he is responsible for. A true leader is somebody like Mahatma Gandhi, who can galvanize lakhs of people into fighting for something bigger than themselves. The ‘leadership role’ that professors play is that of a mentor. Aristotle used to say that a mentor should first make a connection with his/her wards at the human level. Only after that will the wards be open to influence from their mentors.
Significant challenges faced by Dr. Nina as the Professor and Chairperson, VB Padode Centre for Sustainability of IFIM Business School
The main challenge is that of somehow squeezing in 25 hours into a day! Goals are achieved by working within a specified time frame. So, it is a daily challenge to try and achieve multiple goals simultaneously, as soon as possible. Yesterday, for instance, I had three deadlines to meet: that of registering as a research supervisor with Vishvesaraya Technological University, that of submitting the marks of my Industry Immersion Program’s students, and that of sending MOUs to 14 social entrepreneurs. I also had to take a Human Capital Management class.
Dr. Nina’s experience as an Assistant Professor at IIM, Bangalore
It was an educative experience and I learned a lot. However, as an established institute, everything is already set and there is not much scope for making suggestions for innovation as a faculty member. The institute I like working in best of all was KS Kaderschule, St. Gallen, Switzerland. I liked the orderly conduct of the Swiss, and their penchant for adhering to rules and regulations. They like having well-defined rules/laws and they follow them both in the letter and spirit of the law.
The curriculum of IFIM Business School
IFIM Business School is trying to create best practices which other B-schools may like to emulate. Let’s consider one original initiative of IFIM Business School – the Social Immersion Program (SIP). Here, students in groups, spend ten days seconded to an NGO. They learn about the social issue that the NGO is dealing with. They then apply management techniques such as TEV and prototyping to improve the functioning of the NGO in terms of what is delivered. A social issue is treated as a management project. Such an approach will make students think in terms of how they can make an impact in the lives of ordinary Indians. That will be more satisfying than selling kinds of toothpaste for multinational corporations.
IFIM Business School has very recently obtained AACSB accreditation. This is only the sixth business school in India to obtain this prestigious accreditation. Other business schools will be looking for us to provide them with best practices.
The growth of students through placement opportunities available at IFIM Business School
I have been with IFIM Business School for only 1 year, 2 and half months now. I am however finding that some of the students from the 2016–2018 batch are already proving their mettle right now while pursuing their corporate internship.
I would like to push the envelope further by seeing students start their own NGOs. For doing this, they could use the inputs they obtain from the Centre of Excellence in Entrepreneurship Development, the lessons they derive from doing SIP projects under the aegis of the VB Padode Centre for Sustainability, and the overall education they receive from the PGDM program. Or they could become social entrepreneurs by running for-profit organizations which address social issues. Or they could try and make a fortune by tapping the bottom of the pyramid, along with the lines suggested by the late great C.K. Prahalad.
Dr. Nina’s relationship with the students
My first point of contact with students has always been the classroom. It is a creative challenge to try and reach out intellectually to a wide variety of students. But then, at IFIM there are so many other forums where faculty and students interact with each other. Like all faculty members, I have ten IIP mentees, twenty SIP mentees, and ten corporate mentees. Now that I am coordinating the SIP program, I am coming into touch with all 270 students of the 2017-2019 batch. By the same token, since the work of coordinating SIP is quite time-consuming, I no longer have time for chatting informally with students. Earlier I used to invite students to my office for short conversations. That is how I made myself available to them. Or I would go to the cafeteria and talk for some minutes with students there. Every student has an interesting story to tell about her/his life experiences.
Ideal school environment according to Dr. Nina and how does she encourage that kind of culture at IFIM Business School
The ideal school environment is one where students learn very fast that life is fraught with imperfections. There is no ideal school environment, work environment or home environment. We have to try our best on a day-to-day basis. And in the process, try and make a contribution to the world around us. There are some school environments which are better than others, of course. The school environments which are better are those which make students evolve in some way. The students themselves should feel that they have grown. Their parents and others who know them well should be able to notice the improvement. Mostly, the change should be one where the student feels confident that he/she can face any of the curve balls that life throws at him/her.
I would like to encourage a culture in classroom where students feel comfortable to discuss and debate and participate in the process of learning.
Top qualities according to Dr. Nina that an aspiring PGDM/MBA/BBA/Law student must possess
An aspiring PGDM student should be an all-rounded person. Yes, he /she must be academically sound. Yes, he/she should be articulate, well-mannered, and confident. But above all, he/she should be compassionate. This is the fifth dimension that all educational institutes should seek out in prospective students. Compassion is difficult to assess in an interview or test. But in the long-run, everybody knows who has compassion and who does not. It is compassion which will enable professionals to leave behind a legacy that will outlive them in impact and value. It is compassion which will have made a person’s life worth living. After all, when we lie on our deathbeds, we can take nothing with us. But we can leave behind affection and gratitude in the hearts of all who knew us.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
The youth currently is much to be admired because it is driven to fulfill their dreams. They have so much more opportunities to find fulfillment than the youth of even thirty years ago. Especially women have many more life options now than ever before. I have an aunt who is now 96 years old. When she was a young girl, she had dreamt of becoming a doctor. Instead, her parents arranged for her to marry a doctor at the age of 20. Seventy-six years ago, people genuinely believed that it was better for a woman to fulfill her aspirations through her husband than for her to strike out on her own. Not so anymore. I would, therefore, urge all young women to go for gold, to be ambitious, and to be motivated enough to realize their ambitions.