Jenni Dinger is a clinical assistant professor in Management and Entrepreneurship who joined Kelley in the Fall of 2020. She teaches U701, a strategy elective that focuses on the role of the competitive environment on corporate and business-level strategic decisions. She is looking forward to digging into topics like sustainability and corporate venture capital that professors and students usually do not have time to cover in the foundational strategy course.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? Without question, the most rewarding aspect of being a professor is helping students get to the next step in their career or, even better, helping them map out a completely new career that they’ve been dreaming of but not yet decided to take the leap.
What can students expect from your Kelley Direct courses? More than anything else, I think students can expect a hyper-focus on current events and the decisions that leaders are having to make right now. We will, of course, use recent case studies to analyze and dissect why a company did what they did and discuss how effective it was, but it’s also nice to do a deep dive and rigorously debate an opportunity or threat where the outcome is still to be determined. Very little in strategy is clear-cut. Yes, we use data and analyze as much as possible, but business is also about being able to act in the face of uncertainty and that’s what keeps it interesting!
How has COVID pushed you to teach in new ways? Prior to COVID, I typically only taught one course per year that was partially online. It was a travel course with the pre- and post-travel components being online. Not surprisingly, switching to fully online mid-semester in the spring of 2020 was jarring! But in a good way. It really opened my eyes to how several discussions, activities, and assignments were MORE effective in an online environment. I will be surprised if I ever teach a class that isn’t at least a partially flipped classroom with live and asynchronous content, even for traditionally in-person classes. It is simply more efficient and more effective for all involved and I think higher education as a whole will be better for the systemic shock of COVID in the long run.
How do you find work-life balance? What do you tell your students how best to manage their time to be successful? It’s been nearly 20 years since I started my career and I still don’t have the answer. For most people, there will be different phases in terms of work-life balance. I think back to my first few years at Walmart corporate and in one particular position I was doing thousands of emails per week and waking up in the middle of the night to check on things. And I loved every minute of it! I was learning a ton and having a huge impact on the business. Now, I teach a few days a week and am able to largely work remotely but honestly probably work more hours than the most hectic years in the industry. And I love every minute of it! My point is that as long as it is fulfilling and moving you toward what you want, it may not be balanced every day but instead balanced over your career. You have to find what works for you.
How do you keep students engaged in an online classroom? If I’m doing my job as the facilitator in the classroom, students should be challenged to look at business scenarios from a different perspective. If they are considering a case study or a current event from a new angle, they’re taking in new information and will be creative in their analysis. When someone feels as though they have a novel take, they’re happily engaged.
What do you tell your students if/when they ask about accelerating their career? In my experience, the pace of someone’s career advancement is all about their emotional intelligence. It’s in part about accurately assessing the environment, specifically whether the opportunity they are interested in exists or will in the near future. But, the bigger piece is the student’s ability to engage meaningfully with the right people. More often than not, it is the student’s relationships that reveal or facilitate a career opportunity.
What is something people may not understand about online learning? The biggest takeaway for me is that it boils down to the same thing as in-person learning: an engaged dialogue among participants! Especially in an MBA class, I find that we learn the most when we hear people’s unique thought processes and perspectives.
What are you most excited about in the new Jellison studios? I’m excited about the opportunity to create rich, more polished content than I can currently do at home on my own. This enhanced virtual classroom experience will make the biggest difference for our KD MBA students, so that’s what I’m most looking forward to.
What is something most people don’t know about you? Most people probably don’t know that I spend most of my time outside of work traveling, painting, or baking. Obviously, traveling is out for now but I generally try to visit at least one new country per year. This year was supposed to be swimming with the humpbacks in Tonga, but maybe 2022…. In terms of painting, I use acrylic on canvas and do a lot of illustrated maps, abstracts, and pet portraits. I was even selected by the City of Boston to do an outdoor exhibit a few years ago. In terms of baking, I do a lot of decorated sugar cookies and cakes. If social distancing lasts much longer, I may venture into bread….something The Great British Bake Off has scared me out of thus far!
Your book recommendation for MBAs? It may be because it was assigned during my MBA program and was relatively new at that time, but Jim Collins’ Good to Great is still a must-read in my opinion. We spend so much of our life at work, so why not focus on creating more than just a “good” company. I love the emphasis Collins places on discipline, both in terms of processes and people. A more personal recommendation is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Not a business book obviously, but a short read that, more often than not, helps people reset. It helps people refocus on what is truly important to them. A great book to pick up in the New Year. I also plan to re-read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. He was such a remarkable business mind and innovator and his recent death makes me want to remember his unique way of leading.