Professor Markus Maedler earned his Ph.D. in accounting from New York’s Columbia University. Prior to his academic career, he gained several years of international work experience in banking, consulting and public administration. His research interests focus on the role of accounting information and control systems in organizational design; corporate distress, turnaround and restructuring; and risk management.
Question: What made you choose a career in academics and teach at IESE?
Answer: I also did my MBA at IESE, from 1998 to 2000, and, as so often in life, the most important decisions are not based on a plan, but on intuition or a vision. What triggered me to change my career and become a teacher here was very simple. I was sitting in a certain class, the professor was teaching (I won’t disclose any names here) and there was a moment during in which I said to myself “Hey, Markus, you can do better than this guy” and then a moment later I told myself “Hey, Markus, you will do better than this guy.” That was the moment when I essentially decided to change careers and there was no looking back.
Q: In your opinion, what are the main challenges that MBAs will face over the next three years?
A: As you know, many MBA grads change jobs after one or two years because their initial career choice was not satisfying or fulfilling enough, or wasn’t the right one at all, so on a personal level it will probably be to reorient your career. I think the challenge for MBAs is to reinvent themselves without falling into a hole . Hopefully, the sooner you understand this, the sooner you can start thinking about and planning for better choices.
On a professional level, where business is concerned, the ability to accept that business, like life in general, is a roller coaster ride that will go on an increasingly fast speed, and the ability to adjust to new realities and perhaps be able to shape new realities, will be key.
Q: On a personal level, do you think that changing careers and then rediscovering ourselves in the process is a “rite of passage” so to speak? Or should it be avoided with better planning?
A: Better planning… maybe not, because planning has to do with implementation. I think it has to do with better dreaming, about what you want to achieve in life as a professional. In a sense, it’s having a career dream and knowing what you are able to do right now. You can start to think about it now, start to envision what you want to do in the long run.
The second thing is to have the guts to do it and to take the risk and be courageous. From the people I have come across (including myself), in my opinion people who switch were not courageous enough to pursue the career that they really wanted and instead made compromises. For example, some might have chosen to go into investment banking for the money or into consulting for whatever reason, instead of saying “I want to take the risk now and I am going to try it.”
These would be my two pieces of advice: one, to dream and two, to have the courage to pursue your dream and to do it now because in my opinion, right now is the time of your life when you can actually do it.
Q: Like Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now?
A: I don’t think it is like that. It is more about dreaming about your future and starting to implement it now.
Q: Favorite food?
A: I am German so I like potatoes, in particular potato chips or “crisps”, which is not a healthy choice. Favorite drink, I can tell you right away: rum. I am a big lover of rum and my wife “hates” me for my collection of rum bottles that I have at home.
Q: What restaurant in Barcelona do you most frequent the most?
A: Quimet & Quimet in Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes. It is the best bar in the world. Period! I have been going there for 21 years.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: If I have the time, I play rugby. Other than that, I like to travel and take care of my rum collection.
Q: What place is high on your “to visit” list?
A: On the top of my list is Poland. I have been to Poland for professional reasons so many times that I have lost count, but I have never really had the chance to see the country or even just visit the main cultural sites. So this is my #1 place to visit.
Q: What is your favorite book?
A: Besides accounting books? That’s difficult to answer…
Q: How about a book that you have enjoyed reading recently?
A: First of all, let me just say that it is difficult for me to read much for pleasure because I read a lot for professional purposes. Also, having two children doesn’t give me much time to read in general, unfortunately. Recently, however, I read a very nice book. It is called The Humans by Matt Haig. It is about an extraterrestrial that arrives to planet Earth and “lands” into the body of a professor in the UK.
Q: I think he’s teaching at IESE…
A: The alien takes an “outside looking in” view on life and notices how strange we human beings are. I found it quite funny, but I am an accountant… and a German accountant at that.
Q: Closing comments?
A: This is the time to be courageous, take risks and pursue the career of your dreams . Don’t wait until it’s too late. Easier said than done, I am aware of this, but I have to encourage you to do it nevertheless.
Until the next issue…