EFMD behind the scenes: Conversation with Jean-Alexis Spitz (JAS)

Jean-Alexis

For our 50th Anniversary, EFMD has created a new “Behind the Scenes” series so you can get to know us better. This conversation is with Jean-Alexis Spitz, otherwise known as “JAS”. He is a Manager for Business School Services and wears several other hats for EFMD. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeanalexis_JAS

Can you tell me how long you have been at EFMD and about the various roles that you’ve played?

So, I’ve been working for EFMD for the past five years. I started five years ago with a one-day-per-week contract on a very specific task to develop the job fair that we were having for the business schools who want to hire a junior faculty and also want to place their recent graduates. That’s how I was introduced to the networks.

And I guess I did not do too bad because one after the other, I got extra projects and extra days in my week to work on those projects. A couple months after I started, I got the second project, the Responsible Research in Business and Management initiative. I’m the admin coordinator, the community manager and the webmaster for that, and then I started covering maternity leaves and replacing people who moved departments. All the new projects I got from there were in the Business School Service department, where I became in charge full time of the Doctoral Programmes Conference, the Master Programmes Conference, and then eventually the job fair joined the department as well.

During the COVID period, I got a new responsibility to develop the EFMD Global Career Fairs together with our partner, Highered. And that’s another hat that I’m now happily wearing, with the dedicated relationship that we have with this partner to make the best of those career fairs for the career services of the schools in our network.

And you are still doing all of those roles now?

No, in timing, it became almost impossible to keep all the older roles. So, at some point, I had to let go of my Master Programmes Conference because it was just too much. Now, I really have four things in my portfolio: the Doctoral Programme Conference, the PhD fair, RRBM – those three elements, all being one way or another related to the doctoral community, which I believe makes sense – and the career fairs.

I really think that working with communities in our role makes a lot of sense. With the doctoral community, we are addressing the needs of the research. The next generation of researchers being the young graduates and their need to find a placement, the way we are actually carrying the research with the Responsible Research in Business and Management initiative and the Doctoral Programmes Conference, which is the classical conference where the heads of doctoral programmes are meeting.

So even though it looks diverse, there is a common unity within this doctoral community and this new role for already two years in a relationship with Highered. So, these are my four main tasks.

So, when someone finds out what you do, what question do they always ask you?

Ha, I would say that really depends if they have any knowledge about EFMD or not. So, I’d say when they have no idea about EFMD, the first question that you’re always asked is what does EFMD stand for? And then you have to explain that it used to stand for European Foundation for Management Development, but now that we are a global organisation, we only go by the acronym because the “E” is too restrictive. When they know a little bit about EFMD, there are a lot of questions related to accreditation – how? what? – and very often, people have no idea that we are doing something else other than the accreditation.

That’s when it’s interesting to explain to them that we are only partially taking care of that [accreditation], but that we are also working with the various communities to help them in their professional role, with the development of their career, with the development of their teaching, of their research. And that’s where I’m involved. So, I’d say, the first thing is, what is it? And the second thing, is there is something besides accreditation in the house?

Yes. I’m hoping these interviews help show that as well. And what do you appreciate most about the EFMD network?

What I really like about the EFMD network, and especially with the doctoral community, is the openness of the people in the community. I rarely sense any competition between schools and representatives of schools attending our events. It’s really much more peers facing the same difficulties, the same questions, the same issues, the same challenges, and that are really openly discussing during our forums about what they’ve tried, what they’ve sometimes failed, and their successes.

It’s really the openness of the discussion that I found the most amazing. Of course, they are interested in rankings. They are interested in having the best programme and attracting the best talent or the best colleagues when it comes to the job fair, but still, I’m amazed by how open and helpful they can be. That’s not what I’ve always experienced when working at the university. Sometimes the world of research is not as open as it claims it is, but within our network, I think we are very lucky with the openness of the people.

Considering the present situation with management education, what development or innovation do you think is now critical for management education?

I’d say that for management education and management research, which I believe should go hand-in-hand in the development, what is really critical and important is to reconnect with the main stakeholders that they have sometimes forgotten, which are the businesses themselves and the society in which they live. We cannot, and we should not, keep on training students ex nihilo and researching topics only of interest to the researcher and their own career. We should address the needs of the businesses because that’s part of the mission of a business school to make the businesses strive and address the needs of the world that we are living in. We have to assist and support the current leaders of the world and educate the leaders of the world of tomorrow. And for that, we have to be aware of the current problems. Not teaching them what was always taught in the past, but teaching them the current issues and how to address the world in its speed, in its sometimes disruptive way, and giving them the tools to really help shape society.

Before I switch to more personal questions, could you tell me what you like most about your work?

 Ah, what I like the most about the work that I do, and what I miss the most these past two years, is the opportunity of meeting people. We are working all year long on a number of gathering events that we are organising for the community. But at the same time, we know that this work will climax in not only a conference with interesting speakers, interesting networking opportunities but also in travelling to somewhere where one of our schools is based and meeting people and discovering one place.

Maybe, and I’m always trying to do this, extending my stay for the weekend after the conference to really discover one new place. I love travelling. I love discovering food, and this was the “cherry on the cake” for all the past events. And I have to say that with COVID and doing everything online, this has probably been the most difficult part: not having this special reward, this opportunity to discover new things. So, I really hope that it will come back.

So, if you could travel anywhere in the blink of an eye, where would you go and why?

That’s an interesting question. If I could travel, I would do it right now. Where would I go? There are places that I would love to go back to. I would love to go back to Kyoto. I would love to go back to Montreal. I would love to go back to New York, but I think right now I’ve been so much travel deprived that I’m craving for somewhere new, somewhere that I’ve never been. I’m thinking probably somewhere in Asia that I would really like to discover.

Sounds good. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with your extra time?

 What I miss the most at the moment is probably the time to read. So maybe I would use part of that time to read.

While we’re on that topic, what book or movie do you know the most quotes from?

 Well, there are movies that I pretty much know by heart, but I’m not sure there is something to be proud of and that it would be really professional to share those. I’d say that the author I know the most quotes from is most probably Peter Drucker, known as the founder of modern management. But that’s probably a professional deformation due to the fact that I used to be the community manager of the Peter Drucker Society. So, I’ve lived in a world where Peter Drucker was the one and most important figure, and it’s amazing that he was thinking about so many of the management issues that we are facing now, some 50 years after he actually started writing about them. So, the most serious answer would be Peter Drucker.

Okay, I won’t press you about any of the others. Could you tell me what is something that you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t gotten around to?

 I’d say I’d love to learn one more language. So, I’m French by nationality, which is probably a handicap to learning foreign languages. I know rather well English, I can understand German and Dutch. But I would love to start learning a new language. I’ve started with several of them. I’ve started with Japanese. I’ve started with Hebrew. I’ve started with Polish for one reason or another, but I’ve never been serious enough to really manage these, and that’s probably something I’d like to get the time to seriously do. It’s the seriousness that is important. I don’t want to just be able to say a few sentences. I would really like to immediately, in the blink of an eye, as your question about travelling, be able to speak it properly but I’m not sure I’m ready to make the effort, which appears to be more and more important the older you get.

Those are all challenging languages to learn as well! And what is next on your agenda?

Next on my agenda is the Doctoral Programmes Conference that will take place face-to-face in Brussels in May.

That sounds great. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.

 Learn more about JAS in the video with Eline Loux below.

See more of our staff interview series.