What vision does Porto Business School’s Dean have?

Porto Business School Dean

José Esteves was appointed the new dean of Portugal’s Porto Business School at the start of 2023. A year on, we explore the motivations of this business school leader and dive into his background, as well as the challenges he’s faced so far.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your career up until becoming Porto Business School Dean?

With over 30 years of experience in corporate work, teaching, consulting, and coaching, my expertise spans information systems, digital strategy, leadership, and innovation in the digital realm. I spent 18 years at IE Business School serving as professor of information systems, associate dean for full-time international MBA, launched the first European TECHMBA, associate dean for tech and analytics master programs, and head of the information systems department.

I am the author of many articles published in international conferences, books and journals. My research interests focus on digital innovation, digital strategy and leadership, the impact of information systems on organisations, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, smart cities, gamification and Big Data.

Before transitioning to academia, I played pivotal roles as an information systems analyst, innovation manager, and consultant for renowned companies.

I hold a degree in Information Systems Engineering from the University of Minho (Portugal), a DBA, a master’s in finance, and a Ph.D. in software from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona. Recently, I completed an executive education program at Columbia Business School focused on the Corporate Governance Program: Developing Exceptional Board Leaders and the EFMD Strategic Leadership Program for Deans.

What made you initially take the role of Dean at Porto Business School?

As a native of Portugal, my decision to assume the role of Dean at Porto Business School was motivated by several factors. Firstly, after many years spent abroad, I felt a deep-rooted desire to give back to my country and contribute to its growth, drawing upon my international experience.

Additionally, the opportunity allowed me to be closer to my family, which was important to me on a personal level. Lastly, serving as the Dean of a prestigious business school like Porto Business School presented a significant opportunity for career development and professional growth.

You are coming up to a year in the role of Dean – what do you believe are your most significant accomplishments in that year?

During this period, we crafted an ambitious four-year strategy focused on key strategic priorities such as internationalisation, diversity, sustainability, and technology innovation. We also aimed to foster greater synergy between academia and industry, culminating in the launch of our innovation exploration hub. Our innovationXHub is currently composed of five impact centres: Sustainable futures, Tourism futures, Africa centre, Entrepreneurship, and Artificial intelligence for business centre.

Portugal is globally acclaimed for its profound cultural and historical legacy, and our commitment extends to incorporating these facets into our students’ educational journeys by integrating humanities and arts as an essential component.

At the core of our strategic agenda lies the development of a GLocal leadership mindset. We aim to foster global leaders capable of creating a meaningful impact at the local level—a vision that holds significant importance for the development of Portugal.

In the academic realm, substantial enhancements have been undertaken, particularly in the redesign of MBA programs and also the online MBA program has undergone a thorough revamp, now featuring a dedicated track on artificial intelligence for business—a forward-looking move that reflects the institution’s commitment to staying at the forefront of industry trends. Notably, the Digital MBA program stands out as one of the first in the world to include AI as a core skill, showcasing a progressive approach to curriculum development.

We are proud to introduce two new executive master’s programs in sustainability management and cybersecurity management, addressing critical knowledge areas for modern business leaders.

On the global stage, the institution has solidified its position among the top 50 European business schools, marking a significant achievement in terms of recognition and competitiveness. The reaccreditation from the Association of MBAs and the Business Graduates accreditation in December further validate the institution’s commitment to excellence and adherence to industry standards.

Can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced in this time and how you’ve overcome them?

Similar to other business schools, we grapple with the ever-changing dynamics of the economy and job markets, emphasising the need to showcase the value proposition of our education portfolio, particularly in the realm of MBA programs.

Consequently, we invest considerable time in ensuring their alignment with the job market, aiming to deliver the best possible educational experience. Our commitment extends to providing a personalised touch, recognising the unique needs of each individual. Our goal is to create a student experience that is customisable, adaptable, and inherently personal.

In addition to focusing on our immediate educational landscape, we recognise the importance of being an integral part of the broader ecosystem for education and skills development. This strategic involvement is crucial for making a tangible impact on both society and the economy. We actively collaborate with various stakeholders to discern needs and determine how we can contribute most effectively.

Acknowledging Portugal’s demographic challenges, we find it imperative to extend our reach to international markets. Consequently, efforts are underway to expand our brand and visibility overseas. Fortunately, Portugal’s historical presence in various regions provides us with a cultural advantage that we leverage to enhance our brand on the global stage. 

What changes, initiatives or projects have you been most proud of overseeing in your first year?

At Porto Business School, we take immense pride in the recent initiatives and transformative projects that have marked our school’s journey.

We’re proud that MBA programs have undergone a significant redefinition, as mentioned. This evolution is aimed at equipping future leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary for impactful and responsible management.

This comprehensive revamp of our MBA programs also encompasses a Business Impact Challenge – a one-week immersion challenge where students apply their expertise to solve complex business issues, gaining hands-on experience in a real business setting.

This initiative is carefully designed to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed for success, offering a unique opportunity to leverage the advantages of Porto Business School’s strategic location, home to major multinationals, tech start-ups, luxury retail, and NGOs. It provides a dynamic, real-life project where MBA students can apply their skills.

In the last quarter of 2023, we celebrated our 35th anniversary and had the honour of hosting Isabel Schnabel from the European Central Bank’s executive board. Her insights on monetary policy amid inflationary pressures reaffirmed our commitment to preparing professionals who excel and lead with purpose.

Beyond academic rigour, our MBA Programs emphasise social impact through team-building exercises extending beyond the classroom. As part of this commitment, 130 of our MBA participants directly engaged with the community, dedicating a day of service at a local fostering youth centre. This initiative transformed our MBA participants into painters, gardeners, and decorators, all united by a common goal: to refurbish the residence of forty young boys facing challenging circumstances.

These actions embody the essence of our school’s commitment—education with purpose, impact, and a legacy that extends into the future and the community.

What global trends do you see being the biggest challenges for business education in the years ahead?

The landscape of executive education is undergoing rapid evolution, poised to confront significant challenges in the coming years, driven by global trends and the escalating talent war.

The rise of artificial intelligence demands prompt attention, impacting jobs and prompting a shift towards innovative learning methods. Our strategic response includes integrating AI as both a teaching tool and a transformative force in reshaping business strategies, reshaping business strategies, models, and operational paradigms. In parallel, there’s a rising demand for sustainability and responsible leadership education, requiring deep integration into executive programs.

I strongly believe that it is time for business schools to reassess their value proposition and redefine their impact on both the business world and society. As these institutions tend to adopt standardised approaches in their product delivery, often becoming excessively international and global, they risk neglecting the profound impact they can have at the local level.

I am a firm advocate for the idea that business schools should place a renewed emphasis on making meaningful contributions within their local ecosystems, becoming indispensable and influential forces in the communities they serve. This shift towards recognising and enhancing local impact holds the key to creating a truly transformative and inspirational legacy for business education.

Furthermore, geopolitical shifts and economic uncertainties underscore the need for executives skilled in navigating complex global supply chains and adept at mediating cross-cultural negotiations. The dynamic pace of business evolution necessitates agile executive education programs, continuously updated to reflect the latest industry insights.

Collectively, these trends necessitate a reinvention of executive education, ensuring its relevance, responsiveness, and impact in a landscape requiring new skills and lifelong learning.

What are your goals and priorities for the business school in the next year, and what would you like to achieve?

At Porto Business School, we cultivate an inspirational environment that sees change not as a challenge but as a catalyst for exponential growth. Our leaders not only navigate complexity but are inspired to pioneer future-forward thinking, excel in problem-solving, and lead with a steadfast commitment to serving, empowering, and shaping a brighter tomorrow.

At the heart of Porto Business School lies our unwavering dedication to fostering a vibrant ecosystem that champions forward-looking perspectives, celebrates diversity, promotes inclusivity, and drives impactful change.

Through a culture deeply rooted in innovation, entrepreneurship, and responsible leadership, our vision is to empower students with the insight and adaptability needed to lead in an era of continual transformation. All of this is guided by a strategic emphasis on preserving well-being and mental health, ensuring that our community thrives holistically as we journey towards tomorrow’s horizons.

We envision an inspiring future where Porto Business School emerges as a towering global hub, fostering lifelong agents of innovation. Our vision is to solidify our standing as a leading European business school, characterised by increasing innovation, international prominence, and a profound commitment to social responsibility.

In the pursuit of these audacious goals, our dedication to continuous improvement acts as the driving force propelling us to not only meet but surpass benchmarks of quality, relevance, and influence within the global academic and business communities.

Looking forward, we stand united, ready to shape a tomorrow where innovation, impact, and inspiration harmoniously converge, forging a legacy that will endure through the ages. Together, we are architects of a transformative narrative that transcends boundaries and inspires generations to come.

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