A day in the life: André Spicer

Curiosity gets the Business School faculty head out of bed every morning

How long have you been in your job?

I have been a professor at The Business School for nine years, but I have only recently taken over as head of faculty.

What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Curiosity. I want to find out new things about my colleagues and the issues I study but also about my students and the world. Universities ideally should be places that foster that curiosity.

What’s the first thing you do when you get into work?

Look at my calendar, open up Zoom, and let the meetings begin.

Who are the two or three people you talk to on a daily basis?

We live in a strange world now where our ambient everyday interactions are actually with our family members. So, my coffee break chat is now with my partner, who works in cultural policy.

“My coffee break chat is now with my partner, who works in cultural policy”

We often end up swapping ideas across sectors.

I also frequently talk with my colleague Caroline Weirtz. She is always an excellent source of insight and encouragement and always asks the right questions.
At the moment I am spending a great deal of my time speaking with all the members of my faculty – that is 86 people – so I am learning a great deal about everything from the impact our mobile phone battery life has on us through to privatisation of state-owned companies in India.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The fact that I get to learn a great deal. In the last few months, I have learned a great deal about the work people are doing in my faculty. Often there are many surprises and interesting insights which come from people asking odd and rather unexpected questions on different topics. I have also learned a lot about their own life stories – something I always find fascinating.

And the worst?

The long email chains often involved in doing apparently simple tasks.

Your number one most vital prop/tool/piece of equipment?

My computer.

How did you get into your job?

When I was studying in New Zealand, I got a job as a research assistant one summer. I enjoyed the sense of exploration and purpose in the academic community, so I began to think pursuing a PhD might be a better idea than going into the corporate world.

What is it about your personality that makes you suitable for the role?

I think that I am naturally quite curious about a wide range of topics. I enjoy communicating with people. In many ways I am living through many of the issues which I have taught and done research on for years: issues like leadership, organisational change, and how people behave in organisations.

Which five words sum up your typical day?

Back-to-back Zoom meetings.

Although that is not everything, it is a large part of my day. I also know from much of the research that it is vital to put aside some time for focused and uninterrupted work each day. I try to do an hour or two of writing and reading early each morning. Research has found that making progress on something which I find meaningful is an important component of a good day at work for people.

If you weren’t in this role, what would you be?

It is a question I ask myself every year or so, and I am never particularly convinced by any of the options!

André is professor of organisational behaviour and head of the faculty of management, The Business School (formerly Cass), City, University of London

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