Coffee with… Shehzad Mian

Shortly after Shehzad Mian began teaching in Goizueta’s executive MBA program, he had an ah-ha moment. As he scanned the classroom, he took inventory of the collective knowledge seated in front of him. Mian, an associate professor of finance, realized he needed to shift his “I am the professor, I have to teach” approach to one where students could learn from him and from each other. The shift worked. In the 20 years he’s taught in Goizueta’s Executive MBA Program, he’s earned the Distinguished Educator Award, an award voted on by graduating students, 18 times.

An avid reader and lover of bookstores, Mian consumes information from a variety of topics to stay up-to-date. He credits his ability to synthesize ideas from different disciplines as key to his success. Mian’s teaching plans are a blend of “academic rigor and real-world applications,” he explains. “One of the things I try and achieve in my classes is to get them to see how they impact value in their companies.”

Mian’s research follows a similar thread. Currently, he’s tracking corporate CFOs as they transition from one company

to another in an effort to better understand value creation, or, more broadly, how financial innovation and knowledge is transmitted across an organization. A separate project attempts to quantify the effect an operations background plays in developing top leadership talent: How much does it matter if a CEO has an operations background versus a background in finance—or marketing, or strategy?

Born in Pakistan, Mian’s career in finance almost didn’t happen. After earning a BS in mathematical economics at the London School of Economics in 1978, Mian made his way to the United States with the goal of earning his PhD in economics from the University of Rochester. But when he arrived, he found that the advisor he’d hoped to study under had taken a job at another university. Wondering what to do, he wandered into the business school and, by chance, met the dean of admissions. “He gave me a gift that day—three hours of his time,” says Mian. “He talked to me about the world of business and completely dazzled me.” Mian enrolled in the Simon Business School at the University

Mian enrolled in the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester, where he met Cliff Smith 69C, an authority on corporate finance and, like Mian after him, a professor en route to collecting dozens of teaching awards. Smith became Mian’s mentor. After Mian graduated with a PhD in corporate finance, he and Smith, who is from Georgia, continued to work together and published several research papers. “In a way, I feel like being at Emory is like coming home for me,” says Mian.

This type of luck continues to play a role in Mian’s life. After hearing a radio interview with famed photographer Annie Leibovitz—where she noted that every photograph she takes has a story behind it—Mian made a similar connection in finance. “Every income statement, every balance sheet, every cash flow statement has a story to tell. Numbers are important, but it’s the story behind the numbers that is critical,” he says. The interview also turned Mian into a Leibovitz fan (he traveled to Berlin, Germany, to see one of her photographic exhibits) and prompted him to take up photography.

Mian and his wife have three adult children and share a love of travel. He’s been to nearly every continent except South America, but he plans to visit soon. “It’s so close,” he says. “It’s something I need to do.”

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