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4:30pm ET, 4/16



Business specialist:
'Intellectual challenge'

Ron Cenfetelli  


Ron Cenfetelli


I'm an American living in Vancouver, attending the University of British Columbia as a Ph.D. student. I work in the business school (or "faculty of commerce," as it's formally known). My specialization is management information systems (MIS). Like any other school of business, the organization's mission is to educate both undergraduate and graduate students in the various disciplines of the business world -- finance, operations, management information systems.

Another fundamental aspect of many business schools is to be research hubs. UBC Commerce is particularly well-regarded for its emphasis on creating new knowledge in how people work in business, how decisions are made and how technology influences the conduct of commerce.

graphic What about a career in teaching like Ron Cenfetelli describes, particularly in business fields? -- interested?

Yeah. Particularly because the business climate changes with the times, you'll never feel stagnant.
Maybe. Not sure I'm enough of a natural teacher, though, I think you need that quality.
No. I think the book by Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius (reviewed currently in /career) has a lot to say about the shortfalls of some academic careers.
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Years in position



I'm 37 -- a little older than many people may expect, but more and more former business practitioners are going back to school as an alternative career.


I have a BS in aerospace engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

How did you get your current job?

Academics seems to be like the Masons, you have to know one to become one. It's certainly not a requirement but seems to be the trend. I'm no exception. For one, I'm engaged to someone who's a business school professor and had the most to do with leading me down the path. Second, I recently finished my MBA and made a number of contacts with professors there and so was able to get a good feel for what the career was all about.

How many hours do you work per week?

I try to maintain a fairly normal workweek but this is a job that's completely independent, not unlike a freelance writer or other autonomous profession. I can sleep in on Monday morning if I really need to or putter with a paper at 3 a.m. on a weekend.

It's hard to quantify hours because your job is to think. Does thinking of a research topic while going for a jog count as working?

What's the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?

Probably like most people, check e-mail. Have to be careful though, e-mail is a great communication tool but it can also suck the hours right out of a day.

"We never fully realize all the things we don't know (Confucius and Newton had contemplations on this,as well)."

What time do you have lunch? What do you usually eat?

Brain food. Just kidding. I typically hit the usual campus suspects of pizza and Thai wraps.

What time do things get tense around the office? What makes it that way?

Tension is very much an individual phenomenon in academics. Rarely is there "group tension," even during the typical tension periods for students such as exam weeks. Tension comes when you're deep in concentration on a new idea and you can't find a good block of hours to finish the thinking required.

If you're having a good day at work, what is it that makes it good?

The intellectual challenge. Discovering new ideas, new ways of thinking and looking at the world. We never fully realize all the things we don't know (Confucius and Newton had contemplations on this,as well). Finding explanations for things that were a mystery, even if you didn't know there was a mystery to begin with.

How much work, if any, do you take home?

In reality, all of it. The tough part is "turning it off" because you can always read, write and research, 24 hours a day.

The University of British Columbia's Management Information Systems (MIS) program in the Commerce and Business School is a relatively recent development in a field that keeps changing, according to Izak Benbasat, Ph.D., the program's director. "The Internet started appearing in the popular press in '94 or '95, but even in the 1980s, we were using e-mail, mostly in academia. You need critical mass," he says, for a field to arrive as the subject of a concentration. A recent study ranked Benbasat's program sixth in the world in terms of MIS research productivity among public universities -- ninth in the world for publications in MIS journals. And we met Cenfetelli when he used our submission form here at "A Day on the Job." If you'd like your day to be considered for a profile here at, let us hear from you as Cenfetelli did.

What does your work contribute to society?

Business research and teaching help companies compete more effectively and productively. Technology has played a large role in our economic expansion, but the concepts and ideas that get filtered to business leaders through programs such as the MBA have been a huge force as well. We now have our first MBA as president so who knows what's next?

Do you expect to finish your working life in this career?

It's a highly flexible career, which allows the pursuit of outside interests such as consulting if you so desire. That means you can always modify your career without necessarily having to jump out completely. So yes, I think so.

If you could have two more careers, what would they be?

A rock star and captain of an aircraft carrier.

What's an unforgivable trait in a colleague?

Kicking you when you're down instead of backing you up.

What do you do to relieve stress?

Lift weights and/or run.

"Academics seems to be like the Masons, you have to know one to become one."

What have you been reading lately?

Besides research journal articles, "Psychology of the Internet" (Patricia M. Wallace, Cambridge University Press, 1999) and "The Tipping Point" (Malcolm Gladwell, Little Brown & Company, 2000).

When you have one of those days on which you don't think you can face the job again, what is it that gets you out the door in the morning and off to work?

The idea of trying to explain the gap in my resumé to a job interviewer. For that matter, facing a job interviewer!



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University of British Columbia, Ph.D. program, management information systems

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