Howard Yu, professor
‘At the IMD, my research work is no longer isolated in an ivory tower, it is connected to the actual environment.’
Why did you choose to pursue your career in Lausanne?
HY | Before taking up my post at the IMD, I did a doctorate at the Harvard Business School in Boston. The two institutions are historically very close as the IMD was set up by the Harvard Business School in response to a request from Nestlé.
What were your first impressions when you arrived in Lausanne?
HY | I found the lake spectacular with the views over the glacier and the mountain peaks. I'd never seen anything like it before.
If you had to define the study environment in Lausanne in just three words, what would they be?
HY | Culture, nightlife and greenery.
Can you tell us about your career before taking up your post with the IMD?
HY | I grew up in Hong Kong, where I worked in the banking sector. I then decided to do business studies at Harvard for four-and-a-half years, concentrating on the subject of innovation, before rejoining the IMD.
What do you consider to be characteristic of the career of a researcher in your field of work in Lausanne?
HY | Before coming to Lausanne, I told myself that it was a small town and that it would not be very open in international terms. But it turned out that many large companies actually have their head offices here. The profiles of the students at the IMD are also very international. The ambiance of a small town fits in with the presence of global enterprises here.
Can you tell us about any memorable events you have experienced during your career?
HY | Something happened during a conference I gave on the topic of commercial firms. An external participant, who had been one of my students and is now an entrepreneur, initiated a fascinating debate on the subject of a Starbucks-style restaurant chain in Great Britain.
What do you get out of your work as a professor at the IMD?
HY | European business schools generally maintain close links with the industrial sector. It's important for me to publish articles, but it's equally important to meet professionals who are confronted with real commercial problems. At the IMD, my research work is no longer isolated in an ivory tower, it is connected to the actual environment.
Would you recommend Lausanne as a place to do a doctorate?
HY | Yes. There are many reputable institutions in Lausanne, including the EPFL and UNIL. In the course of my research, I collaborate with teachers from the UNIL and I cannot help but notice the remarkable quality of its students. As for the EPFL, it represents an excellent choice for students of science and engineering. It has always been at the leading edge of technology and still is today.
What is your fondest memory of Lausanne?
HY | It's probably when I took the boat from Ouchy to the Château de Chillon, going via Cully and Vevey. I thought it was a magical trip.
Interview conducted by | Tom Crawford