Coffee on the Third Floor:

Tarek Hassan - The human behind the Investments  'machine’

By Paritosh Kumar '16

You can’t miss the Clif bars and GFBs (Gluten Free Bars) stacked right under the computer and if you have met him you’re probably not surprised. At first Tarek Hassan seems puzzled to see me. I mention that we have an interview appointment and inquire if it’s on his calendar.  He acknowledges and offers me a seat. 

Paritosh Kumar '16

Paritosh Kumar '16

Hassan first talks about making the hard decision to move to the US, being born to immigrant parents in Germany (his father is from Egypt and his mother’s family from East Germany) who worked hard to build a life there.

Now you see me...

Now you see me...

Instantly I see a very different side of the professor compared to the “I am German and my grades are determined through a spreadsheet, there is no subjectivity” guy in the classroom. His interest in politics drove him to study economics to understand “what you can pay for and not pay for”. However, over time he “developed a taste for complicated answers and not easy answers” and decided to stay in academia.

I have asked a few different professors about the most interesting classroom moment, but his answer was least expected. In his second year teaching at Booth, Hassan managed to rip his pants! I thought this was the perfect opportunity to ask the popular demand question, “Where do you buy your suits?”. Hugo Boss, it is!

When I asked what he likes and dislikes about teaching MBAs, Hassan says, “I like that there is a strong ethic of doing your work and not whining about it. Often when you have undergrads in the class they don’t realize that and ask for extensions.” On pushing a little bit to talk about what he dislikes – “I dislike that students often think that what they should be getting here is practical experience. I actually think the opposite. You have the rest of your life to get practical experience and you have these two years to really think about what’s going on. But then students trust you to make the choice of what to cover, which is not the same in other schools. You have rebellion on your hands if you’re not entertaining enough.”

On fitness, Hassan says his fitness usually goes down when he is teaching. His favorite holiday destination has been Bali and he likes going to Japan. He has family in Egypt, so he visits them sometimes.

Since he mentions the Nobel Prize in almost every class, I ask what he thinks about its importance. “It’s very good that we have it to reward people for amazing insight. It’s interesting that there is a whole group of people who get super nervous around the time it’s announced. It sometimes puzzles me that people can get upset about not getting a Nobel Prize. So the same thing that happens to you guys coming to Booth and expecting a certain kind of job happens to academics as well.”

As I wrap up the interview, he finishes with some words of advice -- “If you put enough type A people together they will always agree on what the best jobs are, whether it’s the Goldman job or the BCG job and they get stressed about it. And the truth is, those are great jobs but there are tons and tons of great jobs that are not quite as stratified. And I think people should use this time to think and meet great people because the truth is in the end it’s going to work out for almost all of you guys.”

PS – The professor is not aware of the scale of his personal fan base. If you want to let him know, you might find him at Scarlet in Boystown on a Saturday night.

Paritosh is a first year student, currently perplexed with how much more there is to professors than PhD’s, classes and assignments.