Being an effective professor means that I often have to wear different hats.
Many of my students would like introductions to some prominent folks or to people working at individual companies via LinkedIn. No, I can’t guarantee that Person X returns a call or answers and e-mail, but I’m happy to play the role of connector. I think of myself as a 21-year-old. I’d want my professor to do the same for me.
Servant Leader and Student Advocate
Sometimes I have to wear the servant-leader hat. This is true particularly on my capstone projects when project sponsors are being unreasonable or unresponsive.
Brass tacks: If I have occasionally play the role of bad cop in order to ensure that my students get a valuable experience, then so bet it. (My years as a consultant taught me how to be tactful when needed.)
Sounding Board and Career Coach
I spent a decade as a technology consultant. Because of this, many of my students want to pick my brain about the “real world” and I’m more than happy to oblige. Very few of my them want to purse a career in academia. Many come to me over course of the semester interested in different tech- and data-related roles. For my part, I gladly answer their questions and gently provide guidance about what to do and when to do it.
All of my classes involve group projects and it’s not uncommon for teammates to butt heads during the semester. This means that I have to tactfully navigate difficult situations and minimize intra-team conflict.
I find it necessary on occasion to push students who are all too ready to give up on a tech- or data-related problem. I’ve said many times that I encourage stubbornness in my students, especially at the beginning of a semester or a project.
Sometimes I see trouble around the corner that my students miss. Rather than tell them not to do something, I gently ask questions designed to elicit a certain response and make them see the light.