Meet Helena Ramalhinho L..
Javier Gomez Biscarri is the director of MSc programmes at the Barcelona School of Management and is responsible for ensuring the quality of each of the programmes. He’s also associate professor of accounting, finance and econometrics with Universitat Pompeu Fabra and teaches on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes for BSM, UPF and the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
Prof. Biscarri took time out of his very busy schedule to tell us about his passion for teaching and share his tips on pursuing a career in academia and getting the best out of the MSc programmes.
Hello Professor, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. You have quite a wide remit here at UPF. Can you tell me about your role within the MSc programmes?
My role is to co-ordinate all the MSc programmes, make sure they all run smoothly and also live up to the standards of the department. This includes checking the content of the programmes, making any changes to the curriculum that might be necessary, managing the coordination of programmes and any activities like the welcome and graduation ceremonies. Basically, anything that relates to the programmes, I’m in charge!
I also teach on the Finance and Management masters: I teach Corporate Finance on the Management programme and Financial Accounting and Analysis on the Finance programme.
Can you describe the wider academic role you have at UPF?
I teach in Accounting and Finance undergraduate programmes, and I teach an Econometrics class for the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. It’s quite a lot – luckily, I really love teaching! For example, I’m also a regular guest professor at IESE Business School.
It is a lot – and, as professor, you also need to carry out a lot of research and publish journal articles. How do you find the time to fit it all in alongside your role as director of the MSc programmes?
Basically by being very focused and not wasting time. Over the years, I’ve become good at managing administration work and I find that if I get it out of the way quickly it helps me to focus on teaching and research. It also means that other people don’t have to wait for my output, so it keeps things running smoothly.
Can you tell us more about your research?
It’s quite a mixed bag. Some of it is on econometric techniques, and I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on bank accounting and bank strategies – looking at the relationship between accounting rules and the way banks act. You can see one of my recent papers on accounting regulation here on the blog.
You’ve been with UPF for almost 10 years now – can you give us an overview of how you reached this stage in your career?
I’ve always loved teaching, right back to high school when I gave lessons to supplement my income while I was studying. Somehow it just worked, and people seemed to appreciate the way I taught.
I did my undergraduate degree in Economics and Business Administration in my home town of Bilbao, but my university was much more focused on preparing people for professional careers rather than academia. Although it wasn’t geared towards research, someone mentioned the possibility of going to the US to study for a PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles. After I’d gained the PhD I’d be able to come back to Spain to teach, which was very appealing to me.
It was hard work – I didn’t have any background in research, so to go straight from a five-year undergraduate programme into a PhD was difficult, but I learned by doing. It was a very happy time of my life: I love Los Angeles and consider myself an adopted Angeleno and I go back as often as I can.
From there, I went to the IESE Business School at the University of Navarra, where I became chair of the business department, before moving here to UPF.
What skills do you need to be a good academic?
You need an inquisitive mind and you need to always ask questions. And you need to be very meticulous – you should be able to defend your research robustly. Your colleagues will challenge what you’re doing, and you will do the same with them – peer review is very important, even informally. You need to be able to give and receive a lot of feedback which, at times, can be quite brutal!
In my areas of economics and business you also have to be very analytical and reach conclusions based on formal mathematical models or on sound analysis of empirical data.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a career in academia?
You have to be really motivated to focus a huge amount of time on research. Obviously it helps if you also enjoy the teaching, but when you get to the level of university professor you will be judged on the quality of your research. One of the perks of receiving tenure is the flexibility to be able to carry out the research that you are interested in, but you need to commit to it and ensure that it is the focus of what you do.
What advice do you have for students to get the best from the MSc programmes?
I teach many students on many programmes and my advice is the same to all of them: take it seriously. You must understand that it’s an investment, and the more you invest the higher the return will be. Also, learn to make decisions and to take responsibility for those decisions. It’s an essential part of learning at this level.
Thanks for your time professor – you clearly don’t have much of it spare! But when you do get a break, how do you relax?
If I’m not at the university or with my son, who is four and a half and takes a lot of my time, I play football. I play with a team of professors and we take part in as many tournaments as we can, often with the students. I also play guitar – the department organises a music festival with professors and their families in the winter and summer and I usually play with the professor’s band. I play harmonica as well as guitar, usually country, folk and rock music. I also love to go bird watching – being based so close to the zoo is great, because a lot of wild birds have made it their home so there are lots of great opportunities for spotting some unusual species .