Thought leadership series: Professor Lisa Cohen

Written by
Changeboard Team

01 Aug 2016

01 Aug 2016 • by Changeboard Team

What is your name and job title?

Lisa Cohen, associate professor of organisational behavior

Where do you work?

Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal

What led you onto your career path?

The path I took to here was not typical and was far from direct. I frequently tell my students that I am a bit of a freak. I started my career wanting to be a journalist. I spent six years in New York as a fact checker for Vanity Fair, Connoisseur and various other magazines until I realized that I wanted to make a decent living. I imagined that I wanted to be a consultant solving all varieties of interesting problems so I went to get my MBA at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina. Once I got there though I realized that I had a set of questions that was different from those of my classmates. I was less interested in the tools that the MBA provided than in the reasoning that went with them, in particular I wanted to understand why people made the kind of choices about jobs that they made.  I went to talk to my marketing professor who sent me across the hall to an organisational behaviour professor who became a mentor.  

But after I earned my doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, I then did something shocking: rather than get a job as an academic, I became an HR consultant.  After six years, I remembered why it was that I had wanted to become an academic at the start: I wanted to help people to avoid the kinds of mistakes that I often came in to clean up after as a consultant. I somehow convinced someone to hire me as a lecturer and slowly worked my way back into academia.