Jacek Alinski: students should be encouraged to think and be curious – not only to memorise theory.

Jacek Alinski worked in the automotive industry for over thirty years, developing his business skills in areas ranging from technical to executive management, gaining an MBA along the way. He’s had a secondary career as a university lecturer since 2006, and he’s currently teaching Marketing on the Global Business and Management programme. Here, he explains how his varied experience informs how he teaches marketing, and why he thinks theory can only take you so far. 

How does teaching at NEWTON fit in with the fact that you’re still active in business?

Well, I suppose I’m not a “typical” university lecturer. Although I’ve been teaching at universities since 2006, it's always been alongside full time work in industry — although, I’ve actually just left a role in business, and not yet started somewhere new, so it’s an unusual time in that teaching is my main activity right now. Lecturing is something I do because I enjoy it — the contact with young people, with their energy, their curiosity. And also because I believe that the study of business should combine theoretical knowledge with practical understanding, and that I’m well-placed to provide this insight. I find satisfaction in the fact that my students often have very detailed questions, and I’m able to give them a firsthand, specific answer, which they wouldn’t be able to find on the internet. 

What is the most important thing from your experience in the business world that you use in the classroom?

I worked in the automotive industry for a long time, for General Motors, for Volkswagen, for BMW. And I’ve worked in lots of different roles — early on, I worked my way from the technical department, to aftersales, sales, business development, and meanwhile I also completed an MBA, and then moved to an executive level. So I’ve seen the inside of companies from lots of different perspectives, and I think that broader understanding is useful in teaching. For example, currently we’re studying marketing, and I can explain that the marketing function shouldn’t work in isolation — they need to work with all of the other departments to make sure the approach is right for the company as a whole. 

I’ve also been in Involved in a lot of international projects, in Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Spain, Moldova… lots of places! So I’m able to give students an international perspective, which I think they appreciate as many of them are international students themselves, or have international career ambitions. 

So what do students get from your course?

In marketing in particular, there are dozens of different theories, many of them written twenty years ago, and still very good, but how they work in practice will depend on things that are very specific to the business and the industry — It is not enough to understand marketing as a science. 

I perceive my function as a facilitator. In my lectures students are not passive, only listening and taking notes. I focus on participation and discussion, and I encourage them to ask questions — just because something happened a certain way in the past, doesn’t mean it will be the same in the future, so I think it’s vital that they learn to think, and be curious, rather than just to memorise theory. 

Final thoughts: how do you find working at NEWTON compared to the other places you’ve lectured?

I feel like NEWTON has a great ambience — I feel it every time I enter the campus. I also really appreciate the technical support — I’m not familiar with the specific technology systems, and with the hybrid teaching model it’s important that it works perfectly, and so far it has! Not having to worry about this leaves me free to focus just on the content of the lecture or seminar, and making sure everyone is engaged.