Dr. Mariana Alba joined MBU in 2016. She has a PhD in Science of Communication, as well as a BA in Advertising and Public Relations and a Diploma in Advanced Studies in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability.
She teaches all courses related to Marketing: Fundamentals of Marketing, Strategic Marketing, Branding. She teaches as well Corporate Social Responsibility, and Business Ethics. Moreover, Corporate Communications mostly related to professional background. Due to her background in corporate communication, Dr. Marianna Alba believes that central point of the brand should be observed precisely in the aspects of marketing, communications, but also the ethical aspect of the brand, and the main concerns in times of crisis.
Why did you decide to become a professor?
Let’s say that I formalised my activities as a professor in the academic area but previously due to my working experience I had already the opportunity to teach in-company courses on product sales and marketing. Afterwards, I decided to study communications but, actually, I was very comfortable in the teaching area. I am feeling that it is a natural skill that I have, additionally to my passion of teaching, make me performing well in it.
What is the most difficult part of being a professor?
First of all, I would say that nowadays there is a huge expansion of the information on the Internet. In general, the information on the net is relatively easy to access by anyone, so students tend to check there. Even though the university asks not to use the Internet in class some students are permanently online. They check if what professor says is true or not, and, also, if this information is already published somewhere. I think that students in certain way need to verify first and see if the material provided in class is not just what is presented on Google.
Secondly, I would say that it is also a challenge. To adapt materials to different students, especially for Master students because some of them just finished their Bachelor’s degree, while others have working experience, and others hold a previous Master’s degree. Therefore sometimes it is a challenge to unify that level of knowledge and experience within one program. I am not saying that it is impossible or difficult but I am saying that for the professor it is important to start knowing its students from the first class because there is always a room for improvement.
What do you mostly like in your profession?
I think that it is an interaction with students. In my class I promote a lot of interactivity and permanent feedback. I do not wait until the last minute to know their opinion. Also, if they have better examples or if they have another perspective of seeing things, I encourage them to be present in class. Contributions in my class are always welcome because it is another way to share their knowledge, specially due to the richness of cultural diversity, due to the various international profiles in class. For example, in some countries the same product is being sold in another way, or the campaign can happen in a different way to adapt it better to the local culture.
Aside from teaching, what is your professional background?
Dr. Alba: I have been working for almost 20 years in the aviation industry which is one of the most exciting industries! It is a fabulous industry, it is so dynamic, multicultural, and diverse industry. Yes, it is true that the possibilities of traveling allow employees to know more what is happening somewhere else, not only for short-terms but also working with colleagues from other parts of the world. I learnt a lot from the aviation industry.
I started my career at the international airport of Buenos Aires, as check-in assistant at Aerolineas Argentinas (the Argentinian national airline). Afterwards, I moved to sales department, then to marketing department, and then my last stop was at the communications department. It was based in Buenos Aires, from where I was doing training and corporate programs in different branches of the airline. Then, I moved to Spain, as I had a grant from the university to complete my studies. There I joined IATA where I was in charge of office management and also communications with our main stakeholders: travel agencies, airlines, and freight forwarders. After that working experience, I moved to Montreal for 1 year. There I was working at the Event and Conferences department. And after that, I came for 3 months to Switzerland and it has been already 10 years! In Switzerland I was event manager at Simplifying Business Program. This program was responsible for the implementation of electronic tickets, barcodes and scanners, and self-service machines to check-in and to drop the baggage. It was a great experience! I owe to both companies: Aerolineas Argentinas and IATA; and, of course, to the universities where I have studied, what I can transmit today to MBU students.
What are the advantages of being a professor at MBU?
To me it is a great experience because I have never worked with such significant group of students coming from countries of Central Asia. And I think I am learning a lot because I was not in contact with students coming from these countries. I found all the students such extraordinary group of people and they have way of approaching things, to me it is very important because it is a rich experience of working with people from different cultures, and this is what Montreux Business University is providing to me. I think in the future we are going to work a lot with these countries because there is a huge expansion of this region. For example, according to recent news, the president of China is empowering the new Silk Road. So, I believe there is a strong potential in the region. To me that is one of the things I count as great experience of working at MBU.
Also, MBU team is very nice and friendly. Moreover, Montreux is not that far from Geneva where I live, Montreux is very nice city and I like coming here.
When you think of your student’s years and your professors at university, do you compare yourself to your professors?
I do. But, let me say that to compare does not mean something negative, comparison can also be positive. And I learnt from such a great professors that each student has its own way of thinking, its own way of studying: not everybody absorbing information the same way, and not everybody is going to work in the area I am teaching. For example, I teach Communications, Marketing, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Business Ethics. It is true that at work we all need to have a minimum idea of this as organisations are working more and more in an integrative way. People working in finance probably may say: “But I am finance, I am not marketing”. Yes, but you work a lot because you are the ones who may approve the budget and will ask why you need that amount of money to spend on that marketing activity, for example. That is why, my challenge here as a professor is to persuade students that whatever they will learn at my course will be applicable at any time of their lives. It is not the model that students do an exam and then they forget it after, they will say: “Ah, I saw that, I remember that’s cool”. People may not remember me as a professor, but they will remember what I taught to them. This is something like my personal challenge, that is actually my job.
How do you deal with “bad” students?
Fortunately, I never had “bad” students, I had students with problems, students who were not interested at all, students who did not show up, students that took my subject as something simple but it was not, there is a lot of study. My courses are always uploaded online so there are no excuses that they cannot learn but I want students to come to my classes. For example, I am not teaching an online course, I am teaching a normal face-to-face course so they have the obligation and the responsibility to come. I am always happy to hear if something does not go well or in the way they want it to. This feedback helps me also to improve my classes. At the same time to let them know that we both have obligations: professors and students. We are all professionals. If the student is not interested in the class I teach, there must be a real reason why he is not feeling that my class is not according to standards or there is no academic background for this or he is simply tired, it depends. I will never force, I will try to persuade by showing the benefits of knowing the basic knowledge of the areas I teach.