Prof. Terry Young


I’ve always crossed borders: my parents came from either side of the Atlantic; my childhood was in the Middle East, the UK, and the US; while my first degree was joint honours; school included home tutoring, special schools, and state education (learning the words to Marine’s Hymn as well as to I vow to thee my country); and my doctoral research was an electronics project in a physics department.  Life on the boundary leaves you with knowledge both patchy and broad.

Life in R&D shaped a robust management mindset: monthly accounts; interviewing; reviews and being reviewed; business planning; cost models; and enough experience in simulation to win a prize and speak at global conferences. Later, I ran strategy workshops that delivered written documents, for the board, if necessary, besides the memories and overflowing flipcharts.

It also left me with a puzzle: how can we know what research is really worth?

Being a professor brought new learning opportunities, such as building a business unit to run multimillion pound grants across several universities (when each handles its grants differently). Another piece of learning was how to lead in a world where every coinvestigator was a better academic than I was. New disciplines, too: sociology and health economics, not to mention the opportunity to spend time with things I already knew a bit about – information systems, modelling and project management.

Teaching was new. How did you assess an essay?  Why did most marking schemes reflect so little of what you observed with a pile of scripts in front of you? How did you set an assessment that enabled students to learn more about the subject while demonstrating what they had learned?

I’ve tried, then, to focus on reusable skills and be curious. You can’t go far without a decent framework, whether it is evaluating proposal, assessing students or planning a career. You can’t lead if you can’t manage; that needs business intuition. Still, people are the most fun in any job as well as being most likely to drive you wild.


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Economics By Design