“I am interested in what makes people go that extra mile at work, and how they relate to each other’s", says professor Miha Škerlavaj.
This is how 38-year old Miha Škerlavaj, a tall, cheerful Slovenian, describes his work. Since March 2015, he is Professor at the Department of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour at BI.
How do you like living in Oslo?
“My family and I have settled well here. The children have made friends and learned the language quickly, and the whole family is enjoying the nature, which is so present here in Oslo.”
And how do you like it at BI?
“My daily life at BI is characterized by wonderful relationships with colleagues, a creative environment, autonomy at work, and a strong business connection. The fact that BI is an institution on the rise just gives all of this.
Tell us about your academic background. How did it all start?
“My roots in academia go back to 2001, when I started my postgraduate studies and work at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. As is often the case, it was a fortunate combination of an opportunity, my own motivation to grow personally and professionally, as well as an ability to do so. Before that, I was an active student, involved in various hobbies such as sports and scouting. I also held a couple of positions in local businesses, ranging from advertising to banking.”
As a student, what were your motivators?
“Ever since a childhood, curiosity and a variety of interests have been strong driving forces for me. The desire to comprehend what goes on in different parts of an organisation initially inspired me to study banking and finance. I then went on to business informatics, and subsequently wrapped it up all with a PhD in organisational behaviour. In fact, quite an unconventional path when I think about it.”
When did you realise that you could become a professor?
“For a long time, it wasn’t my intention to become an active part of the academia. However, it does seem like I had it in me all along. A desire to learn, know, experience and to share with others are patterns from my family background. For instance, I was taken on as a Boy Scout leader of a group of boys older than myself, purely based on the fact that I knew a bit more that they did at the time. By seeing and valuing each and every member of the group, I managed to create good conditions for working together in a new and meaningful way. Very much like how I see the role of a professor.”
What other qualities do you think a professor must have?
“You have to care about people and the work that you do. Full stop. Everything else follows as a consequence – good publications come from good collaborations, good teaching from good interactions with students, and good citizenship from good relations with colleagues.
What really got me involved was the diversity of experiences and skills one gets to develop and use as a professor. Research, teaching, working with business partners, all of it. This is something I discovered during my PhD studies.”
Where do you turn to learn new things?
“To others, travel, books, academic and popular press, social media, observing and talking to people. I like to follow a piece of advice I was given back home: ‘If you ask you might look stupid once, if you don’t you will be stupid forever.’ “