Faculty Spotlight - Yeolan Lee

Name: Yeolan Lee 
Number of years teaching: 6 years
Number of years teaching at UAH: 3 years
Classes taught/teaching: Competitive Strategy/ New Venture Strategy

1. How did you become interested in your field? Was there a specific moment when you knew it was the right field for you?

During my first year at Seoul National University, I earned an internship at a consulting company. I helped consultants analyze survey data, make PowerPoint slides, and prepare a final report. This opportunity sparked my interest in management. After the internship, I returned to school and took several graduate management courses where I read a lot of management literature. Some of these topics fascinated me, and it was at that point that I knew I wanted to earn my Ph.D. in Management.

2. Why did you go into teaching and what do you hope students take away from your class?

I teach strategic management theories and discuss real business phenomena based on these theories. The fun part is examining these real business outcomes and finding situations that strategic management theory does not explain: in essence, finding the gaps and weaknesses in our theory. This takes logic and analytical skills. I hope that my students can build strong analytical skills through my classes. I believe that a good understanding of theory and solid analytical skills can help them understand business trends and find opportunities of which they can take advantage.

y. lee classroom3. What do you enjoy most about your students?

I love to hear their creative and bold ideas and stories. They freely talk about their family businesses, new business ideas, their career plans, and other issues. During interactions with students, I learned a lot about them. This also helps me develop better teaching methods and makes me become a better teacher.

4. What research are you working on?

I have many projects. One of the papers I am working on focuses on firms’ research and development (R&D) decisions - specifically, whether firms perform R&D completely on their own or decide to license-in technology from other sources. For instance, in the pharmaceutical industry, some pharmaceutical companies develop chemical compounds internally (i.e., approach the drug development process completely on their own), but other companies buy external compounds from universities, government labs, and biotechnology companies when developing drugs. In this paper, my coauthors and I study how this R&D decision influences how quickly a firm can develop a new drug and the success of new drug development. I have another paper that studies how new entrepreneurial firms (which are called de novo start-ups in the literature) and diversifying firms (established firms that have operations in other industries but decide to start a new business in an industry where they’ve never operated) impact innovation. In this paper, my co-author and I argue that de novo start-ups, relative to diversifying firms, make significant contributions to the development of regional innovation (for example, innovation in a state like Alabama) because of their superior radical innovation skills. We suggest that policy makers must provide multi-year incentive packages to help de novo firms’ survival and success in emerging industries.

5. What would you like your research to achieve?

I hope that my research helps people and policy makers better understand innovation processes and make better innovation environments for entrepreneurial firms as well as for established companies.

6. What do you like to do aside from teaching and research? Or, what would students be surprised to learn about you?

Well, I play the piano and played in my church a couple of years ago. I love music and cooking for my husband and son. If I have some free time, I want to learn how to make various ethnic foods.

Dr. Yeolan Lee has been awarded the 2016-2017 Witmondt Faculty Fellowship, which helps support faculty who are initiating new research programs. Lee’s research is a very nice fit to the award’s emphasis on entrepreneurship, venture capital financing, economic development, managerial accounting, organizational development, marketing research, or management of new products and processes. The Witmondt Faculty Fellowship endowment was established by Richard A. Witmondt, a Huntsville venture capitalist. Witmondt was a loyal supporter of the University and an enthusiastic participant in Huntsville’s economic development.