Yazhou He
Presidential Fellow, Alliance Manchester Business School
PhD Finance (2013-2017)

Can you tell us why you chose to study for your PhD at WBS?

I did my MSc in Accounting and Finance at WBS, and during my MSc programme we had one research oriented module where we read academic papers on different topics and prepared presentations on these papers. I was fascinated with coming up with interesting questions and finding unique ways to answer them. WBS provided me with excellent faculty expertise both internally (my dissertation supervisor) and externally (a visiting professor from NYU who later became my PhD supervisor). I have also realized that WBS has a wide subscription to databases.

What was the best thing about the PhD programme?

I like the fact that we were able to work with scholars from all over the world with the highest standards. Our supervisors aimed for us to publish in top tier journals and we had the opportunity to meet visiting professors from prestigious institutions and participate in seminars with internationally renowned speakers. In addition to this we had the chance to visit top finance schools, such as NYU, Yale, UC Berkley, and Boston College.

What inspired you most throughout your research studies?

Apart from reading papers on topics of interest, I found attending seminars the most inspiring aspect of my studies. During seminars, scholars from different fields were invited to present their most recent work. Very quickly during their presentations, you get to know the topic and come up with new ideas for your own work. You also get ideas on what/how other participants think as well as learn presentation skills which are difficult to be taught.

Can you tell us about the programme structure for your PhD programme?

My PhD programme lasted four years, with the first year being mainly a taught programme. We studied a number of quantitative methods modules and both theoretical and empirical corporate finance and asset pricing modules. In addition, we specialised in topics related to the frontiers of finance research. We also studied a couple of modules taught by external professors from NYU and the University of Miami. All of the modules I studied were really useful and I am grateful that we comprehensively covered technical and critical thinking skills.

Tell us a bit more about your experience of finding and working with a supervisor during your research studies.

My experience with both my supervisors was very pleasant. I had an external professor from NYU as my main supervisor and a young faculty member in WBS as my co-supervisor. In my third year, I also spent a term in NYU visiting my supervisor, which was extremely beneficial for my research pipeline development as well as for my academic career. Apart from discussing research ideas and working on joint projects, my supervisors both gave me invaluable knowledge of the job market and academia in general.

Can you tell us about your current role at the Alliance Manchester Business School?

I just started in Manchester in September and my main role is to conduct research in the area of finance and accounting aiming to publish in top tier journals in the subject area. The presidential fellowship is a primarily research-oriented role but I also get to qualify as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) which will be essential for future teaching roles.

Can you tell us about your role at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford as a Research Fellow?

Immediately after I graduated from WBS, I joined Saïd Business School as a research fellow in the Centre for Corporate Reputation. It is a full research role and I had the freedom to pursue any topics related to corporate reputation that interested me. I had two very productive years there and was more involved in academic life by participating in various regional and international conferences. 

After completing your PhD can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career in academia?

I am always curious about my surroundings and try to find answers or explanations to certain phenomena that I observe. Academia gives me the opportunity to freely explore my interests and to work with people of similar minds. In addition, we can pass on our knowledge and enthusiasm to students who have the same interest in our subject. You get both a sense of self-fulfilment as well as being a good citizen.

As a PhD alumna, what advice would you give to potential students wanting to join the PhD programme at WBS?

Be mentally prepared for the uncertainty that comes with a PhD, be ready to talk to supervisors and colleagues, and keep your options open. Opportunities will come to you - make sure you take advantage of them.