8 QUESTIONS WITH JOE HASLAM
Where is your hometown?
I was born in Limerick in the west of Ireland, but my family home is now in the village of Blarney, County Cork. I’ve been away a long time (Spain is the eighth country I’ve lived in) but I still follow closely what goes on at home.
What is your favorite spot in Madrid?
I live beside the Retiro Park and go there almost every day with my two daughters. At weekends and on holidays, I bring them to a lot to museums (their favorite is the Casa De La Moneda.) Even though I’ve lived here for 10 years, I still treat Madrid as if I’m a tourist.
What do you teach?
I’m the Executive Director of the Owners & Entrepreneurs Management Program, a Top Management program which deals with the problem of scaling, as opposed to just starting, a business. Also I teach an elective called Trillion Dollar Challenges in the MBA and in Area 31, I mentor startups in the IE Venture Lab.
Any books you recommend?
I’m attracted by both diversity and adversity. Even though it’s from 1970, you will learn more from reading The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer than almost any other book (especially if you have Y chromosomes). This summer, I read The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business by John Browne. A lot of my friends are immigrants, female, or gay (and in one case all three); I much prefer to hang with the underdog than the top dog.
Have you done something which makes you feel particularly proud?
Funerals are a huge thing in Irish culture. I gave a great oration at my father’s funeral when he died in 2012. His postwar generation had it tough and his message to me was always “never show weakness, people take advantage.” But I think he would have been proud of me on that day. Once he had passed on, I was able to speak about him in a way he wouldn’t have wanted to hear while he was alive. Forget Steve Jobs’ commencement speech to Stanford, go read “My Father’s Suitcase,” the 2006 Nobel lecture by Orhan Pamuk.
Is there some who who has inspired you?
An Applied Maths teacher at St. Munchin’s College named Paudie Fitzmaurice. He also trained the school’s Hurling team (an Irish sport). What I liked is that he talked to pupils like we were adults. He made you feel that most problems were simple and that you were the only impediment to solving them. It’s not an approach that worked well with weaker students, but if you were good then he made you even better. I should probably write him a letter to say Go raibh maith agat. I expect he has no idea he had this influence.
What do you wish someone told you when you were in graduate school?
The big thing is that there is lots of time. Don’t be in a hurry. Amancio Ortega opened his first Zara store when he was 39, he is now the third richest man in the world. In “Krapp’s Last Tape” by Samuel Beckett, there is a line “Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now.” Until I was forty, I hadn’t a clue. Now I know what I’m doing and I’m only getting started.
Whom would you like to sit next to at a dinner party?
I would love to sit beside Neil Armstrong but not ask him about walking on the moon.
Professor Joe Haslam was photographed by Kerry Parke (July 2014.)