Practice makes perfect: Jonathan Farrington

This term, the Business School took on a new cohort of Professors of Practice, supporting both our teaching and research efforts through lectures, knowledge transfer partnerships and academic consultancy.

Our Professors of Practice come from a range of backgrounds including commercial, policy and public sector organisations, bringing real-world experience into the classroom to enrich our students' learning with practical insights and applications as we look to train the business leaders of the future.

For one of the new appointments, the new role has an added meaning, as he returns to the place where he once studied himself. Jonathan Farrington, who took his MBA in 1999, was part of the first cohort of Nottingham University Business School on Jubilee Campus 25 years ago. We spoke to him to hear about the role, his time on campus, and his advice for students entering the next quarter century.

Jonathan Farrington

Hi Jonathan – congrats on the new role, how have the first months gone – and what are you most looking forward to about working at the Business School?

I’d describe the first month as an enjoyable whirlwind! I’ve been trying to speak with as many people as possible and figure out how it all fits together. I’ve met some wonderful colleagues. I’m looking forward to meeting many more and getting stuck into a new and exciting role.


What aspect of the Professor of Practice role interested you most?

The opportunity to bring real-world experience to the Business School, both in the teaching and through building the connections the School has with the outside world. For our students, whether they be undergrads, post grads, MBAs or Executive Education students, the combination of academic theory and real world experience can be really powerful. I hope that this can help with research too, improving impact through enhanced engagement with the outside world.


Could you give us a bit of background on your career, and what kind of experience and expertise you will be able to share with our students?

I’ve had a very varied and enjoyable career. My professional background includes serving as Group Chief Executive of a large multinational business, Finance Director, Strategy Director, Non Executive Director, Chair of Audit, Cofounder and Buy-Side Corporate Finance Advisor. I’ve worked in many sectors, including financial services, retail & consumer, pharmaceuticals and real estate, working both in the UK and internationally.

My first teaching assignment will be on the MBA Venture Capital and Private Equity module, where I’ll be sharing experiences of deals from the buyer’s perspective. But not the straightforward deals you read about in the text books! I’ll be focussing on the howlers, the near misses and the ones that went wrong. The idea is to learn the lessons of why and how to avoid problems. I’m thinking of calling it ‘Tales from the Trenches’!


If my dates are correct, you will have been part of the first cohort of the Business School on Jubilee Campus in 1999? What are your memories of your MBA, and has the place changed much?

That’s correct. The very first module I attended as part of my MBA was ‘Organisational Culture’ with Dr Andrew Brown, which was held on the main campus in mid-1999. I found it to be really interesting. It wasn’t something I’d given much thought to at that stage of my career and yet it has such a profound impact on how businesses perform. It expanded my mind, which is a hallmark of good education. The Business School then moved to the Jubilee Campus in late 1999 and all the rest of the modules were held there. The Jubilee Campus has grown massively since then, which is testament to the success of the University and the Business School. Long may it continue!


We’ve spent much of our 25th anniversary year looking forward to the next 25 years – what do you think will be the key challenges for business and finance in the future?

Some things will be constant. Students still need to know how to read financial statements, understand a DCF, prepare a marketing plan, the basics of law and negotiations, etc. However there will be new challenges, some more obvious than others. Most forward looking people recognise the importance of Artificial Intelligence, Sustainability, and Social Media in marketing, for example. Some are less obvious. The world is more connected than ever and yet those connections are fragile due to the perilous state of international relations and sudden discontinuities. A good understanding of different cultures, acceptance that not everyone shares your belief system, and a reasonable grounding in international relations will be a must for anyone wishing to reach the upper echelons of large organisations.


And finally, what advice would you give to our students and recent graduates as they begin their careers?

Be curious. If you don’t understand something, make it your job to find out. This will build your knowledge base and make you more valuable.

Don’t be afraid to take risks. You will make mistakes, as we all do. What matters is how you deal with them. Be resilient, it is a very highly valued quality

Try to find good people to work for, those that give you space to act and grow, but are also there to lend support when you need it. If you find yourself being micro-managed by your line manager, then at least one of you is in the wrong job. Don’t be afraid to move on.

Join us in shaping the future of business education!

As a valued member of our alumni community, your expertise and generosity can play a vital role in advancing our ambitious plans for the school. From sharing your experiences with our students through guest talks or mentoring, to providing a Company Consultancy Challenge for hands-on experiential learning, you can make a profound impact on helping Nottingham University Business School provide world class business education for the leaders of tomorrow.

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