Senior Alum Profile - June 2023

Nilesh Dattani

My major achievement has been to discover a job I love and therefore I have never had to work a day in my adult life!

 nilesh - anthology images

  • Programme studied: BSc Economics and MSc International Relations 
  • Year of Graduation: 1978 and 1979

Coming from Kenya, Nilesh Dattani did his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at LSE, graduating in the 1970's. He has subsequently stayed at LSE since to work within the now called, Department of Management. In this blog, he describes his time as a student, how the Department has evolved, and his fondest memories. 

Current job title and description of what this role entails:

I am the Programme Director for BSc Management in the LSE Department of Management. In brief, it means I am responsible for the academic direction of this undergraduate degree programme, for ensuring that all aspects of this programme operate within the LSE regulatory framework, and for looking after some 500 undergraduate students in the Department. Of course, I cannot do this singlehandedly, and I have a wonderful team of academic and professional services colleagues who help me with various aspects of my job.

Additionally, I teach courses on Firms, Management and Competitive Advantage and The International Context of Management. I also teach topics connected with other aspects of International Business Strategy. Besides all this, I teach on short Executive Education courses and am connected with the University of London International Programmes in the areas of Economics, Management, Finance and the Social Sciences for which the LSE provides academic direction.

How was your experience of studying at LSE?

Fantastic in four specific respects: the opportunity to engage with people from every corner of the world; the ability to learn from some of the finest minds in their respective fields; in pre-computer days, to have access to one of the biggest and finest social sciences libraries in the world; and, the wonderful opportunity to benefit from the Public Lectures programme at LSE where I saw and heard people from all over the world ranging from Nobel laureates to political leaders and from entrepreneurs to social activists.

Tell us about your career journey after graduating.

I am afraid, once I joined LSE for my undergraduate studies, I have not been let out for good behaviour; in other words, I have spent my entire working life at LSE! I think I must have been one of the first GTAs (Graduate Teaching Assistant) at LSE – the term did not exist in those days! From memory, I first starting teaching undergraduate classes (in Economics and in International Relations) in the academic year 1979/80 and very quickly found that I had discovered my vocation – I had never thought of becoming an academic till that point in my life. I moved from the Economics Department to the International Relations Department and then to the Interdisciplinary Institute of Management and eventually to the Department of Management when it was created in 2007.

What has kept you at LSE since graduating?

I think five things have kept me at LSE for over four decades: No two days at LSE are the same; being at LSE means the world comes to you in London; so many of our students are so brilliant that teaching them is truly a symbiotic process; it has been fun to be in the company of so many of my colleagues (both academic and professional services); and, in pre-computer days the library was a real treasure trove.

How have you seen the Department of Management evolve?

In the fifteen years of its existence, it has melded the different faculty groups into quite a unified department and it has developed interesting undergraduate and postgraduate courses over a vast terrain of Management study. In my opinion, it has created a good co-operative atmosphere between the academic and professional services staff to provide wonderful opportunities for fruitful research and teaching activities. Lastly, it has established a prestigious academic reputation which helps us attract very bright students and we seem to be embedding a culture that seeks to narrow the gap between efforts directed at research and at teaching excellence.

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
To keep my head above water in a crowd of some truly brilliant individuals (colleagues as well as students).
What is your greatest achievement?
My major achievement has been to discover a job I love and therefore I have never had to work a day in my adult life! My minor achievement is that I have taught undergraduate students at LSE from every cohort since the inception of the BSc Management degree programme in 1991.
What is your fondest memory of your time at LSE?
Undoubtedly, something I would want to call “Feast for the Mind”; in other words, scintillating lectures by some renowned LSE Professors of the past – I can vividly recall riveting lectures by Lionel Robbins (History of Economic Thought), Amartya Sen (Welfare Economics), Kenneth Minogue (Political Thought), Basil Yamey (Economics of Industry), Robert McKenzie (Political Sociology), John Watkins (Philosophy of the Social Sciences), Fred Northedge (International Political System), Peter Bauer (Development Economics), Ernest Gellner (Nationalism), Philip Windsor (Strategic Studies), Donald MacRae (Ideas in Social Sciences), Alan Day (International Monetary Institutions), Susan Strange (International Political Economy), James Joll (World History Since 1890), and Morris Perlman (Macro-Economic Theory).
Once I started my postgraduate studies at LSE, I went to as many lectures as I could on a wide variety of social science courses at LSE – in those days there was no system of lecture recording. What made the lectures so pleasurable was I did not have to do any prescribed reading or worry about preparing for any exams because most of them were not part of any degree programme that I had signed up for! It really was a process of learning not for any instrumental purposes but for intellectual nourishment which made it all the more pleasurable. I found these lectures to be the best free show in town!

If you would like to be profiled or if you would like to nominate a Department of Management alumni, please email dom.alumni@lse.ac.uk.