Sitting Down with Professor Scott Galloway

Photo courtesy of Haas News.

Written by Stephanie Yang

“Take professors, not courses. The mistake a lot of students make is they think ‘Oh I’m interested in real estate so I’m going to take real estate courses’. The best classes are the courses taught by the best professors; it doesn’t matter what the topic is. Probably the best course I’ve taken at Berkeley was a course in Management because the professor was so outstanding.” – Scott Galloway

Not many professors can say they have put on a wig for the sake of doling out unsolicited career advice on YouTube or publicly predicted Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods—except maybe for NYU Stern’s Clinical Professor of Marketing, Scott Galloway.

Professor Galloway has attracted recent attention through his video series Winners & Losers sponsored by his company L2, as well as his recently published book, The Four, which analyzes the four most influential companies today—Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google—and their effects on the rest of society.

Professor Galloway’s first major business triumph came to fruition in 1992, when he founded Prophet, an international brand consultancy. Five years later, he went on to establish Red Envelope, one of the first major e-commerce sites, and now runs L2 Inc., a business intelligence firm that was acquired by global research firm Gartner (NYSE: IT) this past March. Professor Galloway has also been recognized as one of the World Economic Forum’s “Global Leaders of Tomorrow” and has sat on the board of directors for The New York Times, Urban Outfitters, and Eddie Bauer, among others.

When Professor Galloway isn’t busy running L2 or making new content for Winners and Losers, (whose most popular video has been viewed 5.3 million times), he teaches Brand Strategy to Stern MBA students. The Gould Standard sat down with Professor Galloway to learn more about his views on work, life, and the future.

Who was your favorite professor and why?

“My favorite professor was a gentleman named David Aaker, who inspired me to pursue a career in marketing and brand, and I took him my second year. And I just found the content fascinating. So I got what everybody was looking for in a class, and that isit gave me inspiration to pursue a certain direction in my life. So David Aaker, Professor of Marketing at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.”

What advice do you have for Stern undergraduates?

For Freshmen:

“Take professors, not courses. The mistake a lot of students make is they think ‘Oh I’m interested in real estate so I’m going to take real estate courses’. The best classes are the courses taught by the best professors; it doesn’t matter what the topic is. Probably the best course I’ve taken at Berkeley was a course in Management because the professor was so outstanding.”

For Seniors:

Try and find a business or a business model that has recurring revenue, like software or something. Your job…is to find something you’re good at. People say find something you’re passionate about; I don’t think that’s accurate. Find something you’re good at, because if you’re good at it, the psychological and financial accoutrements of being good at something will make you passionate it about it. So your job is to assess your own skillwhat will I be really good at? That’s your jobit’s not to find your passion, it’s to find your talent.”

Sophomores and Juniors:

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I was fortunate enough to get a job at a great company, Morgan Stanley, which is an investment bank. And while I figured out I didn’t want to be an investment banker, it’s still great training. So if you don’t know what you want to do, try to get to a well-respected platform. Think of your first job as your second MBA. You want to go somewhere where there’s a high degree of talent or IQ in the organization and where you’re going to learn a lot….You want to get an additional kind of certification, so going to work for Google or Morgan Stanley or Proctor and Gamble is sort of the second certification you get on your undergraduate degree. So if you don’t know what you want to do, get to the best platform.”

You always sign off your newsletters with “Life is so rich” and you really seem to like to draw these highly personal anecdotes into your insights. What inspired you to decide to highlight these personal elements or life lessons into the work you do?

“So those stories are not really business-related, to me it’s almost like cathartic, or something I’d like my kids to read one day. It’s just a chance to explore a side of myself that I don’t get to explore in the course of the ordinary work day. So while I enjoy the content I put out at L2, it’s not for me; it’s for my clients. These things are sort of things I hope my kids will read in 10 or 20 years and maybe think they understood me a little better.”

What has been your favorite video to film for Winners & Losers?

“Anything with a wig.”

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

“Nothing’s ever as good or as bad as it seems….Life isn’t about what happens to you, it’s how you react to what happens to you. And when you come off a big win or a victory, you have a tendency to assign too much credit to your character and to your hard work and not enough to just blind luck. And the same thing happens when something bad happens to you. You have a tendency to think it’s the end of the world and it usually never is.”

What technology trend are you most excited about?

“Voice. I think voice is going to be huge. I think voice and messaging are the two big technologies….You know, by 2020, a third of computing is going to involve a screen. So I think voice is going to be huge and transformative.”

What’s something you’d like to learn more about?

“Right now I’m trying to learn more about antitrust. I’m trying to understand more about whether the companies I write about should be broken up and why.”

Anything else you’d like to say to Stern undergraduate students?

“Just that they should take stock of how fortunate they are. It’s a wonderful university in what is the greatest city in the history of mankind.”

Day to Day:

  • I’m a late riser I’m usually up around 8 or 8:15. I do some email,
  • I try to get into the office 9 or 9:30
  • My days these days are mostly media interviews and meetings.
  • Then maybe try and grab a workout at 6:30 or 7:30
  • And then I’ll have dinner with a friend.
  • Then I’ll go home, and start doing email again and try to get to sleep around 1am.

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