2022 Best Undergraduate Professors: Bilgehan Uzunca, Esade Business School

Bilgehan Uzunca
Esade Business School

“Mr. Uzunca was a great professor; he was not only extremely knowledgeable in the field of competitive strategy, but also had a talent in conveying his passion to his students. Mr. Uzunca promoted intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation which is an extremely hard task for a teacher. I wholeheartedly nominate Mr. Uzunca, and I truly believe that he should be regarded as the best undergraduate business school professor.” – Smilla Kirsten-Marie Skovmand Høgh

Bilgehan Uzunca, 39, is Associate Professor of Strategic Management at Esade Business School at the Universidad Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain. Previously, he worked as an assistant professor in Utrecht University School of Economics in the Netherlands.

Uzunca’s research interests centers on strategic management, technology and innovation, and entrepreneurship with a particular focus on industry evolution, submarkets, entry deterrence, and platform economy. His work has been published in leading management journals, such as Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management, Research Policy, and Academy of Management Discoveries.

He has received various research and teaching awards, including the Best Teacher Award Utrecht School of Economics, as well as competitive grants from the Spanish Ministry of Innovation and Education R + D + i Projects. During his time at Utrecht University, he received the National University Teaching Qualification certificate as a result of his pedagogical ability and experience to use of a wide set of teaching techniques, such as business simulations, case studies, group works, and team building techniques.


At current institution since what year? 2019

Education: Ph.D. in Strategic Management, IESE Business School, Universidad de Navarra

List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Competitive Strategy


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when … I was writing my MBA thesis. I realized conducting research makes me tick. I decided to take an additional year to write a more rigorous and research-oriented thesis so I could apply for PhD programs and pursue an academic career in the field of strategic management. In the end, I managed to publish part of this Master’s thesis in the Journal of Management by working persistently during the following 10 years.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am fascinated by the firm-industry interactions. In an industry there are different competitors, ecosystem partners, even submarkets. I look at how these interactions and firms’ strategic positioning affect performance, innovation, entry/exit decisions, etc. More recently, I have developed an interest in platform economy and apply a diverse set of theoretical approaches to explain how digital platform businesses compete, disrupt, and achieve competitive advantage against traditional incumbent companies.

A current project that I am working on concerns how digital labor platforms use opaque algorithms to manage a dispersed workforce. The general connotation of opacity in the literature is negative that opaque algorithms increase worker precarity. Relatedly, regulators started entailing these platforms to offer full transparency in their algorithms. What we observe and theorize is that some degree of opacity could actually decrease precarity as well, because it protects workers from the costs of using the market mechanism. I think this is an important discovery which will hopefully inform regulatory efforts as well.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be … either a retired army officer (before the PhD I had an active military career) or a bread baker (I really enjoy making my own bread for some time now).

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? As I did in my military career, in my academic duties I strive to be a role model and a mentor for my students. I believe that great teaching encompasses delivering good lectures and being a leader that has an impact on student’s worldview. This view has been shaped by my active military career as a lieutenant in the Turkish Armed Forces prior to my PhD (I also had eight years of military education/training, summing up to twelve years of military experience).

One word that describes my first-time teaching: “Memorize” everything you need to say in class!! It was not the best way to teach.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: It’s a two-way street, you learn from your students as much as they learn from you.

Professor I most admire and why: My two thesis advisors, Nazli Wasti Pamuksuz (METU) and Bruno Cassiman (IESE, now KU Leuven), both role models and great mentors.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? As business students are educated to see the bigger picture, this creates very rich discussions as they bring in a diversity of perspectives

What is most challenging? It’s practically impossible to get every student on board in the learning journey, some students are just not motivated or engaged enough and I learned that I need to accept it. I welcome everyone with open arms, but they need to be ready and open to engage with the course and thus, to learning.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Engaged!

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Absent-minded

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… fair and detailed. The grade breakdown in my courses usually consists of 3-4 main elements with numerous sub-elements which are calculated in a very transparent way. I think it satisfies even the most calculative student.


What are your hobbies? I love cooking. It’s therapeutic to be able to see short term results and use my hands to create something that tastes good (results might not always satisfy, of course). Apart from that, I love spending time with my family. We often visit new places and enjoy the amazing and diverse nature and culture of Catalunya and Spain.

How will you spend your summer? We often try to go to Turkey, where my parents live.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Turkish Mediterranean Coast

Favorite book(s): I wish I had more time to read for pleasure. Deep Work by Cal Newport, Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, as well as Ron Adner’s The Wide Lens and Winning the Right Game

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I generally enjoy watching most Pixar animated movies (e.g., Soul, Inside Out, Coco, Luca, Onward, Encanto, Sing 1-2) because I enjoy how good the storytelling is in these movies. Plus, these movies deserve attention in my opinion as most people think they are made for kids (but adults can enjoy them too). I also like good stand-up comedy shows (Trevor Noah, Hasan Minhaj, Mo Amer).

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Bossa nova if I am in a good mood for a drink with sunset feeling. Otherwise I like a bit of everything: rock (e.g., Guns N’ Roses) or jazz (e.g., Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong) – it all depends on my mood.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this … I think that the future is aligned with the core values that have inspired Esade since its foundation: teaching future managers to have principles and integrity, helping them develop conscience about social justice and equality, embracing diversity and inclusion, and offering opportunities to talented students beyond its financial circumstances. I also see the need for more industry engagement and linking research with practice.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at … balancing their employees’ work and life, ensuring shorter and more flexible working hours, protecting their right to disconnect. In short, they need to do a better job at improving the wellbeing of their own employees by valuing rest and recovery. Relatedly, this will result in better retaining of employees. We see more and more that students see their career progress and growth opportunities by jumping between companies every couple of years. That’s not necessarily the only way and actually very costly for companies to constantly be on the lookout for new talent. Instead they should focus on nurturing the existing talent within the company and retain it.

I’m grateful for … the good fortune that life has offered to me so far, and I am grateful that I do not have any big regrets in life (so far)


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