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Faculty Spotlight:  Dan Gode

Hello, Professor, Thank you again for meeting with me. Let’s start off by introducing yourself where you’re from, and what you teach at Stern?

I’m originally from India, although I’ve been in the USA for thirty-five years.   This is my twenty-fifth year at Stern.  

I teach many courses at Stern in various areas. I used to teach the entire financial accounting core to MBAs. Now I teach a wide range of interdisciplinary classes ranging from financial modeling, advanced accounting, business drivers, and data analytics in python, to renewable energy.

Tell us a little bit more about your journey to teaching. I know that when I was taking your class, you shared a little bit about it and I found it very unique. 

Both my parents were professors. My sister is a professor, so I guess teaching and being in academics kind of runs in the family. My undergraduate is in electrical engineering, not accounting or finance. Then I completed my MBA focused on Marketing and Information Systems, with one accounting course. I decided I did not want to work for a large corporation but would prefer to consult independently. But I did not like the idea of being locked into a 9-5 schedule either, so I came to the USA to pursue a Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon in Information Systems. After finishing my Ph.D., I started my first teaching job at the University of Rochester. I wanted to pursue consulting opportunities and be at the center of the action, in New York City, and there was no better choice than Stern. All of the courses I teach at Stern now were developed with the problems I was asked to solve as a consultant.

What’s different about Stern versus other universities or colleges that you have taught at? 

That is a good question! 

First, it’s huge! You have room to develop all sorts of electives, and there is always a subset of students interested in what you are doing. I love the ability to offer lots and lots of different types of courses which would not be possible in a small school that cannot sustain these many electives.

The other thing is the location, it’s New York City! The consulting exposure I was able to get for being here, I could not have gotten anywhere else. Now, with zoom and other things, things are more spread out. In the past, to get real experience as a consultant, you needed physical access to the finance world. You consult, see what needs to be done, then you come back and teach it. The people who choose New York City as a home are a certain type, it suits me. 

What is your favorite thing about teaching?

Thinking. I love the opportunity to think through and talk about different topics to create a brand-new course. That’s what I enjoy the most. I’ve never used a textbook. I always get these reminders from schools about making courses affordable, but that does not apply to me because I write my own materials for my classes. I also like the social aspect of it. You are in front of a classroom, young people thinking through what is going on.
That’s why I don’t enjoy zoom as much. It’s much more engaging to be in person. 

Why did you choose financial accounting to teach?

I believe the left side of the brain is more developed than my right side. I am not the artistic type. 

It was during my time at Carnegie Mellon University that I talked to a few professors and mentors who influenced me to pursue Accounting. It suited my ability.  Accounting came easily to me, and although I never studied accounting, I found it obvious to some extent. It doesn’t look difficult or boring to me.  

What is your current research interest, if you have any?

Design of markets and automated trading. I don’t publish academic papers as much anymore. I love doing consulting projects, I turn them into intellectual exercises and love to see business research being applied in the real world. 

So let me ask you, what type of problems are you typically asked to address as a consultant?

Sometimes, a company might be working on a financial model and want to model certain aspects of the business which involves understanding the company’s financial statements, combining it strategic insights, and thinking about how that aspect of the company will change in the future. So that is what I do a lot of. I also do accounting due diligence type of work where you are somebody who is going to invest, reading a financial statement, and want to run it by me. If I notice anything odd,  I let them know. These keep me on my toes technically- because I must be aware of recent changes in laws and regulations. The third type of consulting I do is to help companies do better cost management. 

What is something that your students may not know about you that you think they should? 

Last year I was teaching on Zoom, and then midway into the zoom course, there was a lunch organized by the school. Several students walked up to me and said “Professor, you are not the same person as you are while teaching on zoom or in person. You are much nicer and mellower.” My colleagues were laughing because so many students said the same thing independently. I guess my emails are downright nasty. When I am in the classroom, I am much more intense. Sometimes I will crack a joke here and there, but I’m still very much embedded in thinking about a topic, and I come off sterner (pun intended). I would like my students to know that I am friendly and approachable, and more relaxed as a person than I appear in emails or class! 

Looking back at your life, what was the best investment you made in yourself that benefited you up to today, personally, and professionally? 

Personally – Maintaining my health. I teach a lot, and unless you are in good health you can’t function. I work at the same level of intensity that I did thirty years ago. Professionally- moving to NYC! Working in the industry and being able to engage with current issues has been intellectually very stimulating and allowed me to develop new courses and grow intellectually 

Outside of teaching and your career, do you have any passion projects? What is something that you do for fun?

I love beaches. My favorite pastime is walking on one of the Long Island beaches and looking into the vast ocean. Hawai is nice but too far. I also like going on a nice nature walk. I like to look at mountains, so I can see being in a nice place. But I’m not the hiking type or anything that is too strenuous. 

What is the best advice anyone has given you about #1, your career, and #2, your life?

The best career advice was from my mentor, Professor Shyam Sunder at Carnegie Mellon. He said you chose to be a professor. That means you can do your own thing and do what you want. You don’t have to care what others think. The best life advice was from my maternal uncle who told me. “Body remembers if you abuse it. Treat it well.” I guess I also have the first-generation immigrant spirit. You learn to fight harder in life because there is no backup. There is no one else, so you need to be able to take care of yourself. 

Do you have any career advice for your students?

Well, you only get paid for doing three things. They must be difficult. They must be useful to others. You are reasonably good at doing it. Find what you are good at that’s difficult and useful to others. 

Quickfire Round: 

  • What is one word that describes you?
    • intense and passionate?
  • What are you reading right now?
    • Internet news on inflation and monetary policy
  • What’s your favorite book?
    • I have two: the origin of species by Charles Darwin and Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
  • What are your main sources for financial news,
    • Not a dedicated reader, of anything. Read random stuff on the internet. 
  • What is something you do for fun? 
    • Watch television  
  • What are you watching right now?
    • Bollywood Hit Songs
  • Do you have a favorite movie?
    • It is a Hindi-language movie: Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi that I watched with my daughter when she was two years old. I think I like that movie more than anything. But I think it’s more memories of spending time with my daughter than watching it per se. I get really bored if you ask me to watch anything again, it’s not my scene. I see people who love watching the same movie or show many times. I could never watch reruns of anything. 
  • If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be, and why?
    • The person that fascinates me most would is Einstein because his mind was so creative and exceptional,? I would also like to watch somebody compose music and observe how popular tunes are created. 

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