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Faculty Profile: Jochen Scholl
By Katy Shaw
January 31, 2003

The iSchool has a new faculty member this quarter-Jochen Scholl. The staff at the Silverfish decided to interview him so we could get the scoop on his research interests, the classes he's teaching and his life before the iSchool. Now's your chance to get to know Jochen and to find out why he came to Seattle.

Editor's note: We edited our original interview with Jochen for space and for clarity.

Silverfish: Where did you study? What's your background?

Jochen: I hold a Ph.D. from the University at Albany. The University at Albany had one of the first multidisciplinary Ph.D. programs in information science drawing from a total of 13 departments... They had really to work together, and it gave information science [a] very open flavor of investigative research-spanning across boundaries and trying to understand what other people are doing and bringing that together. Actually my thesis, which [was] on firm survival-private sector firm survival, what makes firms long-lived-actually combines research and builds theory from various disciplines, including economics, sociology, information science or information system design and…business administration. So, yes, the program I come from…also ran along the lines the information school has had…

I also hold a Master in Business Administration from the Graduate School of Business Administration in Zurich, Switzerland, which is an American school, even though it's in Switzerland. And I also hold a degree in what one would call computer science-an undergraduate degree-so I have a technical background, a mathematical background. [I] now focus more on informational learning themes and knowledge management with an emphasis on knowledge as a process, rather than knowledge as a stock. [We've] got all the accumulations of knowledge in the libraries and elsewhere on the Web, but…we are not quite as good at understanding the process-how we get to knowledge, how we utilize it, how we recreate it...

Unfortunately, many of those things are really soft topics, so it's not easy to do this really straightforward research-here's the data, here's my quantitative model and here is my set of results… Since we have [a] relatively ill-defined problem we have no hypotheses in many cases, which [means] that we have to start where we can... So, my themes of interest are those soft topics of organizational learning and organizational development and what have you in that regard… I also do interview research...

Silverfish: Are you teaching any classes currently?

Jochen: I am teaching IMT 581… The title of the class is right in the middle of what I am doing-Leadership and the Management of Change. However, we have a program under development…now we have a course that has slightly changed in orientation. It's internally no longer called Leadership and the Management of Change-the Leadership has gone-but Information and the Management of Change. And we are looking, actually, into many things including organizational learning, knowledge management of course, but then more precisely, competitive intelligence, benchmarking [and] best practices. And since this all makes sense only if you want to apply that in the real world, and since all this is done in the real world as projects-we also teach project management in this course… So, inherently, this is a strategic management course...

Silverfish: Are you going to continue teaching the same series of classes next quarter?

Jochen: I will also teach LIS 580, which has many common themes. As I understand, the curriculum there is more stable than in the MSIM track. But I'll look at that, and my strategy always has been if something has a proven track record, don't change it, and then enhance it over time…

Silverfish: Did you just move here?

Jochen: I'm still in the process of moving. Actually, I still live on Fairview in this hotel, which is nice. But I found my first temporary place now and I'm looking for a house…

Silverfish: So, you moved here from Albany?

Jochen: From Albany, right. I had a wonderful drive across the country. I left Albany in mid-November. It was the first snow storm in Albany and I just got out in time. When I was in Ohio, the snow was gone and I had a very nice drive over here and learned a lot about the country… I went through the Dakotas, into Montana, Wyoming, I stopped over and went to Mount Rushmore, of course. It was impressive. It's-the people are so friendly, it's amazing.

Silverfish: How do you like Seattle so far?

Jochen: Since I was born into a truly urban environment in Europe and came to appreciate urbanity, Seattle is just my place. Actually [last year] was not…the first time…that I came to Seattle. When I was in the industry, working for a company of the name of Apple Computer as a regional manager in Germany, I came to Seattle for the first time-I guess that was 1990. The Boeing Company and-I guess the name has changed now, Seafirst Bank, does it still exist?

Silverfish: Bank of America.

Jochen: Yes, it is now Bank of America. Well, they amazed everybody with having [a] large installation of Macintoshes hooked up to mainframe computers-and nobody in Europe could believe that. So, I took over some-today we would call them CIO's-and they had evidence that this really existed and worked really smoothly. In the aftermath of this visit to Seattle then, we were able to convince them that this was a good proposition-to have some Macintoshes in their mainframe world. That was actually my first time to Seattle. And ever since, [I've liked] the city very much… I'm a yacht master, I'm a sailor, I'm a scuba diver, I like to hike-I mean, this is just where you want to be.

Silverfish: That was my next question-what do you do in your free time? Outdoor stuff?

Jochen: Yes, I do a lot of outdoor stuff. I think all this brainwork needs a balance.... I do a lot of sailing, I did a lot of sailing in the past… I'm a dive master, I also do some of the other advanced stuff in scuba diving. I hike a lot.

Silverfish: Have you done any hiking yet?

Jochen: Not yet. Actually I just came back on January 11 from Hawaii where I went to a conference…but already I'm a member of the yacht club here, I'm a member of the scuba diving group [and] I play soccer… I [also] frequent the pool quite a bit. I haven't found out what the best times are because I come with my fins and my mask…if you are in scuba diving, you want to make sure that you have the mental stability if something happens underneath, that you can safely get back to the surface. And if you have [a] buddy who runs into problems, you may even be required to help the other person and you may be out of air. So what you do is you try to [keep in] good shape. That means that you also do this breath keeping stuff-you always have to alert the guards: "I'm going down now for two minutes. Don't be worried, I'll wave my hand!" And they're beginning to know me now.

Silverfish: Do you have anything else to share about your plans for being here?

Jochen: I'm very happy to be here. Obviously, as an incoming professor, you need some time for orientation. But this so far is such a wonderful opportunity. I'm amazed about the quality of everything here-the high standards, the students, colleagues, the university… I appreciate it very much to be here.

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Edited by Michael Harkovitch

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