Unraveling Strategy at Tepper: A casual chat with Professor Sunkee Lee

Hello Tepperonis!

Hope you’re soaking up the sun and having a blast this summer.

I wanted to take a moment to share one of the highlights of my summer – the cherry on top of my summer adventures: an interview with my favorite professor, Sunkee Lee, who teaches Corporate Strategy at Tepper. If you’ve had the opportunity to take his course, you’ll understand why I’m bubbling over with excitement. Learning strategy management with Professor Lee was both enjoyable and a thrilling journey filled with endless “aha!” moments.

In this blog post, I’ll spill the beans on all the wisdom and insights I gathered from our epic conversation and the invaluable lessons I’ve learned from the extraordinary Professor, Lee.

So, without any more dilly-dallying, let’s dive right in!

Me: Can you tell us about yourself and what inspired you to pursue a career in teaching and strategy?

Professor, Lee: My motivation to become an academic and pursue teaching was initially influenced by my father, who was a professor. Seeing the flexible lifestyle and the time he spent with our family made it an attractive choice. More importantly, the opportunity to inspire and potentially change the lives of young people was another appealing aspect of the profession. However, I soon realized that becoming a professor was not as easy as I had imagined, and it required a great deal of sacrifice. Nevertheless, I am enjoying my job and am working towards producing good research and achieving tenure and beyond.


Me: How did you end up at Tepper, considering your experiences in various cities and countries across the globe?

Professor, Lee: The market for professors is global, and with a Ph.D., one can apply to institutions worldwide. I applied to various places in Europe, Asia, and the US. Tepper held a special place in my heart because my research on behavioral theory of the firm and organizational learning has its roots at CMU. The presence of great researchers and colleagues who aligned with my research made Tepper a dream destination for me. Fortunately, there was an opening at Tepper when I was searching, and I was delighted to secure a spot here.


Me: What do you enjoy about being at Tepper, beyond your research?

Professor, Lee: The supportive community at Tepper is one aspect that I truly appreciate. The students are enthusiastic, motivated to learn, and humble. Their passion for learning makes my job more enjoyable. When I enter the classroom, I see their eyes twinkle with curiosity, which is incredibly rewarding.


Me: How would you describe the importance of strategy in today’s landscape and why it’s a crucial skill for students to develop?

Professor, Lee: Strategy serves as a guide for all areas of business. It drives a firm’s ability to create and capture value. Having a clear strategy sets the foundation for success. If we consider the value chain, all aspects of business, such as finance, operations, and marketing, contribute to the execution of a strategy. A well-defined strategy is essential for companies to compete, survive, and create a unique position in a competitive landscape.


Me: How does the concept of hybrid workspaces, which you discussed in one of your other interviews, intersect with strategic considerations? Can you provide further insights on how organizations can leverage this approach to enhance their overall strategy and achieve their goals?

Professor, Lee: Hybrid workspaces and the design of workspaces are areas of interest in my research. How we design workspaces and manage work contributes to creating and capturing value. Space can play a significant role in influencing client perceptions, attracting talent, and enhancing productivity. It is often overlooked but can have a substantial impact on a company’s success.


Me: Can you recommend any resources, books, or publications for students interested in building a career or concentration in strategy?

Professor, Lee: The textbook I use in my class, the Rothaermel’s Strategic Management book, is a valuable resource. Additionally, “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy” and “Blue Ocean Strategy” are interesting books to explore. I also recommend reading articles from Harvard Business Review (HBR), which provide insightful research summaries and managerial implications.


Me: What advice would you give to students trying to pursue a career in this field?

Professor, Lee: Being open to opportunities and embracing failure is crucial. You can never truly know if a strategy is good or bad unless you implement it and see the outcome. So, it’s important to actively seek out opportunities to learn, especially through hands-on experience. As a student, this is the time to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. Sometimes, choosing a less prestigious but riskier path can lead you in a different and fulfilling direction. I sometimes wish I could go back to being a student to explore diverse paths. Being a student, itself is already a step towards taking risks, so why not take it to another level during your MBA years?


Me: Can you share an interesting fact about yourself with our students?

Professor, Lee: One interesting fact about myself is that I used to be an intelligence agent for the South Korean army.  The country I spied on will remain a secret.


As we come to the end of this blog post, I hope you’ve enjoyed the awesome chat with Professor Sunkee Lee. He shared some incredible insights into the world of strategy, from his motivations to his advice for aspiring strategists. Embrace your unique journey, passions, and values as you navigate your path. Thank you for joining me on this insightful interview, and may Professor Lee’s wisdom inspire you to unlock your own potential and pursue a fulfilling and purpose-driven future. Keep exploring, learning, and embracing the exciting possibilities that lie ahead!


With warmth and Tepper Spirit,



Priyasha Pratik | Part-Time Flex MBA 2025
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