At age 36, Jongsoo “Jays” Kim considers himself old compared to other doctoral candidates in Krannert’s PhD program. Those years of diverse experience have brought wisdom, however, a strength he brings to both the classroom and his research.
Kim’s global journey began in his native South Korea, where both his father and grandfather were college professors. Instead of following family tradition, his aspiration was to be an entrepreneur.
“I really wanted to operate a corporation in China because its population and economy is so much larger, so my first major as an undergrad at Korea University was Chinese Literature and Language,” he says. Kim’s entrepreneurial interests soon led him to add a second major in business administration before fulfilling his two-year mandatory military service in the army of South Korea.
“I was fortunate to be assigned to the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) program,” Kim says. “That allowed me to serve with the U.S. 2nd infantry division and learn English — including a lot of curse words and slang. It wasn’t until later that I realized those words were not appropriate for business conversation!”
Still, Kim’s multilingual skills were good enough for him to spend a year as an exchange student at Jilin University in China, where he absorbed the culture and honed his skills in Mandarin. He also served as an official translator for South Korea in the 2008 Paralympics Summer Games in Beijing, after which he returned to Korea University to complete a master’s degree in international management and strategy. Feeling the entrepreneurial call once again, Kim then made the decision to continue his studies in the states.
“I knew that starting a business in any country — whether it’s in Asia or North America — required an understanding of government and public policy, so I decided to get a master’s degree in policy economics,” he says. “At the time, I didn’t even know the difference between the Midwest and the West Coast. But tuition at the university I was considering in California was much higher than in other states, so I selected the University of Illinois.”
That led him to Purdue’s Krannert School and its doctoral program in strategic management, which he began in 2013 and considers “the best in the world.” In addition to entrepreneurship, Kim’s research interests include strategic human capital, international business and corporate strategy.
He also is author of a working paper that reflects his interest in sports. Using a unique dataset on managers in a professional sport league for the period from 1991 to 2015, Kim introduces a new context for manager which is star performers turned managers and investigates the relationship between the specific managers and organizational outcomes. “My main results show that star performers turned managers in organizations is associated with a 5.7 percent increase in winning percentage, even when controlling for managerial ability and other organization factors,” he says. “This suggests that star performers turned managers are better than other managers who were not star performers when they were employees, since the former stars could play an inspirational role model to their subordinate employees who want to be stars in their career path. This paper has been recognized and awarded in various conferences.”
Beyond his research, Kim has also been a star performer in the classroom, earning Krannert Certificates for Distinguished Teaching for his courses in International Management and Strategic Management.
“Being an international student helps me identify with a diverse mix of undergraduates,” he says. “A lot of my students are from the U.S., but my underlying focus in every course is on overcoming differences, not just socially but also managerially. I always try to start class by discussing a current issue or news related to global business, which gains the student’s interest and often leads to some very impactful exchanges.”