In celebration of International Women’s Day (8 March), this article is the first in a series of profiles of the female academics who currently lecture for the MSc Marketing Strategy & Innovation (2015) at Cass Business School. This series, titled ‘Women Mean Business’ explores the professional careers of each lecturer and (carefully) peeks into their personal lives, just enough to find out what makes each of them the woman they are today. This diverse, eclectic team is made up of: Dr. Stephanie Feiereisen (featured in this article), Dr. Rhiannon MacDonnell, Dr. Ammara Mahmood, Dr. Caroline Wiertz and Dr. Fleura Bardhi.

Stephanie with Mafalda during her trip to Buenos Aires.
Stephanie with Mafalda during her trip to Buenos Aires.

Stephanie Feiereisen: PhD, Senior Lecturer, part-time artist, self-acclaimed ‘TV addict’, daughter, colleague, friend and a woman who means business.

She may not want to explicitly disclose her age, but at least her accent is a dead giveaway.

Introducing: The ‘ageless’ academic

After being taught by her for months, it’s still difficult to guess how old this French-born, UK-based Consumer Behaviour lecturer is. On one hand, she is mature, knows her field and how to engage a cohort of millennials; evidence of a well-seasoned academic. But she also looks young and seems easy-going, giving a sense that she’s there to do her job and help her students- not be a hardass; evidence that she might be fresh off the PhD boat. Tough call!

Sitting in her office at Cass Business School, if her nautical-themed pillows don’t spell out love for the beach enough, the ‘ageless’ academic remembers her hometown: “I miss the weather and the sea from Marseilles. I really enjoyed living there. It was a nice place to grow up.”

The Senior Lecturer spent most of her childhood reading and drawing, two hobbies that she continues in her adult life. And like almost every academic, she gets overwhelmed by choice when asked to pick her favourite book. “I would probably have to say Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, known for the line translated as, ‘Hell is within others’. It appears, her love for books is in her blood, as Stephanie says: “According to my aunt, who is a bit obsessed with our ancestry, the French novelist Marcel Proust is in our family. I don’t really know how we are related exactly, but it’s a recurring joke in the family”.

stephanie drawing v&a sculpture
Left: Stephanie’s drawing of Giovanni Bologna’s marble statue, ‘Samson Slaying a Philistine’, drawn during her art classes at the V&A, London.
Right: ‘Samson Slaying a Philistine’ on display © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Drawing inspiration

Recalling her school days, Stephanie admits she was “really bad ” at sports and music in school. But the Senior Lecturer was unsurprisingly good at literary subjects and art.

Growing up in a house of comic book-loving parents, Stephanie combined her love for writing and drawing by creating her own comics. “Sometimes I was creating the story of the adventures of a little girl- usually something like Harry Potter or The Little Prince- ‘This is me and I’m going to the countryside and these are the weird people I meet’” she says with a laugh.

Her artistic side continued developing in her adult life, spanning an array of visual art practices, with media ranging from pastels and charcoal to water-colours and oil paints. “Something I’m really bad at drawing is hands,” she says whilst modestly laughing at herself, “usually I just get bored and the arm stops! But I really enjoy drawing faces… it’s hard to get the expression right”.

From the south of France to the City of London

Phd Graduation
Stephanie during her PhD graduation.

After moving from Marseilles, to Nice for business school, and then to Paris for work, Stephanie moved to -of all places- Birmingham. And while this UK city might not be on everyone’s bucket list, Feiereisen justifies her admittedly “strange” choice, saying: “I realised I wanted to go abroad for my MSc and at the time it was the only place that offered a double diploma”. It was during her time at Aston Business School in Birmingham that Stephanie realised she wanted to do a PhD.

Having an English teacher for a mum, a dad who worked in insurance, and a brother who became a consultant after studying Physics, Stephanie says her family thought she was “very weird” for wanting to pursue a PhD after her MSc. She laughs, remembering: “My mum was like, ‘But you studied so much already. Don’t you want to stop and get an actual job?’” After landing her job at Cass in 2009 and being promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2012, it’s safe to say that her family is proud, to say the least.

Now, with around five years of experience at Cass, the ‘ageless’ academic has witnessed what she calls a “huge evolution” within the faculty. “The Marketing group started off with five faculty members and now we’ve more than doubled to around 11,” she says.

Stephanie (second from right) with Cass Business School faculty members, taken after Mario Campana (one of her PhD students)' final defence.
Stephanie (second from right) with Cass Business School faculty members, taken after Mario Campana (one of her PhD students)’ final defence. Caroline Wiertz (3rd from right) acted as Mario’s 1st supervisor and Stephanie was his 2nd supervisor.

Why Consumer Behaviour? Because you’re worth it!

With no real interest in pursuing engineering and no stamina for dealing with the blood that medicine entails, choosing business was a no-brainer. Stephanie recalls: “When I started studying business, I realised that I really wanted to understand more about why we make decisions and how we think”.

What soon followed was a “challenging” internship at L’oreal. Stephanie remembers: “People were very good at their jobs at L’oreal, but they were also extremely passionate about the brand… more so than I was.” The academic struggled with pouring so much of her time and energy there -staying at the office until 10:00pm some nights- for something that she was not completely engaged with. “I don’t mind working long hours,” she says, “but I much prefer do it for something I’m passionate about.”

She adds: “Honestly there was really no real reason ‘why’. Consumer Behaviour was just really for me… sometimes you just feel that this is something for you; it’s something you’re passionate about.” She smiles modestly saying: “And… I guess it worked out well.”

'Hipster'-themed event during Cass Business School's 2015 Marketing group's Away Day. The event was organised by Stephanie and Ko de Ruyter, Maastricht University Professor and Cass Business School Research Professor.
‘Hipster’-themed event (hence Stephanie’s hat) during Cass Business School’s 2015 Marketing group’s Away Day. The event was organised by Stephanie and Ko de Ruyter, Maastricht University Professor and Cass Business School Research Professor.

Mixing business with pleasure

In the process, Stephanie’s career path shifted gears: from consumer responses to new/innovative products, to consumer practices in the digital age. “It’s still Consumer Behaviour,” she says, “but from a different perspective… My current project involves studying the evolution in practices from broadcasts on regular TV to digital: the fact that you’re more in control- how is this going to change? For example, how is this going to impact practices, such as multiple screens?

As most of her students know, TV series are more than just a research interest to Stephanie. She’s a self-described TV addict, equipped with a Heisenberg bobble head on her office desk. In addition to the likes of House of Cards and Mad Men, the academic admits to one of the guiltiest of guilty pleasure TV series. “At some point towards the end of my PhD, I was working very long hours. When I could finally take a break, I just wanted to watch something that required no intellectual effort whatsoever and The Bachelor fulfilled that need 100%,”  she says over a laugh, “but I have stopped since.” Now the academic opts for hobbies like dancing, having recently taken swing classes.

The TV addict also voices how impressed she was by Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches ad campaign. “It was a real issue and they pointed to it in a nice and powerful way. I would have also liked to be part of the follow through, to see what Dove was going to do about criticisms the brand faced for being inconsistent with their message”.

The future

When asked where she sees herself in five years, the Senior Lecturer reflects on her career and her family: “I used to think London is a place I wouldn’t have stayed for very long because I used to think about returning to France to be with my family. But now that I’ve been in the UK for 11 years, I’ve really gotten used to the international atmosphere… I like the mix of people coming from any part of the world. I think, apart from New York, you don’t get this anywhere else… I probably see myself still being in London in the next five years”.

Dr. Feiereisen has proven to be an expert in her field. It’s rare that someone loves their job so genuinely- it just shows that it’s worth following your passions in life. As for her message to anyone considering a PhD, she advises: “Perseverance is important. I think you don’t really realise until you start, that it’s more of a marathon than anything. And think about your network- don’t be scared to ask people for help or feedback. I wasn’t the best at asking for help when I was doing my PhD, but I’ve improved… I think.”

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