Welcoming Assistant Professor Stela Ivanova

Mixing psychology with entrepreneurship, new ESCP Assistant Professor Stela Ivanova never thought she would feel so at home in a business school. She told us about her journey and experiences, uncovering the links between two fields (psychology and entrepreneurship) that seem to have little to nothing in common.

Trusting the Academia

Stela Ivanova was born in Bulgaria.   After her Bachelor’s in Psychology in Sofia, she decided to take a Master’s in Organizational Psychology in London. According to Stela, education is a great tool that allows people to move around while being part of a  group with similar interests. “You are not blindly going into a new country”, she says. This creates a framework to live within and be comfortable.

After her Master’s in London, Stela took a job in Research & Development. She already knew she liked research from working as a consultant for one year after her bachelor’s. However, she quickly realized that she did not enjoy the corporate pressure about the direction the research had to go towards. Stela wanted to choose her own research topics. As we know, one international experience leads to the other. Therefore, Stela decided to move and start her PhD in Psychology and Entrepreneurship at the Eindhoven University of Technology, in the Netherlands.

Stela’s mix of entrepreneurship with psychology

The PhD in Psychology and Entrepreneurship was the first time Stela had the chance to experience coaching and teaching entrepreneurship. Because technology entrepreneurship is her main interest, she decided to coach groups working on entrepreneurship in technological development. 

But again, curious people at heart cannot stay in the same place for too long. Stela’s PhD gave her the opportunity to work for a year as a visiting researcher at UNSW in Sydney, Australia. There, she worked on emotional regulation within startup teams, a subject dear to her to this day. However, when she was offered the opportunity to move back to the UK and work as a lecturer in entrepreneurship at the University of Exeter, she took it. When asked if she had always wanted a career in Academia, Stela pauses and says that in some way everything she has done has brought her to where she is now. In short, yes, she always did.

ESCP – a career opportunity

After three years at Exeter, Stela felt like it was time for a change. “You have to keep things interesting for yourself”, she says. Therefore, she started looking around. The first time she heard about ESCP was at a doctoral consortium in Australia. Since then, the pan-European, multicultural environment of this institution had left her longing to know more. Therefore, when she saw a position opening, she applied.

Currently, Stela is an Assistant Professor as well as the Academic Director of the MBA Program for the ESCP London Campus. Additionally, she is also teaching seed stage entrepreneurship to the Master in Management and Master in Marketing and Creativity programs.

Having too many interests is a blessing 

“I consider myself an intellectually curious person”, Stela says, which means that her interests are various and ever-changing. At the moment, her research focuses on two main points: disadvantaged entrepreneurship and relationships in new venture teams

The first topic focuses on people with disabilities or refugees who have a desire for entrepreneurship. Some studies say that people who are discriminated against in traditional careers can look to self-employment as a way to self-realization. However, discrimination in traditional careers can also translate to a disadvantage in entrepreneurship.

The second topic tackles emotional processes within startup teams. Specifically, Stela focuses on their impact on co-founders relationships, leader emergence and startup survival. The initial stages of building a business hold many challenges and obstacles which threaten the survival of the venture and the relationship between co-founders. Stela focuses mainly on the regulation of emotions within the team. Specifically, she researches how this plays a role in maintaining long-lasting relationships, emerging as a leader and seeing the startup to success.