Alum Now at Oracle Corporation Shares His Experience, Advice

Monday, April 19, 2010
Alum Now at Oracle Corporation Shares His Experience, Advice

19 April 2010 12:00AM

Cincinnati native Justin Knowles graduated from Duke in 1996 with a bachelor's degree in economics and political science. He then received a Master's in economics from Duke in 1997. Knowles later obtained his MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he also met his wife Jessica. We interviewed Justin to hear about his experience at Duke and learn how he puts his economics knowledge to use now:

Was there a certain area of economics that you focused on?
Public choice because it helped explain how economic decisions are made in a political environment.

Who were some of your favorite professors?
Ed Tower – He’s made a significant difference in my life by helping fuel my curiosity and arm me with the tools to better understand the world. He has also remained a good friend.

Craufurd Goodwin – His history of economics course was one of my favorites. I still reference Keynes’s quote, “Practical men… are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” The quote applies to health care reform, carbon trading and many other issues currently in the news…

What was your favorite economics class here and why?
My favorite Duke class was a seminar led by Ed Tower where we applied economic concepts to non-economic subjects (e.g., sociobiology) and attempted some original research.  With Professor Tower’s help, I published a paper on how sugar interest groups influence Congress and why we pay too much for our Fruit Loops.

What was your toughest economics class here and why?
Econometrics because I had to learn linear algebra on the fly

Where do you live now and what do you do?

San Francisco Bay Area, CA where I work at Oracle as On Demand, Chief of Staff. I lead strategy and run a business that helps companies outsource their IT needs through Oracle software.

What's your favorite thing about your job?
I enjoy being able to tackle new issues each day. I appreciate the opportunity to define how a major software company approaches emerging trends like software as a service, outsourcing and cloud computing.

How do your economics studies help you in your job?
My business group helps companies outsource their application management to experts around the world. We try to bring some of the benefits of David Ricardo and free trade to our customers.

What's the best book related to economics that you've read?
The Road to Serfdom by Fredrich von Hayek. The Nobel laureate chronicled how monopolizing economic power leads to arbitrary decisions and even tyranny as in the Nazi regime. It is amazing that it is still a best-seller after more than fifty years.

Do you have any advice for current economics students?
When you graduate, consider consulting as a great initial career choice. I found that consulting exposed  me to many business issues and solutions in a short period of time. It’s intense and fun.