Finance / Healthcare
Our intense yet inspiring Pershing Square one-week trek to New York began on 23rd of May when we were warmly welcomed by the Pershing Square Foundation’s board, including Bill Ackman, the founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, and Dr. Olivia Tournay Flatto, the president of the Pershing Square Foundation. The trek is part of the Pershing Square Scholarship programme that gives the scholars the opportunity to meet their donor, the Pershing Square Foundation board and its portfolio companies. We visited over ten different portfolio companies, met with their respective CEOs, and deeply explored various business models and their results.
The first company we visited was Echoing Green, which backs exceptional emerging entrepreneurs and fast-tracks them so their ventures can impact the world. Cheryl Dorsey, CEO, who led the session, set up the perfect environment for us to feel truly at ease: we were able to ask tough questions, and receive honest answers. After discussing Echoing Green’s business model, we were taught a simple, yet effective strategy, to articulate our ideas. In a nutshell, any idea that you want to project simply should be sliced and diced to three categories: the intended impact, the specific population it would benefit, and what action would be taken. I found it very helpful, and ended up using this strategy throughout the week to better articulate my thoughts about my future endeavours.
Another company that stood out was Year Up, whose mission is to provide to low-income young adults the opportunity to reach their potential professional careers through education, support and a partnership system. Their efforts, and results, makes you realise that education is a powerful tool that equalises people and gives them the same opportunities to succeed.
Two common threads were woven throughout the trek: the importance of community and demand-driven strategy. The creation of tight community was crucial across all the enterprises, and a range of tools were used to psychologically increase the social belonging. Some examples include team building exercises (‘brain trust’) at Echoing Green, and students at Year Up who sign a contract to dress professionally at school. An example of an organization using a demand-driven strategy was how Year Up approached their institutional partners to determine the gap in the skill sets of employees in order to appropriately train their students. From project management to forensic accounting, Year Up provided a number of specific skills to their students, in an effort to make them more effective future employees.
As a scientist, I very much enjoyed the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Alliance 3rd Annual Prize Award Dinner at the Park Avenue Armory. In particular, I appreciated how Dr. Christopher Mason, one of the prize winners, delivered his presentation through rapping. I personally was impressed by the Pershing Square Foundation’s audacity to back basic yet risky researches that the conventional funding bodies are not willing to undertake, pursuing safer projects instead. I truly believe that the success of the scientific field lies in facing these kinds of risky scientific challenges.
I am deeply grateful to Saïd Business School and the Pershing Square Foundation for giving me this nourishing and inspirational opportunity.Back to top of article