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Blazing Trails in Uncharted Territories - The Randal Pinkett Story

Published:Tuesday | November 1, 2016 | 12:00 AMKimberly Goodall
Dr Randal Pinkett was the first African- American from Rutgers to become a Rhodes Scholar.
Dr Pinkett always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Randal Pinkett takes a photo with Utech's dental student- Alexandre Young at Sagicor's Inspire Project's Ignite.

Randal Pinkett is a brilliant man of great stature who continues to blaze trails in what he describes as "uncharted territories".

Pinkett was a presenter at the 'Ignite' segment of the recent Sagicor's Inspire Project. Born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey, he has established himself as an entrepreneur, speaker, author and scholar. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of a multimillion-dollar management company - BC Partners.

You may think it can't get better than this, but the 47-year-old has outdone himself numerous times on his journey.

After graduating high school, Pinkett attended Rutgers University, where he competed as a high jumper, long jumper and captain of the men's track and field team. He graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Because of his exceptional academic achievement, a lecturer motivated him to sign up for the Rhodes scholarship (a prestigious international postgraduate award).

Though he admits he had doubts, he applied and became the first African-American from Rutgers to become a Rhodes Scholar.

With the scholarship, Pinkett went on to attend the University of Oxford as a member of Keble College, attaining a master's degree in computer science. He then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduating with a second master's degree - this time in electrical engineering. There was no stopping Pinkett, who also went on to obtain a Master of Business Administration degree from MIT Sloan School of Management. He continued his education at MIT, earning a Doctor of Philosophy in media arts and sciences from the MIT Media Laboratory in 2001.

When asked what motivated and inspired him to pursue five academic degrees, Pinkett responded simply, "For me, it was about following my passion. It's never felt like work. I have always enjoyed the work that I do, in school and beyond school. I've been an entrepreneur since I started university. I've always been balancing school work with business and looking at how school work could balance my business. At an early age, I learnt that I was gifted in maths and science, but had a passion for entrepreneurship, and to me, the power is when you can find the intersection between those two to run a technology business. I've been doing that since I was 20, so I love it."


An Unfamiliar Road


Pinkett started his first business with a group of friends while at university. They offered professional training in communication skills, public speaking and other professional development area. When the tragedy of September 11 hit, they lost all their business. Pinkett described this as a pothole he had to endure.

He and his partners had a brainstorm and started to look at other industries, particularly technology. One morning, they got a call from a prospective client that gave them a contract in technology that was completely new for them. This opportunity gave birth to the company they now run - BC Partners - that does technology consulting and data analytics.

"The seeds of BCT were born in the failure of the last company. It was by the grace of God and a little bit of strategy - identifying a new opportunity that we could capitalise on," Pinkett told Outlook.

In 2005, with motivation from his wife, Zahara, Pinkett entered the fourth season of the American Realtiy series - The Apprentice. It was uncharted territory for Pinkett, but he was determined to show that there are no limits to what he can do. After a lot of hard work and persistence, Pinkett was the first African-American to win the reality television show. Of his win, he noted, "Establish your own paths and create new footsteps towards your dreams. When there is no road, create your own. A road is made as one walks."


Making A Difference


Not only is Pinkett a trailblazer in the corporate community, he is also an author and a highly sought-after speaker for various corporations, colleges, universities, government agencies and community organisations. His latest book, Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, has been named one of the 10 Best Books of 2010. The book presents the strategies African Americans and other emerging minorities can use to successfully navigate today's rapidly changing professional landscape. Based on the book's 10 game-changing strategies, Dr Pinkett has launched the Campaign to Redefine the Game, which represents a call to action for Americans to level the playing field in the 21st-century workplace.

As Dr Pinkett continues to live his dream of being an entrepreneur, he remembers a conversation he had with an elderly white man when he and his partners were seeking financial support.

"All you have is an idea. Investors don't invest in ideas unless they know you, so unless you know somebody who can give you $US50,000, you have to just figure it out. I didn't know anybody so I had to just figure it out. His exact words were, "you are going to have to go to friends and family". I didn't have friends and family that had that kind of money, so what I want to do before I die is establish the 'Friends and Family Foundation', which will give money to young black entrepreneurs who don't have family and friends with money, but has a great idea so they can pursue their dreams," Pinkett shared with determination in his eyes.

Pinkett admits that even though he is a busy man, he balances his faith, family and career. He met his wife, Zahara, in 2002, got married in 2004 and have a daughter and two sons. Pinkett firmly believes that "to whom much is given, much is expected", so throughout his endeavours he places great emphasis on his desire to give back to the community.