February 27, 2023

Sometimes it’s just the right time

— Author: Jin Paik

I stood outside Cotting House building on the Harvard Business School campus, waving at some folks through the window. Some of our team were having a meeting in the newly renovated lounge. It wasn’t goodbye, and despite the more serious and stoic side of me that most people see, I like to joke with people. So, I stood there waving a little longer like an automaton and got a few smirks.

That day in early January did mark the start of my transition period – as I phase out of LISH and D^3 over the next few months – and come on onboard as Managing Partner at Altruistic, which I co-founded in 2020.

Why am I doing this now? Why leave Harvard at all?

I’ve had more than a lifetime of learning and experiencing so much. The great thing about working in innovation and at LISH is that we got to crack some of the most difficult problems that organizations like NASA, Harvard Medical School, and the Broad Institute face. Not everyone gets to solve problems for the Internal Space Center and make progress toward cancer diagnostics in the same year – most don’t get that opportunity in a lifetime!

Working with great people has been at the core of everything. Work culture is critical and now even more important at this juncture. Big thanks to Karim! For allowing me to grow, giving me the leeway to fail fast, and setting up opportunities for us to succeed together. When I first sat down to write my book (with co-author John Winsor), Open Talent: Leveraging the Global Workforce to Solve Your Biggest Challenges, I had some time to reflect. I realized that more than a decade ago, Karim brought me on board to work with NASA and the growing list of organizations that wanted to partner with us. Good thing I have a good poker face because I didn’t have the slightest idea about what he was talking about for a week when we chatted about “crowds.” It’s nice to know I’ve picked up a few things along the way. I didn’t do it alone. Shout out to good team members along the way who have worked for me – Nina Cohodes, Steven Randazzo, and Mike Menietti in particular – I couldn’t have asked for better support.

Right, I was about to tell you why I’m leaving.

Professionally, this is the right time. The world has changed so much in terms of digital connectivity, and we have a lot to offer as a company. It’s a chance for us to have an impact on how organizations think about talent and also about how technology is developed. The industry is young, and the edges of the map haven’t yet been filled out. I want a shot at making a difference there. We are passed the point of data, digital, and AI being a fantasy and certainly no longer just working with automatons. How people engage with AI has serious effects and consequences for everyday life. It also has profound benefits. Standing outside of Cotting House was odd in another way. Here’s this beautiful brick building on one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, juxtaposing an open lounge that couldn’t possibly look and feel more modern. What an exciting time of digital metamorphosis with organizations fighting to change what they look like as they wrestle with emerging technology and work culture. 

I’ve also enjoyed working with good people, and I know I will continue with the great team here! First, Altruistic started because I reached out to Rob Maguire during the early days of COVID-19, and he was one of the first people I knew that got it. We began to work together toward a common goal. It’s all about whom you get to work with at the end of the day! Second, our community is important. People like freedom and flexibility; most importantly, they want to pursue their passions. We’re fostering that on our platform.

I’ve been reflecting on Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, which I first read in high school.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both.”
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I could have stayed a while longer, perhaps ten more years, or even a lifetime at Harvard, and not run out of things to learn, do, and people to motivate. But I’m opting for the non-traditional path like most of our community members and most in the open talent economy

Faith, family, and friendship are paramount in my life. Hoping to continue with this new journey though it's probably a little less safe and a little less traveled.

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