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MBAs on the Move

How Teaching in Tanzania Inspired Terry Mulligan to Make an Impact at XPRIZE

Terry Mulligan

  • Product Lead, XPRIZE
  • Georgetown University McDonough School of Business (MBA, 2018)
  • University of Missouri at Columbia (BS, Education, 2009)

When Terry Mulligan graduated with an undergraduate degree in education, he wasn’t sure how he wanted to use it. When he learned about a new school in Tanzania for disadvantaged children, he leapt at the chance to experience another culture and make an impact. Moving to Africa was transformative for Terry, and it informed his career path, in which he eventually shifted from education to business. After getting an MBA at Georgetown McDonough School of Business, Terry was laser focused on landing his current dream job: product lead at XPRIZE, a non-profit in Los Angeles that designs global competitions to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.

 

To get my dream job, I followed all the best practices I learned in business school.

 

Helping To Solve The World’s Biggest Problems

Tell me about XPRIZE.

We design large-scale global incentive competitions with large prizes (anywhere from $1 million – $20 million) to crowdsource solutions to challenges facing humanity. The combination of passion, innovation, and money is a great incentive, and we believe solutions can come from anyone and anywhere. 

Can you share examples of competitions?

As a non-profit, each challenge is sponsored by different entities. Recent examples include a $1 million Adult Literacy XPRIZE sponsored by the Barbara Bush Foundation; a $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE to develop autonomous technology to map the bottom of the sea; and a $15 million Global Learning XPRIZE sponsored by Elon Musk to develop learning software for children’s education around the world.

What does your role as Product Leader at XPRIZE entail?

I lead prize design teams for our Impact & Design department, overseeing XPRIZE’s large-scale competitions. I manage 3-4 team members, a mix of researchers and project managers. My daily responsibilities are to understand our deliverables and keep the train on-track, manage sponsor relationships, oversee research, conduct expert interviews, talk to innovators, and work hand-in-hand with the operations team to develop XPRIZE competitions.

How did you get the job at XPRIZE?

To put it simply: this was my dream job. After reading Abundance [written by Peter Diamandis, XPRIZE CEO,] and learning about XPRIZE, I thought it would be incredible to design competitions that could positively impact millions of people throughout the world. To get this job, I followed all the best practices I learned in business school. I reached out to everyone I knew via LinkedIn, I conducted informational interviews, and I asked how to position myself to be hired at XPRIZE. I had so much passion for the mission – and in late 2018, XPRIZE’s chief impact officer, Zenia Tata, was starting the I&D team and needed people with backgrounds in research analysis and project management. It was a perfect alignment with my skillsets.

From Development Work In Tanzania To MBA And XPRIZE

Tell me how you went from education to business.

Prior to graduating, I wanted to use my time and degree to make the biggest possible impact and became aware of a school being built in Tanzania. After speaking with the non-governmental organization (NGO) leading the project – the Mailisita Foundation – I jumped at the opportunity to go to Tanzania to be their first teacher.

The school was in a small community outside Moshi, Tanzania, and it was an opportunity to learn about another culture and use my educational background to work with orphaned and disadvantaged children. The NGO built a hotel adjacent to the school, and the money raised from the hotel went to support the school. After some early struggles, I stepped into the role of hotel manager, and it was an extremely formative experience. It taught me to stretch myself and get comfortable being uncomfortable because I had to challenge myself to meet my responsibilities.

 

Being a male ally is not one size fits all – I try to recognize my own biases, and have honest conversations, to help champion gender equity.

 

Why did you make earning an MBA a part of your journey?

While in Tanzania, an opportunity arose to work with another NGO, MEDLIFE, that brought doctors to local communities and ran mobile clinics. It made me hungry for more, and that was the impetus to get an MBA. What drove me from teaching to business was understanding that long-term impact depends on financial sustainability and strong programs. I was attracted to XPRIZE because they address problems by developing long-term, sustainable solutions.

Advocating for Gender Equity Through Male Allyship 

How were you involved with the Male Allies group at Georgetown?

I met the Graduate Women in Business (GWIB) club leaders, and it grew from there. There was not a male ally program at the time, but other GWIB members and I started one. We also created a stand-alone male ally position on the GWIB board. As the first vice president of Male Allies for GWIB, I represented Georgetown on calls that Forté hosted with other business schools to talk about challenges, event ideas, and best practices.  We also hosted events, and recruited other male allies to join GWIB.

What did you learn? How have you carried your learnings into your job?

Being a male ally is not one size fits all. I try to recognize my own biases, and have open, honest conversations to know how to best champion gender equity at a given opportunity. I adapt my support for female colleagues based on their needs and how they want to be treated. When I heard that XPRIZE had a Women of XPRIZE Club, the wheels started turning. I have been working closely with colleagues to develop a male ally program here, and it has been accepted by the leadership team. Our organization has a very strong top-down culture in addressing gender equality in the workplace, led by our CEO, Anousheh Ansari.


Words to live by:
Happiness is only real when shared. – Chris McCandless

What I have accomplished with others has always been most meaningful.

Book recommendation:
Abundance by Peter Diamandis, founder of XPRIZE, is a different approach to thinking about the future, how we create abundance for all, and the democratizing potential of technology.

Song that makes him turn up the volume:
One More Time by Daft Punk

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