Look out, America. An MIT alumnus will take a seat in Donald Trump's boardroom when NBC's reality TV show "The Apprentice" premieres Thursday, Sept. 22, at 9 p.m.
Randal Pinkett (S.M., M.B.A. '98, Ph.D. '02), an entrepreneur, will be one of 18 contestants, most of whom were hand-picked by Trump to appear on the show. Trump's participation in the selection process is new this year after Trump expressed dissatisfaction with the previous season's cast.
Pinkett, 34, is the co-founder, president and CEO of Newark, N.J.-based BCT Partners, a management, technology and policy consulting firm for corporations, government agencies and nonprofits. BCT Partners specializes in housing and community development, economic development, human services, nonprofit and community technology and education.
Contestants are contractually bound not to discuss the show, but Pinkett was willing to reveal his motivations for applying. "First, I want the opportunity to learn from Mr. Trump," he said. "He is an icon in business with a wealth of knowledge, whereas I am still relatively young in my entrepreneurial career. My company, BCT Partners, is a multimillion dollar company. I want to learn from Mr. Trump what it means to run a multibillion dollar company. Second, I think the opportunity to showcase my talents and experience on a nationally televised program focused on business will open new doors for me and my colleagues. Third and finally, I welcome the opportunity to be challenged, to learn and to have some fun."
Pinkett brings a significant amount of education and business experience to the game. He earned his B.S. in electrical engineering from Rutgers University and became the first African-American at Rutgers to receive a Rhodes scholarship. At Oxford, Pinkett received a master's in computer science. He then headed to MIT for three more degrees. He earned a master's in electrical engineering from the School of Engineering and an M.B.A. from the Sloan School of Management in the Leaders for Manufacturing Program. His dissertation for his Ph.D. from the Media Laboratory explored the role of high technology in improving the quality of life for low-income residents.
BCT Partners is Pinkett's fifth business venture. He previously launched four social enterprises, including the Inner City Consulting Group, a firm specializing in the needs of inner city communities, and MBS Educational Services & Training, which provided training and development for professionals from businesses such as General Motors, the United Negro College Fund and Citigroup.
Currently, Pinkett lives in New Jersey with his wife, Zahara, and devotes time to speaking to corporate, youth and community groups. His numerous accolades include MIT's MLK Leadership Award in 2002 for service to the community, a Leadership New Jersey Fellowship and the National Society of Black Engineers' National Member of the Year award.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 21, 2005 (download PDF).