MBA transformers: Benjamin Pierson

Once: Emergency Management Planner, Pierce County

Now: Director, Alvarez & Marsal

Emergency managemenBen Piersont may not be the most obvious prelude to an MBA. But Ben Pierson (MBA 2009) found the complexity of his work with Pierce County Emergency Management to be growing rapidly beyond his skill set. After four years, he was leading the agency’s countywide planning for disaster response and economic recovery, an endeavor that demanded system-wide coordination of public and private sector.

Pierson sought a Foster MBA to understand the business end of such partnerships. “I just came to learn,” he says. “And I trusted that something good would come from it.”

He emerged a fixer of the highest order.

His first contribution was to develop a green economy jobs strategy for Seattle/ King County with its Workforce Development Council. Now he’s with the consulting firm of Alvarez & Marsal, advising philanthropic clients on their efforts to solve wide-scale social, economic and health ills.

“To solve these complicated, systemic problems, we ultimately need to find market-based solutions that don’t rely solely on public funding or philanthropy,” Pierson says. “I have to know all the levers to pull, understand how to coax stakeholders out of their comfort zones. I wouldn’t have been in this position without the Foster School.”

Update: Pierson has moved from advising philanthropic clients on tough problems to working for philanthropy organizations directly. He is now the principal technical adviser for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and serves on the board of the Seattle Jobs Initiative.

Find out about the other alumni who transformed their careers via the MBA Program.