Meet Paul Almeida: The Restless Dean Who Thrives on Innovation

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Originally from Goa, India, Paul Almeida has lived and worked in locations around the world. But he has found his home at Georgetown University, where he has been the dean and William R. Berkley Chair of the McDonough School of Business since 2017, as well as a strategy professor and administrator at the school for more than 25 years. He says his Catholic, Jesuit upbringing cemented his belief in serving the common good, a value he finds within the Georgetown community as well.

How did you choose your career path?

I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Initially I made what I thought were smart choices with strong odds. I was good at math, so engineering became a good platform for a degree. Along the way, I discovered and grew my capabilities and discovered my likes. I was willing to keep adjusting, innovating, and discovering. So I moved from engineering and consulting to becoming a researcher who loved teaching and being an administrator as well. It takes continuous discovery and development of your capabilities and what you love to find how you can make a difference.

What motivates you?

What motivates me is to feel fulfilled. I have to believe and feel that I’m making a difference. In my family life, with my friends, and through my work, I try to find places where I can be needed and make a difference. That’s what guides my choices and judgements. 

What can we find you doing outside of Georgetown?

I read a lot. I tend to my yard. I love my dog and take her for long walks. I work out. I cook. And much of my life I have traveled — I like learning about people. And I have a big extended family. 

How are you influenced by Georgetown’s Jesuit values?

I was brought up in a Catholic family that was very oriented around doing the right thing. That was complemented by my Jesuit education, not so much from the in-classroom conversations, but in the outside activities. Through the conversations I had with Jesuits, learning their way of thinking and understanding, serving the common good became central to my thinking. It has given my personal and professional life meaning. This core Jesuit value of serving the common good is central to how I see the world and to my personal values. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

When I was 10, I was chatting with a family friend from Goa, who was 40 years older than me, and he said “Go west young man.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but he basically was telling me to go out and explore, learn, and build. That became a part of my fascination with life — there are always opportunities to learn, to build, to explore, to innovate. Don’t let your world be defined by just the people and situations around you. I don’t know if he meant all that or if I built that in my mind over time, but that’s who I am. I bring it to my job as dean, knowing there always must be ways we can innovate and build, things we can try, and new avenues to explore.

What has been the biggest change to the business world since you started teaching?

The role of technology is changing businesses and old industries, introducing new industries, changing what customers look for, changing systems and processes, and changing education. In return, we must educate people differently. Being entrepreneurial, being willing to fail, and understanding analytics have become more important. We need to teach our students to understand technology in context, not just the tools and skills. 

How would you describe the sense of community at Georgetown McDonough?

I would like our community to be a diverse community of belonging, and I think we are making great progress even during challenging times. Every organization has its challenges, but at our core is a community that looks after one another, likes one another, and is willing to help one another. I believe we have to ensure we extend that sense of belonging to everyone — students, faculty, staff, and alumni. We are on the path to being a truly diverse community of belonging, and we will continue to strive toward that goal.  

What is the one thing you hope students take away from their Georgetown McDonough experience?

I hope students leaving Georgetown feel that they belong to our community that has the skills, network, and ability to help them succeed and make a difference in the world. If they leave with that feeling and understanding, I’d be very happy.