The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dillon Coutinho

Headshot of Dillon Coutinho
Governance Lead
Pearl Initiative

Degree & graduation year: Master of Public Policy 2019, Bachelor of Environmental Science, 2018

What I do: I work for a nonprofit think tank focused on enhancing corporate governance, accountability, and workplace transparency for the Gulf region’s businesses. The organisation focuses on different components of business operations, i.e. diversity in business leadership, governance in philanthropy, small business resilience, anti-corruption best practices, etc. 

I lead the Governance in Small Businesses programme, focused on enhancing the competitiveness of small businesses by improving their governance standards and ensuring they adopt proper ESG [environmental, social, and governance] frameworks that lead to long-term sustainability and resilience, especially in a post-pandemic world. Additionally, I’m working on launching the Governance in Tech programme, focused on data governance and the ethical use of technology in business operations.

How I ended up working there: I started working with the Pearl Initiative as a strategy consultant, helping them develop their five-year strategy plan, especially with the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Upon its completion and approval, I was hired full time to move forward with the implementation of this strategy while also taking lead on the programmes mentioned above. 

The best part of my job: This would definitely have to be the people I work with. My team is an ambitious, motivated group of people who don’t have an ulterior agenda except for doing good work and ensuring that the organisation’s beneficiaries (including the community they represent) are satisfied. 

A recent exciting work experience: The biggest accomplishment at my job was the launch of my recent report on corporate stewardship. The report showcases the insights and perspectives of 35 of the Gulf region’s leading senior executives, highlighting how stewardship plays a vital role in their organisations.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: There are a lot of skills I use today that I honed during my time in SPP. My forte has always been research, but understanding how to conduct research ethically and effectively was something I was able to further develop at grad school.

A lot of what I do for my organisation is business development and pitching for funding. I was never one for public speaking, but the SPP community encourages that in a very convivial manner. I never felt uncomfortable presenting to my peers. Definitely one of the stronger skills I’ve been able to transfer to the workplace.

Advice to students considering a degree in public policy: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. As an international student trying to understand the political climate in America, it took me a very long time grasp the fundamentals. Once I stepped out of my comfort zone and challenged the status quo, I was able to have more fruitful and intellectual conversations with everyone around me. Your peers and professors are always ready to guide you on that journey of learning. 

Another piece of advice that I think I could’ve used myself is to keep connecting and networking. SPP has a huge alumni database, with alumni dispersed across the globe. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Future plans: In the near future I am hoping to take up a corporate consulting position to further develop my skills and enhance my knowledge as a subject matter expert. The Gulf region is emerging as a very rewarding place to be in this post-pandemic world, and I would like to leverage this opportunity to continue to grow.