Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Peter Pellizzari! We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.
I have quite a winding path. I originally went to college to study computer science. I was obsessed with tech and coding. But when I got there, I lost interest and decided to study political science and history instead. How that happened exactly is still a mystery to me. I loved the conversations and ideas in those classes so much that I ended up getting a PhD in American History. I spent a lot of time teaching and mentoring students and planned on becoming a professor, but after graduating I decided to leave academia behind and enter the startup world. I co-founded an EdTech startup called Threadable and have spent the last three years learning everything from business strategy to mobile app development to social media marketing and everything in between. My path has many zigs and zags. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career?
When I was in college, I remember people asking me what I wanted to study and what I wanted to do. I chose history because it let me study whatever I wanted. I could blend both qualitative and quantitative methods. Even though I feel like I’ve had two careers already in academia and running a startup, I think what’s inspired me is the opportunity to keep learning new things. I’m drawn toward motivated, high-achieving people. Professors and founders are both very similar in this regard. I like roles where I can wear many hats, work with diverse people, and dive deep across different topics. You can’t be an expert in everything, but it’s fun to try anyway.
What is one thing you are proud of achieving in your life?
I am most proud of getting my PhD. This was my white whale. Every part of the process introduced me to something new or made me rethink an assumption I had made previously about myself. I learned out of necessity how to identify a professional weakness and turn it into a strength, whether that was time management, research and analysis, composition, grant writing, public speaking, teaching, networking, or the hundreds of other things you do in grad school. There was no time to sit in a comfort zone. Turns out, I love that type of challenge.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Health and fitness are important to me. I enjoy staying active, running, lifting, playing basketball, and going for walks with my dog. Admittedly, at the same time, I’m also a big gamer, which I think is by definition the opposite of active. Curl up on a Saturday night with a drink and a good game, either by myself or with friends? Yes, please. Thank you, goodbye.
The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
People often say something like, “Find your passion and then pursue it relentlessly.” While not bad advice, I think it’s kind of misleading. It assumes that your passion won’t ever change. I would say always be open to new opportunities to learn, both about yourself and anything you’re interested in. A passion you have when you’re 18 may not be the same when you’re 25 or 40 or 75. That’s okay. Just don’t convince yourself you’re bad at something, or when faced with a challenge immediately assume you can’t do it. View every experience and every person you meet, both personally and professionally, as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Describe a time that you failed and how you responded to that situation.
Running a startup means you encounter failure on a constant basis – wrong design, wrong messaging, wrong strategy, wrong pitch, etc. In fact, I now try to fail as fast as possible, at least at the very early stages of something, because it leads to learning. Coming from academia, where you obsess over every comma and every footnote, and the research and writing process takes years, this was new for me. I respond to failure by not getting discouraged and remembering that this is all part of the process. Failure motivates me to come back better the next time, and the next time, and the next time, until suddenly I succeed.
Please share your favorite Life Lesson quote. How is it relevant to your life?
The great British historian, G. M. Trevelyan, once wrote, “The dead were and are not. Their place knows them no more, and is ours today. Yet they were once real as we, and we shall tomorrow be shadows like them. The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cock-crow.”
This quote almost single-handedly convinced me to study history. I refer back to it often when thinking about my life. It helps me put things in perspective, especially when I’m inevitably sweating the small stuff and allowing deadlines to consume me. We aren’t here for very long. What do you want to leave behind?
Why did you choose to be a Committee Member of Educate. Radiate. Elevate.?
The growing achievement gap is a huge problem that I care a lot about. I joined E.R.E. because I wanted to dedicate my time and energy to help address it. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the various inequalities within education, both as a teacher and tutor and now as an EdTech founder. All of the extra help that is available to some students – private tutoring, test prep courses, and summer enrichment programs – can make a big difference in outcomes. Those resources need to be accessible to everyone regardless of background or zip code.
What about the Educate. Radiate. Elevate.’s Purpose, Mission, and Core Values speaks most to you and why?
I’m drawn toward E.R.E.’s holistic approach to developing students for success in the world as civically minded citizens. Getting an A on a paper or scoring well on an entrance exam are important goals. These things do matter. But they’re not the most important. When I was in school, I used to think they were all that mattered. I could not have been more wrong. I think E.R.E.’s focus on teaching human skills and social-emotional learning is the best training any student can get if they want to be successful in life. This approach is both unique and sorely needed.
What are the essential skills one must have to grow and scale a nonprofit like Educate. Radiate. Elevate.? What qualities do you value the most when building out teams and resources?
Resiliency, dedication, hard work, empathy, listening, and communication – all of these skills are crucial when trying to establish and grow any organization. Domain expertise is certainly important, and it’s something you have to look for when building out teams, but in some ways, it’s the least relevant when focusing on scaling. Knowing how to build good relationships and connect with people will always be more valuable.