Engineering Nebraska, Summer07
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How to Become Trump’s ‘Apprentice’: Think Like an Engineer

Randal Pinkett's newly released book, Campus CEO

Randal Pinkett is perhaps best known for winning Season Four of “The Apprentice with Donald Trump,” but he was a star long before then.

Here’s the short version of Pinkett’s lengthy resume: five degrees (three in engineering), Academic All-American in track and field, Rhodes scholar, entrepreneur of five businesses and one of Ebony’s “30 Leaders Under 30”.

Pinkett is chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, a multimillion-dollar management, technology and policy-consulting firm. He also is an executive with Trump Entertainment Resorts.

On April 20, Pinkett gave the keynote address at the E-Week Open House and signed copies of his new book, “Campus CEO: The Student Entrepreneur’s Guide to Launching a Multimillion-Dollar Business.” He shared his thoughts about the role of engineers in society (and, yes, reality TV). Read on for excerpts from Pinkett’s speech.

Competing in a changing market

At one time, our country led the globe in the production of engineers. We are now producing a shrinking share of the globe’s engineering talent, which translates into decreased competitiveness and global vitality.

The importance of technology in society only raises the bar for the importance of engineering in our society. Without a representative engineering workforce, we are witnesses to the technological revolution rather than participants in the technological revolution.

The airplane took 54 years to reach 25 percent market share in America. The Internet, only seven. We are adopting technology at a much faster rate than ever before. The challenges and the opportunities facing the next generation of engineers are determining what our role is in the 21st century and how we move into a position where we are introducing these new breakthroughs as opposed to just being consumers. The difference between being a consumer and being a producer in our society is the difference between listening to music and composing.

Randal Pinkett and Donald Trump

Winning with the engineering mindset

Engineering is more than an endeavor; it is a mindset. It’s a way of thinking. Problem solving, creating, discovering a sense of possibility … engineering necessitates those very qualities.

That mindset was great preparation for me going into “The Apprentice”. Prior to going onto the show, I brainstormed with my colleagues at BCT and decided my strategy was to be a problem solver. There were two occasions when the losing team got to pick a new teammate from the winning team. Both times they picked me. I don’t think that was an accident. I think they saw that they needed someone to solve problems. That mindset from engineering is what I believe helped distinguish me.

Rejecting disciplinary boundaries

Boundaries between the humanities and science or even disciplines within engineering are our own creation. It’s not as though there are distinct gaps between what an electrical engineer does and what a mechanical engineer does, but we create those just to focus in.

There was a time when I thought about my interests. I have a God-given ability for math and science. I have a passion for business. The third interest I’ve always had is community service. I’ve had these seemingly disparate interests and always envisioned there was an order in which I had to do things. But now I believe in the power of and. How can you see the integrative possibilities and bring those interests in harmony, as opposed to believing they have to exist in distinct spheres?


Each of you brings something unique and different to producing our society. My challenge to you is to hold onto what makes you unique. See that diversity, that uniqueness, as your own competitive advantage. You are able to see unmet needs; you are able to see things that others don’t see. You are able to see it, and you are able to solve it. That’s the essence of what it means to be an engineer.

Learn more about Randal at