“Pittsburgh is energizing. The food and culture; the hub for autonomous vehicles and robotics; the cutting edge medical research. From a story perspective about the city, it’s a beautiful one.”
Two years ago, Nick Pineda and his wife, Kristin, were deciding where they would relocate so she could pursue a Ph.D. program in Management Accounting. Seattle, Chicago and Pittsburgh were the top contenders, so the Boston-based couple spent a few days in each place to get a better feel for the pace and the people. “Ultimately, Pittsburgh won out. We recognized that things are changing here and we felt we could be a part of the transition and make an impact.”
Nick has made a career of change making since earning a degree in business administration from Babson College, with a focus on new venture creation and strategy. After starting out with a Boston consulting firm focused on innovation strategy, he moved to Johnson & Johnson. There he helped its research and development team set up an innovation accelerator to study the human microbiome, the complex community of microbial organisms that live in, on and around our bodies. “Essentially, we looked at how a company can leverage its expertise to create products to treat cancer, metabolic and autoimmune diseases.” Being on the cutting edge of innovation was always rewarding, but Nick wanted to explore how to better impact the people – rather than the product – side of innovation.
As an innovation and culture strategist at TiER1 Performance Solutions, that’s exactly what he gets to do. “We focus on helping people do their best work which for me, means training leaders to work in the dynamic space of growing innovation from inside of the company – people who have never worked in that type of environment before, particularly in large corporations – discover a whole new perspective on how to approach their business.” He’s excited about the trajectory that TiER1 is on as they help organizations activate strategy through their people. While this comes to life in a variety of ways, Nick is energized when it allows institutions to move away from hierarchical and static organizational models with fixed job titles toward more dynamic and mobile structures that are ultimately more engaging and empowering at the level of the individual performer.
When Nick’s not working and Kristin can take a break from her doctoral program at the University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School for Business, they are out exploring the region. Each month they try to go for a new hike, with Ohiopyle State Park and Fallingwater in nearby Fayette County, and the Allegheny National Forest among their favorites. While Pittsburgh winters pale in comparison to those in Boston, the couple enjoys taking refuge at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland. They’ve opted for an annual membership in order to have a beautiful green space to explore year-round.
The couple also enjoys staying put in the city, hitting up Highland Park’s Smiling Banana Leaf for its tasty Thai meals, Food Glorious Food for delicious baked goods, Everyday Noodles in Squirrel Hill, and the Strip District’s Smallman Galley, with its ever-changing entrepreneurial restaurant offerings.
“People always talk about how affordable Pittsburgh is, but what I’d add to that is that life just feels easier here,” Nick says. “Going to the grocery store, trying a new restaurant or hiking trail – it’s all accessible; we’re not layered on top of each other. These ‘soft side’ aspects of the quality of life matter, and they make life a whole lot sweeter here in Pittsburgh.”