Malik Jabati is a UNC class of 2019 Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) minor who majored in Computer Science and Economics. After graduating, he worked as a software engineer for The New York Times where he helped improve reader experience through easier subscription management. Malik is currently a business analyst at McKinsey & Company in Washington, D.C. where he works to make meaningful change in the public and social sectors by enhancing healthcare industry stakeholder experience.
A Conversation with Malik
(1) What led you to minor in PPE at UNC?
I came into UNC a little unsure of what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to take rigorous courses that would stretch me intellectually. I wished to discuss serious ideas – even those that some might consider taboo – in a serious way. The smartest people I knew at UNC were enrolled in the minor, and it was actually one of these students that pushed me to pursue the PPE minor. The quality of the PPE professors and students I met in the classroom, evening reading groups and weekend seminars convinced me that my decision to minor in PPE was a good one.
(2) How has what you learned from the PPE Program helped you in your career?
The ability to think critically about problems, integrate findings across several disciplines, and communicate clearly has been invaluable so far in my career. Whether it be determining the best approach to build a software application used by millions, or considering the social and political impacts of major economic recommendations, these skills have served me well.
(3) What is your greatest professional accomplishment so far?
My greatest professional accomplishment so far was working to design and develop the Invoice Service with my team at The New York Times. This service enabled over 800,000 print subscribers to manage and pay for their subscriptions online. Before our service, most of the subscriber interactions related to the physical version of the paper would have to be done over phone or by mail.
(4) What professor or course influenced you the most during your time in the PPE Program?
Professor Alexandra Oprea! She was my Gateway and Capstone professor, as well as a seminar leader, panel host and reading group facilitator for many of the extracurricular activities I was able to participate in as part of the PPE program. Professor Oprea is incredibly intelligent, and I most appreciated her talent for getting the entire room to participate in discussions while still managing to push our conversations forward in ways that allowed us to more thoroughly understand the topic at hand.
(5) What was your favorite extracurricular programming that the PPE Program offered (i.e. reading groups, weekend seminars, speaker series, etc.)?
My favorite extracurricular programming has always been the reading groups. I truly appreciated the opportunities to discuss one piece of literature over a sustained period of time with the same group of people. Not only did I gain a deeper understanding of the books I read than I otherwise would have in most of my undergraduate courses, but I also made quite a few friendships. And the food! I can’t forget Gourmet Kingdom (where most of these reading groups took place). I actually had my graduation dinner there.
(6) What advice do you have for prospective PPE students?
My two biggest pieces of advice are to be bold and to be open. By bold, I mean to share your idea or present an argument during discussions even if you are not 100% certain of its soundness. I learned the most when my ideas were questioned and challenged by my classmates and professors. My second piece of advice, “to be open,” strongly relates to the first. What I mean here is to hear out opposing points of view with the most charitable interpretation. I have found that I am better able to defend my own positions when I truly understand those to the contrary.
(7) What advice do you have for recent PPE graduates?
When I was a sophomore, an upperclassman in my philosophy course advised that I should have “strong opinions, weakly held.” This is a somewhat common refrain in the business world too, and it has served me well both academically and professionally. What it boils down to is being able to quickly build and support a solid position but having the humility to change course if and when new information comes to light, suggesting your original position might not be the most correct one.
(8) Where do you see yourself in five years?
Five years from now, I hope to be somewhere on the East Coast leading a team of motivated individuals hoping to make a positive impact on the world. It’s vague, I know, but I’m still figuring it out myself!