Learning from Risk-Taking and Failure in the Workplace

David Portalatin is in his final year as a full-time MPA-PNP candidate at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He serves a Communications Chairman for the Wagner Management Leadership Conference (WMLO). He has discovered the value added through identifying the key differences between leadership and management while applying elements of both to make sense of public service for his team.


On Friday, April 10th, NYU Wagner students gathered to hear panelists' thoughts on taking risks in leadership, learning from failure, and making room for failure in order to promote innovation in the public and nonprofit sectors. Students heard from top private, public, and nonprofit management professionals including Chair of Health Policy and Management at the Global Institute for Public Health and NYU Wagner Professor Tom D'Aunno, well known recording artist, songwriter, and talent manager Eric Hutchinson, Forbes 500 management consultant and NYU Adjunct Professor Joshua Spodek, and Director of Operations and Budget at Kean University Yoshi Manale.

The event hosted by the Wagner Management and Leadership Organization (WMLO) was co-sponsored by the NYUEN. When asked for his input on lessons learned through the roller coaster ride of being a startup entrepreneur, Mr.
Spodek stressed the importance of being unafraid to ride the next wave of opportunity without thinking five or ten years down the line because we cannot ever actually predict what circumstances will be like that far down the road; speculation is a recipe for failure. He advised students and start-up entrepreneurs to instead look to what they can do realistically within the next year to bring success to their endeavors. Professor Tom D'Aunno later added a note on the importance of having a well-thought out Plan B stating the reason why he was able to take professional risks was that he knew he had built a solid contingency plan.

When asked for his thoughts on the event, one attendee remarked "I loved your event. I think it's an important topic, but not often discussed."

WMLO will continue serve as a forum for students specializing in Management and for anyone who aspires to develop their management skills for the public sector. Aiming to facilitate educational and networking events that will benefit Wagner students of all specializations by sharing new methods and addressing challenges that public service managers face.