Places lived: Bahrain, Hungary, United Kingdom, and United States
Education: Nicholas received his JD from Harvard Law School; a dual masters in technology and policy and civil and environmental engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and a BS in system engineering at the University of Virginia.
Experience: Nicholas held different professional roles at Magyar Telecom, head of secretariat; McKinsey & Company, consultant; and Latham & Watkins, lawyer.
Focus: "Breaking out of compromise by bringing together different professional disciplines such as law and science policy."
Intellectual influences: "My mother and father, a psychologist and engineer.” The list also includes: George Kennan, Franz Kafka, Bandler and Grindler, and Nassim Taleb.
Turning points: "Moving back to Budapest despite being an established professional in Washington, DC." Nicholas grew up in the hills of Budapest before moving to the United States at the age of 11 when his father, a research engineer, took a faculty position at an American university. He built the foundations for a successful career in the states before surprising his law firm colleagues by moving back to Hungary to experience living in Europe as an adult and retracing the bohemian roots of his childhood. That decision opened the door to a diversity of experiences and perspectives that now enrich his life and his work at Tapestry.
Nicholas began his career as a lawyer in Washington, DC at Latham & Watkins. “I’m proud of the work I did at Latham and of the complexity of the issues that made their way to me, particularly in areas like risk-based regulation and accounting for the full cost of innovation. I was able to use my engineering and public health background to bridge significant gaps in science and technology policy. And it was a great way to understand the formal ways of interaction between the public and private spheres.”
It was during this time that Nicholas developed a passion for dance that has followed him ever since. “I found that working alone in my office until 9 PM was far more palatable if I went swing dancing afterwards.”
After several years of practicing law the opportunity to work in McKinsey’s relatively new office in Budapest and return to Hungary was too good for him to turn down. “McKinsey gave me the chance to live in Hungary and work across Europe and the Middle East. The work I did in Bahrain was another chance to bridge disciplines, this time between policy and economics. The challenge was somehow to balance the lure of cheap foreign labor with the need to create jobs and economic opportunity for more ‘expensive’ young nationals. It is the same challenge that is causing upheaval across the Middle East today. Were we completely successful? No. But the things we tried are being adopted in other countries. For countries to have a chance to prosper, young people need opportunity.”
By this time salsa had replaced swing, and Nicholas enjoyed Budapest’s burgeoning salsa scene, as well as that in the Arabian Gulf. “To my surprise, you could find salsa in both Dubai and Bahrain. In fact I’m not sure I would have survived seven months in the desert without it.”
The rapid pace of change in the Arab world is reminiscent of similar changes that Nicholas witnessed a few decades earlier in Central Europe. “The border between Hungary and Austria used to be called ‘the Iron Curtain.’ Fixed and seemingly permanent,” he says. “There were signs at the border that read, ‘The People’s Republic of Hungary.’ Then one day, with the fall the Soviet bloc, the word “People’s” was removed. Eight years later, with the Schengen treaty, the signs – and the border – were gone.”
"There are two lessons that life’s lack of permanence teaches,” he says. “First, that systems that don’t serve the needs of their constituencies sooner or later collapse, and often do so quite rapidly. Second, that whatever seems fixed and immutable can be reinvented.”
His experiences also have taught him that each profession brings with it a set of boundary conditions that both legitimize and limit what can be done. “I think that’s why I found my way to Tapestry. It is a chance for me to work with leaders ‘across borders’ to envision and design better futures. My experience in blending disciplines helps me do that. The world is not only getting more interconnected, it is also getting both more informal and more complex. Leaders in all sectors need to get out of rehearsed and expected roles. If they can find the right shared narrative, it will make all the difference. I want to help Tapestry design and lead processes that help them do that.”
Nicholas lives in Boston, MA with his wife and daughter.