Shayan Hussain, Managing Director, Senior Fixed Income Strategist, works with Skyland Trail to destigmatize mental health treatment
How did you get involved with Skyland Trail?
Soon after arriving in Atlanta, I knew I wanted to get involved in my new community, and mental health is a topic that is important to both my wife and me. So many people are affected by mental health issues that are often left untreated until, in many cases, they are at an advanced stage. I have seen firsthand how debilitating mental illness can be, how no one is immune to it, the emotional stress it puts on loved ones and how important it is to seek proper medical care.
Skyland Trail is a nonprofit mental health organization that treats adolescents and adults. It offers a holistic program of evidence-based psychiatric treatment, integrated medical care, research and education. Skyland Trail treats each patient as an individual rather than as just a diagnosis, creating a personalized plan that focuses on the positive attributes each person brings to their recovery process. After two fellow Columbia Business School alums recommended Skyland Trail, I toured the facilities, met the leadership team, learned about their approach to treatment and ultimately worked with them on fundraising. It was an honor when they extended the invitation to join the board. I hope my involvement with this organization will help draw attention to — and remove the stigma of — seeking mental health treatment.
Tell us about your journey to Atlanta from New York — and what surprised you most about the Atlanta office.
My wife and I loved New York City, but it became increasingly difficult for us to raise two kids there. I visited the Atlanta office in June of 2019 and was really impressed by the opportunity to live in a diverse, growing and vibrant city where we could enjoy more space and a healthy quality of life. As I learned more about the office and the ambitions of creating a microcosm of the firm, I knew that moving to Atlanta to help build the office would be an exciting next step in my career. Simultaneously, my wife got her dream job with Delta Air Lines in Atlanta – it was meant to be!
The office is unique in that it is infused with the culture of Atlanta and reflects the diversity of the city. Sitting in the cradle of the American civil rights movement, there is a high level of social activism that often sets the tone for the rest of the country. For example, BlackRock was a signatory to a petition to pass the Georgia hate crimes bill following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. This was a grassroots effort led by the people in our office who wanted to make a change following this heinous act, and it ultimately found its way to top leadership at BlackRock. I am inspired every day by the passion everyone in the office has for diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as for making a difference in the office, the city and the country.
Peter Williams, Director, Head of Community Strategy, serves on the board of Public Broadcasting Atlanta
Tell us about your role as Head of Community Strategy and what you hope to accomplish.
This role is at the intersection of so many great things: a successful community engagement strategy focused on the needs of Atlantans, the enrichment of BlackRock’s culture by empowering our people to do what they love inside and outside of work, and the difference we can make in connecting with our clients through all this vital work in the community. Through social impact, university engagement and other forms of corporate and civic engagement, we’re also helping to build BlackRock’s brand in the Southeast.
What do you do with Public Broadcasting Atlanta?
Public Broadcasting Atlanta is one of the largest public broadcasting stations in Georgia — it’s Metro Atlanta’s NPR station. I sit on the board of directors that provides oversight to the public radio station and the public station that broadcasts PBS. I advise on organizational matters, business, finance, fundraising, development and so forth. I also attend regular board meetings, where I meet with an incredibly diverse set of Atlantans who are leaders in their own respect. We seek to provide the truth and fact-based broadcasting to our stakeholder: the community of Metro Atlanta.
What advice do you have for others at BlackRock looking for opportunities to engage with the Atlanta community?
Part of my job is to empower all people at BlackRock Atlanta to take on community leadership roles — whatever that means to you. I think it’s key to find the intersection of what’s important to BlackRock and your day job, but more significantly, of what drives you as a person. That can be really powerful. There are opportunities to engage and lead in our community that can not only help you in your day-to-day work, but also be fulfilling for you personally.
Jodi Berman, Managing Director, supports education policy and research through the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE)
How does your work at BlackRock inform your work with GPEE, and vice versa?
As a GPEE board member, I attend quarterly meetings to stay up to date on programs and needs, vote on issues, fundraise and voice opinions on matters raised. GPEE also runs several “critical issues” forums, and because of my Board participation, BlackRock was able to sponsor the “Critical Issues Forum on Student Mental Health,” which ties in with many of the mental health topics we are currently discussing. It was extremely well received, with over 400 attendees. As a result of our relationship, GPEE has applied for BlackRock’s Gives Grant and I’m hopeful they will receive some funding.
GPEE has also become the sought-after source for information on education policy and research on education. They started publishing an annual report in 2005 called “The Top Ten Issues to Watch,” which is now the go-to publication for identifying key public education issues facing the state.
Tell us how your role within the Aladdin Business/Aladdin Product Group (APG) has evolved over the last 10 years.
I started in BlackRock Solutions in 2004. I was actually in the Portfolio Analytics Group (PAG) for the first year and then merged the small AnSer support team with the Aladdin Support team. We started as a NY-based team and by the time I left, we were about 125 people across New York, San Francisco, Delaware, London, Edinburgh, Singapore, Tokyo and Gurgaon. After 11 years, I moved into the APG COO team to both manage the APG analyst program and work on ad-hoc projects for the APG COO at the time. Since then, I’ve moved into the business management team within the APG COO team, managing headcount and finances, in addition to starting the Atlanta team!
What is unique about being a technologist in the Atlanta office?
Regardless of the role you play, you have the ability to meet people across functions and learn how we all operate together. As a technologist in a smaller office, you learn more about the firm because your projects usually allow you to engage with end-users – or at least understand the bigger picture of how your work impacts other teams. We also have the benefit of being in a city where technology jobs are expanding, so there will be more and more meetups and people to connect with over time.