DRI Scholarship Winner Dan Thompson on BCM: ‘A Critical Way to Strengthen Resilience for Communities’

Congratulations to Dan Thompson, one of two recipients of a DRI Scholarship Award, announced at the recent Collegiate Conference held at University College London. He is a consultant at the World Bank as well as a Ph.D. student at UCL. We spoke with him to discuss his experiences with business continuity and his goals for the future.

How did you first get interested in the business continuity/resilience field? What drew you to it?

I first became interested in resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic. I recently had completed a graduate program in ethics, which is where I became interested in the impacts of natural and biological hazards on communities. I wanted to work as a hazard mitigation planner, which is where I first encountered the term “resilience.” For me, resilience shifted the focus from the hazard or adverse event to the community by offering a framework to strengthen entities like communities to a range of risks over time.

I later became interested in business continuity as means of improving community resilience while working as a natural hazard mitigation consultant for communities in across Oklahoma. Working in these communities emphasized the importance of public and private companies in delivering basic services, from the only local grocery store to a public infrastructure utility. Based on these and other experiences, I believe that improving business continuity offers one of the fastest, most critical ways to strengthen resilience for many communities.

What is your current area of study with UCL? Does that have a connection to business continuity/resilience?

I study how to finance electricity resilience at the community level (think about 100 – 5000 electricity customers) in the United States. I am seeking to understand why a gap exists between theoretical literature on electricity resilience, which highlights the importance of adaptation to electricity disruptions, and literature on financing electricity resilience for communities, where adaptation has been comparatively understudied. All aspects of the work are related to resilience, while the organizational aspects of these electricity systems overlap with business continuity planning.

My concurrent work at the World Bank also allows me to study resilience of health systems to and from organizational and built environment perspectives. Some of the work at the health facility level overlaps substantially with business continuity planning for health systems.

What made you want to apply for the DRI Scholarship? Had you been searching for a professional certification or was there something specific about DRI?

My doctoral advisor, Gianluca Pescaroli, recommended that I apply for the DRI scholarship as he thought that it aligned with my academic and professional background and interests. I knew about DRI prior to applying from their excellent work on education, training, and outreach in business continuity.

What do you think will be next along your career path?

I am keeping several options open for my next step. I enjoy my work at the World Bank, but am open to working at a think tank, a consultancy, or a small company focused on resilience and business continuity. I really enjoy working to improve the resilience of the healthcare and electricity sectors due to their unique points of failure and importance for basic functioning but remain excited to learn something new. As a passion project, I would like to work in resilience or hazard mitigation for the U.S. National Park Service. Later in my career, I hope to serve as an adjunct professor or start my own business in electricity resilience or business continuity.

What would you say to up-and-coming professionals who may be interested in resilience as a profession – or may not even know it exists?

Working in a profession focused on resilience meets all the basic criteria of an excellent career field: interesting colleagues, great and often novel projects, real-world impacts, and good compensation. There are two aspects of resilience for me that distinguish it from other fields with similar criteria. The field is relatively new, which can be super exciting as you often can break new(er) ground with projects. If you like to work in a start-up field, resilience may be for you. Secondly, we have the privilege of providing people, entities, and society with the knowledge and other resources to bolster them on some of their worst days, or help them avoid bad days altogether. If you believe that strengthening these groups offers a way to reduce disasters and other adverse events, resilience absolutely is for you.

I won’t offer specific career advice but encourage you consider resilience seriously. I switched my career to resilience and haven’t regretted it for a second.

This scholarship was made possible by the funds raised at the DRI Collegiate Conference at UCL. Click here to learn more about the event.