Conversations with Mike Milken

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126 episodes
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28 min.
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41 days


COVID-19 has changed the way we work and live. In response to the public health emergency, Milken Institute Chairman Michael Milken is engaging a range of industry leaders and medical experts to help us better understand and confront a crisis that has not only altered our current day-to-day but will change the course of how we work, socialize, and fight disease for years to come.

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Check latest episodes from Conversations with Mike Milken podcast

Ep. 126: Who We Are Today, with Ancestry’s Deb Liu
“How do we think about building an inclusive product that represents what families look like today, which might be very different than what families looked like 200 years ago. We want voices from all over to help us shape that product.” With 20 years of experience in the technology sector – including stints at eBay, PayPal, and an executive position at Facebook – Deb Liu now leads the high-tech portal where access to 30 billion genealogical records can provide a deeper understanding of one’s unique heritage. With 20 million users worldwide, Ancestry is the largest for-profit company of its kind. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Liu knows how her company’s services can transcend matching names to data. “What we build at Ancestry is not just a tool to share information,” she tells Mike, “but it's really about storytelling and actually building something that hopefully you'll give to your children and your grandchildren someday… It's really the story of all the people who made decisions, just like my parents leaving their home to go to another country. It's those stories that actually make us who we are today.”
Ep. 125: Leadership, with BTG Pactual’s André Esteves
“We need to attack extreme poverty. Of course, the pandemic brought additional challenge to that. But, we provided emergency aid for an extensive part of our population, around 60 million people. Of course it's a fiscal challenge, but we did more on a relative basis than all the other countries.” As one of Brazil’s wealthiest men, André Esteves could easily keep his head down and just take care of business. But the senior partner of BTG Pactual – the largest investment bank in Latin America, with more than $70 billion of assets under management – is determined to give back. As a board member of Conservation International, he champions protecting the Amazon and its extraordinary biodiversity. As a philanthropist, he and his partners are empowering the next generation of Brazilians by building a new university, the Institute of Technology and Leadership. “Our corporate sector needs coders, programmers, data scientists, and we need to help provide this kind of qualified labor force,” he tells Mike. “But, beyond teaching technology, the intention here – and that's why it has ‘leadership’ in the name – is also teaching that you only create wealth if you work very hard, wake up very early in the morning. And you don't need government for that.”
Ep. 124: Accomplishments, with Secretary Elaine Chao
“Asian Americans are now beginning to find our voice. We’re learning that we need to be full participants in our democracy. The rise in violence and hateful rhetoric against the Asian American community during the COVID 19 pandemic has brought this community to a greater realization of the need to participate more fully in our country’s institutions, and be more vocal and visible.” As the excited 8-year-old girl watched the land of her birth recede from her view as her cargo ship pulled away from shore, Elaine Chao could only dream of the opportunities awaiting her in the U.S. After learning English and earning excellent grades, she would receive an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and eventually rise to become the first woman of Asian heritage to serve in a President’s cabinet, first as the 24th U. S. Secretary of Labor, and most recently as the 18th U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Along the way, she served as Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission, President and CEO of United Way of America, and Director of the Peace Corps. “As I review my life’s journey,” she tells Mike, “I don't look back upon the accomplishments so much as the rich gifts that I am now blessed to possess, which is love of family and friends, the respect of peers and colleagues, the ability to have led an impactful life, and, hopefully, the continued ability to make a difference in the world.”
Ep. 123: Priorities, with Anheuser-Busch’s Michel Doukeris
“In protecting our business, we are not talking about protecting AB’s business, but everybody in the chain that was relying on AB to maintain their business continuity. And that came from the farmers to the people in our breweries, to the wholesalers that we service to the retailers that they service and for the consumers, that they would need to have some sense of normalcy.” An event like a pandemic can make one reexamine personal and professional priorities. For Brazilian-born Michel Doukeris, it was a chance to bolster his 165-year-old company’s commitment to its customers. When hand sanitizer was in short supply, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch quickly shifted brewery production to fill that need. When the American Red Cross saw blood donations decline, the venerable company used its partnerships with major sports franchises to allow their arenas to be used for that vital purpose. That kind of altruism also extends to the company’s supply chain – and to its competitors. “We want to be the company that contributes the most for our retailers and wholesalers for their business growth,” he tells Mike. “It’s about working with our employees and our communities to be strong. … And it's about having a leadership position in the overall industry, making the industry better, making the industry healthier and making sure that we are contributing through innovation to make this industry a vibrant one for the next 100 years.”
Ep. 122: New Dimensions, with HP’s Enrique Lores
“We all have learned the things that a few months ago we thought were not possible were really possible. … As I think about manufacturing, I think about two big changes. First is the creation of more decentralized manufacturing networks, where companies will be able to produce closer … to where their customers will be. The second big change will be driven by personalization.” After launching his 30-year career at HP with an internship, Enrique Lores was named CEO in November 2019. In between, he learned virtually every facet of the iconic company, helping it achieve its current status as a leader in the technology sector. For HP’s future, the Madrid-born Lores sees increasing market share in the biomedical sector, as personalized medicine drives demand for 3D printing. “We are building microprocessors for fluids,” he tells Mike, “and with them we will be able to do diagnostics and measure and identify potential diseases. We will also be able to create personalized medicine. So if you are going through a difficult treatment, we will be able to create a specific medicine designed only for you, and that medicine will be built in your home, at your home. That ability and option to drive the democratization of the healthcare space is one of the most inspiring efforts that we have in the company. Not only because of the business it will create, but also because of the impact it will have in the world.”
Ep. 121: The Novelist and the Neurologist, with John Grisham and Neal Kassell
This Podcast Features: John Grisham Author Neal Kassell Founder and Chairman, Focused Ultrasound Foundation “Once I realized the potential of this non-invasive surgical procedure to save countless lives and improve the healthcare of millions of people, I realized how important this work can be and is.” —John Grisham Friends and neighbors for 25 years, author John Grisham and neurologist Neal Kassell are on a mission. Together, they are raising awareness – and funds – for a promising, non-invasive procedure known as focused ultrasound. While the FDA has approved the therapy for seven specific treatments, Kassell (who successfully treated both of President-elect Biden’s aneurisms) believe that millions could benefit from broader applications of the technology: “Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, OCD, depression, a lot of work now on epilepsy, stroke,” he tells Mike. “The other major area that has us really excited is cancer and cancer immunotherapy, particularly glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer, as well as metastatic melanoma. [What] we need in addition to financial capital is human or intellectual capital. … The ultimate force multiplier for human capital is collaboration. So, we spend a lot of time fostering collaboration.”
Ep. 120: Foresight, with Julie Sweet
“The crisis happened at a time of exponential change in technology that was already transforming the way we work, how we engage with clients, how we make decisions. … And then you instantly had behavioral change at a scale that we've never seen in the past.” Julie Sweet believes large companies should be flexible and light on their feet. Case in point: her own Accenture. When she became CEO of the multinational professional services company in 2019, she instituted sweeping changes to its operating model and invested billions in a new cloud system, which left their half million employees in 120 countries in a much better position to withstand the pandemic. It is this kind of foresight that led the New York Times to call her “one of the most powerful women in corporate America” and Fortune to rank her number one on its “Most Powerful Women in Business” list. “I am talking to many companies now who say we want to move as fast as we did, “she tells Mike. “And my simple question is, ‘What have you changed?’ Because large organizations in particular can’t operate in crisis mode forever. What do they need to change to compete and to be successful in what I call the new reality?”
Ep. 119: Revolutionary, with UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna
“Diagnosis goes hand in hand with vaccination, and of course with therapies as well. What CRISPR is doing is providing for rapid turnaround testing at a lower cost and higher throughput than we've had with other technologies. We'll see that happening in various testing labs, certainly around the U.S. And the nice thing about that is it really does go hand in hand with these vaccines that are coming forward.” When Jennifer Doudna first spoke with Mike on the podcast four months ago, she was looking forward to her revolutionary CRISPR technology being applied to COVID diagnosis. Today, the Innovative Genomics Institute, which she founded, has tested more than 100,000 virus samples, including many in the underserved communities around UC Berkeley, her academic home. Another development since August: Dr. Doudna received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her game-changing co-discovery of CRISPR, which may one day help facilitate the elimination of genetic diseases. “We have the sequence of the entire human genome now,” she reminds Mike. “That's been available for the last two decades. And what hasn't been possible up until now is an easy way to manipulate the code. Allow scientists to make a change to an individual gene or to a set of genes to understand first of all, how they work, but also, really importantly, make changes that correct disease-causing mutations. And that's what CRISPR now enables.”
Ep. 118: Core Values, with Google Cloud’s Thomas Kurian
“The process of digitization – whether that was e-commerce in retail, or online gaming for media, online streaming in the media business, digital platforms for the public sector – was already underway. But it enormously accelerated with the pandemic.” In his two years as CEO of Google Cloud, Thomas Kurian has seen revenues for his company’s services soar more than 40 percent. The Indian-born former president of Oracle believes that the “new normal” of telecommuting will continue to help drive future growth – as long as Google Cloud remembers its core values and who it serves. “Leadership during this time of transition,” he tells Mike, “a time of difficulty in many cases, has been not just about the tactics and the strategy, but also the purpose and the mission. And that has helped us unify our entire organization around this notion of supporting customers during this period of change for them. And we call that the notion of customer empathy.”
Ep. 117: High Priority, with World Bank Group’s David Malpass
“The bigger part of our response over the next year, and then really over the next five years, is how do you really help countries get bigger private sectors, more jobs, including jobs for women and education for girls.” When David Malpass began his five-year term as president of the World Bank Group in 2019, he could not foresee that months later his institution would face its greatest test since the post-World War II era. Since its founding in 1947, the World Bank has had one mission: to end extreme poverty and promote shared, sustainable prosperity among its 189 member countries. But as the pandemic ground on throughout 2020, the fallout created extreme challenges to those goals, beginning with our youngest and most vulnerable. “With COVID hitting, as many as a billion children are still out of school in the developing world alone,” he tells Mike. “And the data shows pretty clearly that when children are out of school, they move backwards. So one of our priorities is to get kids back in school … in a safe way. The food programs and nutrition programs, the vaccination programs – those are all driven at the school level. And so that becomes a high priority for what we're trying to do.”
Ep. 116: Encore, with Sherry Lansing
“When we get out of this pandemic, I suspect people are going to want to flock to the movie theaters. But they're also going to say, I still want my content delivered. So, the movie industry is going to face a decision. Do they offer it both ways – on your iPad the same day as the release in the theater? What's the model? They're determining that as we speak. And I think COVID has upended the movie business even more than usual.” Most actresses who come to Hollywood don’t end up running a major motion picture studio. But in 1980, Sherry Lansing became the first woman to do so, first leading 20th Century Fox, then Paramount Pictures for more than 12 years. She had a hand in over 200 films including “Forrest Gump,” “Braveheart,” and “Titanic.” Since her retirement, she has embarked on what she calls an “encore” career of philanthropy. The Sherry Lansing Foundation is dedicated to cancer research, health, public education, and encouraging seniors to pursue their own encore careers. “Every project I've ever worked on was hard and took a long time,” she tells Mike. “And one of the traits you have to have in any job is resiliency. And you also have to believe in something outside of yourself, that what you're fighting for is worth fighting for. It's worth the time, it's worth the effort. If you don't have that belief, you will give up.”
Ep. 115: New Heroes, with NIH’s Francis Collins
“It has been a year of terrible tragedy. … And yet, it's also been a year of heroism: the first responders, the healthcare providers, putting themselves at risk to try to help those who are suffering. But I also think there are heroes that have risen to this challenge in the research community, in the business community.” When NIH Director Francis Collins first spoke with Mike in April of 2020, he was marshalling an army of researchers among his 6,000 research scientists to tackle the coronavirus. He had already successfully directed the Human Genome Project from 1993 to 2008, during which much of the genetic groundwork was laid that would later contribute to the development of Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA-based vaccines. With light now appearing at the end of the tunnel, Mike checked back in with Dr. Collins for further insight and perspective. “We are going to get past this,” Collins affirms. “And then I pray, let us not forget the lessons we've learned. Let us not slip back into complacency. Let's keep in mind that we are a vulnerable blue planet and that it's up to all of us to anticipate the things that we might need that science could bring to bear on the next problem, and not wait until it's a crisis.”

Podcast reviews

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4.9 out of 5
35 reviews
CoseyMo18 2020/05/21
Thoughtfully executed
Truly love hearing solution based conversations during uncertain times.
Dsamson 2020/04/15
Great content from experts
Enjoying listening to a variety of industry experts share their insights. Grateful to hear positive and actionable plans
FranziBaby 2020/04/14
Great, easy-to-consume updates
Enjoying listening to these episodes as they come out. Episodes are a great length and the diverse group of guests provide fresh, interesting takes on...
hmcc24 2020/04/08
Love hearing these diverse perspectives
These are informative, bite-sized interviews with leaders across industries and sectors. The podcast keeps me informed and hopeful about the COVID-19 ...
Kellytommy 2020/04/07
A Needed Perspective
I’m grateful for this podcast in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic. Mike Milken does a great job asking the experts for real time information and s...
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