Gerard Prunty has spent most of his nearly six-year career at PayPal working as a data scientist. However, he recently found himself doing something he never could have imagined: leading a sales presentation for a client.
“If you had told me a year and a half before, as a data scientist working in fraud, that I’d be doing sales pitches to merchants and partners, you know, I would’ve said you’re crazy,” Prunty told Insider.
His new responsibilities came as result of his participation in PayPal’s Technology Leadership Program, which he joined in January 2020. Prunty, who was a lead data scientist on PayPal’s risk team, also spent time working as a product manager and developing and launching credit products in addition to his time in sales as part of the TLP. 
It’s a program that Sri Shivananda, PayPal’s chief technology officer, likens to an “internal MBA” and is one of the payment giant’s main sources of leadership development. 
The TLP aims to expose mid-career employees to all aspects of the company through four different rotations over the course of a two-year period. Shivananda, whose office currently sponsors the program, told Insider the program prepares participants for future leadership roles through its focus on five core areas: business acumen, leadership skills, global perspectives, broad technology fluency, and personal growth.
While some TLP participants return to their former organizations in different roles, many alumni move on to new teams and roles at the conclusion of the program.
Ten employees are accepted into each cohort of the highly competitive program. Candidates are nominated for the TLP by a director-level leader and submit a two-minute video highlighting their reasons for applying and the skills they’ve developed throughout their career.
Since TLP’s inception in 2011, the program’s 20 cohorts have produced 95 graduates. The majority of alumni (58) have also remained at the company, something Shivananda said is a major asset to PayPal’s leadership development pipeline.
When PayPal looks to make a major change or develop a new product, Shivananda said that a TLP alum is almost always involved in a leadership role. 
“This program just accelerates the progress of an individual in terms of what they learn, what they’re capable of,” he said. “If they’re not going through this program, it could have taken them a decade to gain that kind of knowledge and experience, and here is a compact, two-year, focused program that puts them ahead by that much time.”
A key part of the program previously was allowing participants to relocate to join teams in different countries or regions. Despite the constraints of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has retained its global emphasis, allowing participants to work with different teams virtually. 
“In today’s world, in competing with the industry, we need to be relevant in every geography, and therefore, we need leaders everywhere,” Shivananda said.
Participants in the TLP leave their current roles at PayPal and select four different teams across the company to join for six-month rotations. 
During each rotation, a participant will work on anywhere from two to five projects with the team they are embedded with. Throughout the program’s history, 281 managers have hosted TLP participants on their teams, Shivananda said. TLP alumni frequently share their experiences through internal blogs and presentations.
The program isn’t just beneficial to the participants, he added.
“There may be one individual learning, but the positive impact of their learning actually now is picked up by so many people around them,” Shivananda said. “Whether you want to call it the osmosis effect or whatever it is, this community actually is one of the best in terms of giving back to the organization.”
Prunty used his background in data science to uncover insights that helped PayPal’s Berlin-based sales team adjust some of their strategies shortly after joining them. As his rotation progressed, he began observing sales calls with partners and merchants, eventually presenting and closing deals independently. 
Prunty’s final rotation was on Paypal’s global investigations team, which combined his previous experience in fraud prevention with some of the newer skills he had learned during his first three rotations. 
During his rotation, Prunty created a solution to identify potential links between fraudulent accounts and prevent them them access, a project that was ultimately reviewed by senior PayPal execs. 
“When I came back into a role where I was actually kind of familiar with this space, I was just able to achieve things that I’d never done in my career before that,” said Prunty, who joined the global investigations team full-time following his completion of the TLP in December.
TLP also encourages participants to identify ways to incorporate the things they are most passionate about, both inside and outside of the office, into their roles at PayPal.
Prashanthi Ravanavarapu, a senior director and head of product for customer experiences at PayPal, was part of the first TLP cohort in 2011. Originally a product analyst in a data-focused role, Ravanavarapu explored product management, central architecture, and payments platforming during her TLP rotations.
As Ravanavarapu’s time in the program wrapped up, she spoke with program mentors about her uncertainty transitioning to a role that didn’t emphasize data. She also wanted to make social impact a greater emphasis in her next job, but struggled to envision what that could look like.
“Both of them asked me great questions which made me reflect — on what I really liked, what I wanted to do. And they made me realize that I was really trying to get back to data because I cared about these particular problems, and the only way I knew how to solve them was data,” Ravanavarapu said.
Ravanavarapu ended up joining PayPal’s Cause Product team as a senior manager, where she helped develop campaign “playbooks” that facilitated donations to nonprofit organizations around the world, guiding PayPal’s 2013 holiday-giving campaign.
Following the success of the 2013 campaign, the playbooks were used for other subsequent campaigns. Last year, PayPal processed over $4 billion in donations during the holiday season. 
“I was always doing things on the side – volunteering, supporting a nonprofit, funding an orphanage, and so on. Even our team events would be about volunteering and fundraising and things like that, but that didn’t feel fulfilling. That wasn’t enough — that felt like very minute or minor to where I wanted to be, so I think the program really helped me chart out the path to merge those missions,” she said. “I’ve had a very purposeful career ever since coming out of TLP.”
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