At the end of my freshman year in college, my family had just returned from living ten years in Asia back to the D.C. area. I used every resource I could to find internship opportunities, and I was offered a research intern spot at the Congressional Research Service on Capitol Hill, focusing on issues of foreign affairs and national defense. At age seventeen, I was the youngest person to ever be admitted into their internship program at that time. The most important part of that experience was that I gained confidence in my ability to analyze and think.
Back at school in the fall, I found out about an opportunity to do an internship in Taiwan for the Foreign Commercial Service. This definitely met my thirst for adventure, so I jumped at the opportunity and moved to Taiwan for six months, living with eight Taiwanese girls and working at the World Trade Center in Taipei doing research and trade shows for American companies seeking business opportunities in Taiwan. I not only fell in love all over again with the Chinese people, history, culture, and language, I also realized what an impact democracy could have on bringing economic and social growth to a country.
One of the most influential parts of my college experience was my involvement with Students for International Development. Becoming involved in this small group of students was a very pivotal experience because I could be part of a community of like-minded people.
In my junior year, I declared an international studies major with a global trade emphasis and minors in Chinese and international development. And I received a call to serve in the Taiwan Taichung mission in November 1997. I felt right at home, and my love for the Chinese people and my career path deepened more than is possible to express.
Having returned from my mission, I attended the Microenterprise Conference on campus, where I laid out a plan of action to learn about microcredit, first in the U.S. and then take it to China. After competing with the Model United Nations team in New York that spring, I decided to stay in the city and volunteer at a microfinance nonprofit called Project Enterprise, a replication of the Grameen Bank in Harlem and Brooklyn. I recruited and trained women and men who wanted to become entrepreneurs and work their way out of poverty by starting their own business. They were truly breaking the mold of their past and, as a result, changed the social and economic fabric of their communities.
Then in the fall of my senior year, the next part of my dream fell into place. I learned about an opportunity to train NGO leaders in China to set up a microcredit program. It was extremely rewarding to work with truly creative, resourceful leaders, who believed in the power of their people and were eager to learn how to apply the tools we offered them.
After returning from China, I spoke with my mentors at the Kennedy Center and from prior internships, and they helped me see that there was a common theme in all my interests: facilitating positive change and growth in people and organizations. One mentor suggested that the Marriott School’s MOB program would equip me with the kind of skills and tools I would need to become an effective change agent and give me the flexibility to work in any sector.
My reasons for going to graduate school were to learn as much as possible about how organizations work and how to help people work together effectively—not to fit into a corporate mold or move up the ladder. I also worked with several classmates to start up PathWorks, a consulting group for small businesses in the area. Through my research I felt like I was learning exactly what I wanted to be learning, and through the consulting I applied my knowledge to real-world companies.
During my second year in graduate school, I took some incredible classes that allowed me to use my creativity and apply the skills I had spent so much sweat and tears to learn. I finally started to see how my broad range of interests could all fit together. That one realization was worth all the pain of graduate school!
Interestingly enough, one of the most significant experiences during graduate school was my involvement with Net Impact, a national organization of MBAs committed to promoting ethical business. In my second year, we tripled our BYU chapter membership, began an exciting community resource center program in conjunction with the United Way, volunteered at the national Business for Social Responsibility conference, and won second place in the national Business Case Competition.
I can say that since graduation a year and a half ago, I’ve had nonstop adventure finding ways to apply the things I learned in school. Right after graduation, I moved to New York and through my contacts at Net Impact, I found a volunteer opportunity with United Nations Global Compact. I then piloted a project for MBA students at BYU and NYU to work with global companies to create an online learning community for ethical business practices.
Just when I was feeling really comfortable with my ‘dream world’ in New York, I was contacted by an alum from the MOB program to interview for a job at a mid-sized tech company in California to help their new HR director turn around the department and to help set up a new design center in Shanghai.
The two most important things I’ve learned since leaving school is that I’m never pigeonholed into one career path, and that I never have to wait to make a meaningful contribution in my corner of the world.