It’s been over a month since I arrived in the megacity of Lagos, Nigeria, and I still marvel at my life here.
Mine is an unusual SMIF, in that I’m working on the organization I founded almost three years ago with undergrad friends and McKinsey colleagues. It’s called Generation Enterprise (GEN), and it’s a microbusiness incubator that co-creates and invests in businesses run by at-risk youth in the urban developing world.
Although Samasource is a nonprofit organization, it feels much more like a high-tech startup. A team of engineers works around the clock to improve delivery of the "SamaHub" (more on that later), a sales team is converting clients by the day, and an open floor of almost 30 employees continuoulsy buzzes with activity. But from its frugal offices in San Francisco, Samasource is not inventing the next iPhone app. Their mission is to bring people out of poverty, for the rest of their lives, by employing them through digital work. "Sama" means equal. Equal access to oportunity is something I deeply believe in, which is why I am so excited to be working here this summer.
Hello from the world of Special Education technology! This summer, I've been working with an education technology startup called Goalbook. Goalbook designs products that improve student outcomes in special education.
Two weeks ago, a friend in Pakistan passionately claimed that Bombay is the most exciting city in the world. Although I mostly agreed, I quickly realized that excitement wears multiple faces, as 3 near-catastrophes unfolded within 24 hours of my arrival here: First a bicycle side-clip by my taxi from the airport, then a fender-bender going to work, and finally a near (i.e., 12 inches short) head-on bus collision by my rickshaw driver.
I believe I can make a difference in this world and change my reality. That is what matters most to me, and is definitely what drove me to seek a different opportunity this summer in a social enterprise and an impact investment fund in Mexico, my home country.
Social enterprises and impact investing are relative young concepts here. However, I was very attracted to the idea of coming back to my country and being part of an innovative enterprise that was breaking paradigms in terms of seeking the famous “double bottom line”.
Imagine stepping out of the subway on the way to school – ten years old and alone – and still hearing the echoes of five murderous gunshots in the past year. Could today be the day you fall victim to gang violence? Welcome to the reality of many Harlem children, in particular those attending a school I work out of regularly. As I walk up those same subway steps, I reflect on the many advantages I received in my own education, saddened, angered and emboldened to ensure every child receives the same opportunities as I did.
I will admit I was a little starstruck when, on my second day of work at StudentsFirst, CEO Michelle Rhee and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson walked past my desk on their way to a lunch meeting down the hall. I have followed Michelle’s work for the last several years – first during her tenure as chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools and more recently during her foray into political advocacy.
Rwanda is a small country in East Africa with a population of 10 million people, 90% of whom are subsistence farmers and live on less than $2 per day. 50% of the population is under 18, and 44% of these children are chronically malnourished. This summer, I am working at Kigali Farms, a social enterprise founded by Laurent Demuynck, MBA ’95, to help change this.
I am now in the third week of my internship at Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY), a truly inspiring nonprofit that is dedicated to breaking the cycle of violence, crime, and incarceration of teens. During the summer, I am working on several key projects supporting FLY’s growth.
Many of my fellow MBA1s -- including myself -- are surprised by the adjustment it has been to be back in the working world this summer. Instead of walking or biking to the Knight Management Center, we are commuting up to 1.5 hours to work. Instead of a variety of tasks and a self-managed schedule, we are at our desks during office hours.
But imagine how much more difficult working and job-hunting is for someone who doesn't have a high school diploma -- much less an MBA. Or someone who has never worked for eight hours continuously before. And someone who has a spent time behind bars.