Chart Your Own Path
In hindsight, my four years on the Hill were near-perfect preparation for my current role at Go Overseas. It took me at least five years to realize that, though I’d been grateful for my time on the Hill since the moment I left.
When I graduated in 2007, entrepreneurship was much less fetishized than it is today. Instead, I followed the well-worn path from Hamilton to finance in New York: something I prepared for by majoring in economics, doing the NYC program during the spring of my sophomore year, and interning at Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. I spent my first 15 months after graduation working at a mid-sized insurance broker (and missing Hamilton desperately) — a job I wasn’t any good at and disliked thoroughly. I didn’t realize just how unhappy I was (at work and so also generally) until I lost my job in the fall of 2008. I walked out that day (not with a cardboard box but with stuff crammed into my messenger bag) feeling a mix of embarrassment and profound relief. At 21, I’d never had a job I disliked or one I wasn’t good at. It took losing that job to realize how unhappy I’d been.
Tangent, but I think living in NYC also made that first year more challenging. I was too close to Clinton, tempted to return for long weekends, and going broke pretending I was still in college with college buddies in the city. I wish I’d gone abroad for a year before trying out New York.
The day after I lost my job I started volunteering for the Obama campaign. I ended up being dispatched to Dayton Ohio to spend the last 8 weeks of the campaign as a deputy field organizer. At pre-departure training in NYC, another ’07 alum introduced me to Mitch Gordon. Mitch owned a recruiting company in Taipei that found English teachers for schools all over Asia. We hit it off and in the midst of the campaign his company found me a job teaching at a private school in Seoul, South Korea. I landed there in January 2009 and spent the next year and a half teaching and then traveling around Asia.
I returned home to the Bay Area in the fall of 2010 where I again linked up with Mitch. He’d just founded a new company called Go Overseas and needed a part time generalist/business development lead. I signed on, a role that quickly turned full time. The following year I was offered a stake in the company as a co-founder. Those first years were a struggle (we were working long hours making next to no money) but every day felt like an adventure. Wearing jeans, sneakers, and an unshaven face everyday also beats suits and the NYC subway any day.
At Hamilton, I’d learned to communicate articulately and confidently, had spent eight semesters working in small groups and interfacing directly with professor, and was put in positions of leadership via my roles in Chi Psi. I’d also been encouraged to problem-solve and develop a broad range of interests. I call on all of those experiences everyday now, managing a team, speaking with clients, strategizing our next move, and articulating our visions and differentiators.
I feel fortunate that I learned early on that I wouldn’t be any good at a job I disliked. I’d encourage all students and recent grads to chart their own paths and to consider joining tiny companies doing interesting things.