Leading with purpose
Business Development Officer, International China Ageing Industry Association
At Puget Sound, I learned to lead with a purpose.
Delving into uncharted territories. Exploring limitless possibilities. Taking risks. Finding purpose in unadorned simplicity. Embracing failures. That is what college is all about: discovering oneself through experimentation.
Following a brief stint in Banking, I discovered my passion in combining business and entrepreneurship to drive social change. This epiphany did not come easy but was instead triggered by an insatiable desire to find purpose in every endeavor - a mindset that the Puget Sound experience drilled me into. Consequently, I took one of the biggest risks in life – leaving a well-paying job in finance to join a start-up that invests venture capital in social enterprises in China. In my role, I learnt that impact investments have huge potential to catalyze social change but is merely “one tool” in the international development “tool box”. In the pursuit of learning development on a more global scale, I accepted an internship with Clinton Global Initiative. Working closely with multinational corporations and nonprofits to develop partnership strategies, it became increasingly apparent to me that as companies gain a deeper understanding of their impact on social development, they recognize their own success is often directly linked to the success of the communities in which they operate.
To push my limits even further, I accepted a three-month consultancy in Uganda in early 2014 to lead an agricultural supply chain assessment with an attempt to address chronic food insecurity in East Africa. Alongside a food technologist, we formulated actionable public-private intervention models that could potentially impact more than 36,000 smallholder farmers in Uganda. This incredibly rewarding experience demonstrated private sector capital, combined with public sector expertise can indeed be powerful engines of progress and social change, even at the Bottom of the Pyramid. My current ambition is to part-take in the healthcare reform in China by developing sustainable cross-sector partnerships with key healthcare stakeholders.
Truth being, I would not have been the same person today had I not attend Puget Sound. The school taught me to think “outside of the box” and live outside my comfort zone. The interdisciplinary liberal art approach enabled me to broaden my academic interests without compromising my career focus. In a particular first-year seminar, I learnt how to think strategically and write persuasively while navigating the secretive life of Mozart and the history of the Classical genre. Subsequently, a second-year Connections class taught me that many facets of society are actually weaved together by a web of seemingly unrelated yet inextricably dependent disciplines: religion, philosophy, social and political history amongst others, which became so vivid during my time working in China and Africa. In hindsight, not only did my liberal art education help “connect the dots” in life, but equipped me with skills that blended seamlessly into a purpose-filled career at the junction between Business, Entrepreneurship and Development.
My career trajectories led me to believe wholeheartedly that the next generation of business leaders will not just “do business”, but knit together the whole fabric of civilization. Its harmony, design and mechanisms are due to their progressiveness, ingenuity, imagination and character. My experience at Puget Sound humbled and inspired me that in some way, I may assert a little influence in this world by utilizing creativity and purposeful leadership to create sustainable social change.
One morning in 2012, a newsletter sprang up in my inbox saying University of Puget Sound has been named one of “40 Colleges that Change Lives”. I couldn’t help but to think “Yes. Yes it did”.