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Why Business & Educational Nonprofit?

The most common question I get when people ask about my education and career is “So how’d you get into the business and nonprofit fields?” My initial response was “Well, I’ve always liked numbers and my dad runs his own nonprofit,” until I sat down and truly thought about why I pursued both, very different, fields. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane and see where it all started.

My cousins on my mother’s side lived on the same street as my grandparents when I was a child, so we all grew up together. Every time we gathered at one of our houses to play, I would immediately take the role of banker or shopkeeper. I would set up a desk in the corner of the room with a pencil case filled with coins and a paper and pencil to note down who I did business with. Then at the end of our play date I would carefully pack up my ‘tools’ and put it back in its safe spot until the next play date. Then when I was in middle school, my mother bought me an Easy Bake Oven, mainly so I would stop bothering her while she cooked with the big appliances. I would spend my afternoons after school and weekends baking cookies, muffins, mini pies and cakes, and then would sell them to my friends and family. Unfortunately, my parents abruptly ended my lucrative business saying that was not the purpose of buying me the Easy Bake Oven (I could’ve had a head start on marketing my cooking skills but it’s fine…).

Now onto the nonprofit education journey. IEFAUSA, our family educational nonprofit organization, was always a part of my life – from being around the students both at our New York office and Bangalore office to watching my father present at information sessions and host meetings. The information session held in Bangalore, India the summer of 2003 with our organization, Drexel administrators, and international students was when my inquisitive mind took interest in education. I think I spent at least two hours speaking and asking questions to the administrators after the session! My father noticed my interest and slowly began engaging me in the organization and at his workplace, familiarizing me with the knowledge and administration in the hopes that I followed his footsteps. I would assist with filing and general office tasks until high school, where I began taking on more leadership roles such as taking the lead in projects or coordinating my first program (which is now the Caring & Sharing tutoring program).

It was the start of college applications and I had to choose what I wanted to major in. Most of my family wanted me to go for medicine or something in the medical field (que the eyerolls), but my worst subject throughout high school was science, so saving lives by Ann Idichandy was not going to happen. I thought back to my play date and Easy Bake Oven days and the economics class I enjoyed junior year – what major encompasses all those aspects and more? Business. But I did not want to be like the cutthroat competitive business folks on Wall Street (the timing of this is immaculate, ba-dum-tss), so how can I help the community? International Business to help build business among countries and unions while helping small businesses thrive. Marketing to use the creative juices in my brain and stick to the more fun side of business.

As I continued my education as an International Business and Marketing BSBA student and aided in running the educational nonprofit organization as an administrator, my love and passion for business and educational nonprofit grew to a point where I could not imagine a life without either worlds. That is how I decided to further my education in MBA Nonprofit Management, maintain my position as Programs Director and Administrator at IEFAUSA, and pursue a job in the business field. It took a significant amount of reflection on my interests and skills, where I saw myself 5-10 years down the line, and chasing many opportunities and experiences to get to where I am today. But that doesn’t mean I’m done, I still have a long way to go, this is just the beginnings of setting the foundation for a successful and enjoyable career.

If you’re trying to figure out what you want to pursue as a career or degree, here are two tips I have for you:

1. Sit down and truly think about your favorite hobbies and interests. Were you completely fascinated learning about the human body in science class or how leaders like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and Steve Jobs built their legacy in the business world? Did you sit your stuffed animals in a row and teach them the ABC’s? Would you spend hours constructing buildings, cities, vehicles, or intricate designs with Legos? Write down the hobbies and interests that fascinate you, think about how long you can do each without becoming tired of it, and then research jobs that associate with it. Spend as much time as possible researching the different paths you can take with your passion and see if you can be both successful and happy with that path.

To get you started, get a small notebook you can keep at your desk, turn to a page and write down all the hobbies and interests that you’re passionate about. Then rank them in order of importance or value to you. Come back to that page in a few days and re-rank them, see if there were any changes from your original ranking. For those that stayed the same or were bumped higher in importance, research the career options you can venture into and the amount of energy (schooling, time, experience) you must put into it. Use a separate page for each hobby/interest. Keep revisiting your list and refine it by re-ranking until you become consistent with your ranking and feel more confident in saying “yes, I want to pursue this”.

2. Try to immerse yourself in the environment and see if you enjoy it. Attend a summer camp, get an internship, join a club or affinity group, or attend virtual sessions hosted by companies and universities. Summer camps and internships provide hands on experience in the field while also enhancing your general collaboration and leadership skills. Joining clubs or affinity groups offer diverse perspectives and knowledge as well as the ability to build your network (you will never know when a person from your group will come up as an important connection to your dream job). Information sessions offered by companies and universities are great ways to know about the ‘Ins and Outs’ of a career and important steps you’ll need to take to get there.

If you know someone in the field or has had prior experience in the field, set up a meeting over coffee or via zoom and ‘walk in their shoes’ for a bit. Here are a few questions you can ask to get the conversation going:

  1. How did you feel when you first got into the field? What were your thoughts?

  2. What did you have to do to get into your career? What options are open for me now to get my foot in the door?

  3. If you could go back in time and start over, what would you keep the same and what would you change?

With the knowledge and experience you get from immersing yourself, you will have a better understanding of if you want to pursue this career path for the rest of your life or if it something you enjoy doing only on occasion.

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