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Growing up in Nigeria, to be honest, I never thought of Global Management when I thought of a career. Like every child, I alternated between being a doctor and a lawyer. Those were the careers that my society held in high esteem. But along the way, life happened and as I entered my teenage years, I realized there was more in choosing a career. Thankfully, my concept of life has been richly shaped by being a tri-cultural individual. I was born in Zambia to a Nigerian father and a Sierra Leonean mother and grew up in both Nigeria and Zambia. As an adult I have lived in the United States, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.
It was during my teenage years in Zambia that I truly began my journey to discovering myself and my role in society, and this would influence my career path. Looking back I realize that my father’s atypical career as a missionary opened my eyes to think beyond what many saw as career paths.
I grew up in a family that values education, faith and service to humanity, so I knew early on that whatever I did for a living had to have meaning and purpose and had to make a difference in the lives of others.
I watched my dad travel across the world on mission trips and meetings, bringing me gifts from all over the world. But the greatest gift he gave me was access to the wider world, outside of the house we lived in, in the small town in Nigeria. Through the stories he told, and the books he bought, my world expanded and grew.
The move to Zambia when I was 14 was a result of my father’s job and, to be honest, I was not pleased at first. But it was definitely the best thing that ever happened to me. It shifted my thinking in so many ways that set me on the path I am on today. Learning to live in another country is never easy, and at 14 it was a difficult task; yet I was still expected to get good grades in a new school system. It was in Zambia that I started to articulate my passion to family and friends, and to openly speak about what I felt about society. I was privileged to attend a private international school (http://www.chengelo.sch.zm/); this school would change my perspective and would open a new world to me.
At my boarding school I was encouraged even more in my quest to provide solutions to the social problems I saw around me. The school gave us opportunities to be involved and to lead. Leadership was not just for adults, even as teenagers we could make a difference. While at school I was a member of the tree-planting club that saw us plant trees in the community, as well as teach conservation to the local primary school children.
Training us as leaders was not just an academic pursuit; it was a social one as well.
I will always be grateful for the opportunities I got so early in life. I know for a fact that if I had remained in my school in Nigeria I would never have gotten the opportunity to be in a leadership position my senior year at high school. At 16, we had to apply for the leadership position we wanted. I chose to apply for the primary prefect position. And so it was that I began my tenure as an Assistant Primary Prefect, my first official job where I gained experience I would otherwise not have had. It was then I knew, despite being an introvert, I could in my own way still make a difference.
With the help of my teachers and parents I decided to study communications at Biola University in La Mirada, California. I felt then that it would be the best way to use my skills to influence society. I enjoyed living on campus and interacting with people from different cultures and getting to grow in my writing and speaking skills. Upon graduation, I returned to Kenya (my parents had moved again while I was away at University) and then went to Accra, Ghana for five months as intern at a Christian publication.
After my internship in Ghana, I went back to school in Nairobi, Kenya to pursue my first master's degree. During this time, I witnessed the post-election violence in Kenya, and saw firsthand the effect of communication or how lack of communication could trigger violence. It was a scary time, but it made me see things differently. I eventually returned home to Nigeria, and I got to witness again the hardships people there faced.
I realized that communication, although important, was not enough if I wanted to have an impact on society.
I saw that it was people who provided solutions that were making a difference.
So I took action and pursued the compulsory year of service to Nigeria as a Youth Corps Member, hoping to figure out what I could do going forward, to provide solutions.
During my service year in Nigeria, I realized I could go beyond just working and "having a career;" I could learn management skills and how to run a business, as well as how to see opportunities and find solutions. To do that, I needed business skills that I could apply on a global scale, but I was not sure how and where to go. And so when I heard about Thunderbird School of Global Management, I knew that this was a new path for me to follow. I saw it as another stepping stone on my way to fulfilling those dreams I had as a teenager.
I chose to get a Master of Global Management because it would enable me to gain knowledge that would be helpful as I start a new career in marketing and eventually when I set up my own company and brand in the future. Plus, Thunderbird's focus on creating sustainable, empowered communities through doing business ethically and inclusively would allow me to achieve my other goal: to improve society.
From my first day on the Thunderbird campus I knew it was right for me.
I felt like I had been here before and experienced similar things. It was like déjà vu. And then I realized why: another school in faraway Mkushi Zambia had set me on the journey that led me here, where I would improve on the skills I already had, and learn new ones
It’s been seven months since I arrived on the Thunderbird campus, and I have learned a lot in that short time by taking classes in diverse areas of management from accounting to supply chain management, I have struggled in some classes, but I'm persevering.
Through it all I am amassing not just knowledge, but practical information that is useful to me whether I choose to work in a big firm or a non-profit, become an entrepreneur or create my own brand as a novelist and author.
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I know now that coming to Thunderbird is a continuation of a journey that began elsewhere and who knows where it will end, as the world is waiting to be explored. Looking back, I can see that my background, success and failures prepared me for this stage, and with my new skills in management combined with my global mindset and communication skills, I am in a better position to be the influence I have always wanted to be.
By Bethany Chijindu '17, Master of Global Management