Photo by Nicolette Greco
The UCLA International Institute hosts a plethora of events that students should take advantage of. One such event took place Thursday Nov. 16 in Bunche Hall. It was a grand opportunity for students with interests in international careers. At the aptly titled “International Career Panel,” attendees could learn about the steps and experiences the panelists underwent to attain a career in the realms of social entrepreneurship, international relations, non-government organizations (NGO), and international development projects.
Students were graced by the likes of Haroon Azar, a renowned national security expert. His professional experience includes working as Deputy Director for the Middle East, Africa, & South Asia in the Office of International Affairs at Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, he was the Los Angeles Regional Director for the DHS. Currently he is UCLA’s Program Director for the Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom .
The next panelist was Richard Walden, the CEO and founder of Operation USA, a non-governmental organization based in Los Angeles that primarily provides aid in disaster relief. His organization was recognized in the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize as an important member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Walden also studied international law, healthcare, and civil rights.
The last panelist, Anna Wang, a UCLA International Development alumna and founder of Enrou who was esteemed as one of Forbes Top 30 CEO’s under 30 in 2016. Wang was involved with charity and activism throughout her school years, and aimed to coalesce those benevolent interests with entrepreneurial wisdom that her father had taught her. She worked day and night, literally, as often she would “leave the office at three in the morning only to be back by 5:30 a.m.” to get her start-up running.
Her company Enrou a network of artisanal tradespeople who sell their products worldwide via Wang’s enterprise, is now extremely successful. Enrou gives small communities and businesses the opportunity to flourish in a way they otherwise may not have, especially on a global-scale.
Wang spoke on her business, “I didn’t really know if I wanted to go into the UN, or work in government, or a charity – I didn’t feel like one of those paths worked.” Wang explained her desire to start a business based on principles and lessons she learned here at UCLA.
The lessons she referred to were those of international development, which involve impacting a community on a micro-level. Wang elaborated that this is done by proving employment, skill set learning, and education. Ultimately, all these combined can produce “a structural change to their economy.”
Wang specified how her business venture would be able to accomplish these systemic impacts. Her idea was to source hand-made, artisanal crafts from all over the world and sell those items in an online marketplace. The artists would be paid well above a fair-trade income.
Takeaway advice all the panelists agreed on were: be the best at your job, do it well, and seek a mentor. Find someone in the field or career you aim to achieve. The next bit of advice was to network as much as possible, and develop good habits. Wang warned attendees to replace how “college teaches you to skip meals, sleep very little, and work hard,” with a routine that will help you keep you sane while also productive. Azar advised those who are applying to grad school, to think of admissions as “[…] selling yourself. What’s going to push you ahead of that next student who you’re competing with?”
Panels such as these are vital for students to meet professionals, and ask direct questions about future prospects and how one might achieve them. These events are also helpful for those unsure about what they want to pursue, or what a job in that field even looks like.
“Like you all, I was a bleeding heart- I’m going to change the world, I’m going to conquer the world,” said Haroon Azar.