What is your current profession/job? What did you study at Yale? When did you graduate?
(GSAS ’08, PhD Sociology) I am currently serving as the Senior Administrator (COO) of Judson, a UCC church in Greenwich Village, which hosts a vast array of assistance programs for the NYC community. After spending nearly eight years as an executive in the private sector, I was keen on getting involved at the nonprofit grassroots level. And when I saw the opportunity to use my degree in a way to support grassroots social justice initiatives, I never looked back.
What do you like most about your current role? What do you find most challenging and/ or rewarding?
The amazing teamwork, creativity, and banding together “in the trenches” is unparalleled. Sure, as with any organization there are daily curve balls. But they are in of themselves the reward because they all really push you to think outside the box, and provide strategic solutions… with 1/10 of the resources! Thinking fast on your feet and being creative is not an option—they’re a must-have. Bringing people together to arrive at creative operational solutions is definitely one of the favorite parts of my job.
How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?
In addition to my required coursework, as part of my program’s design, I was afforded the flexibility to take courses outside my department, including PoliSci, SOM, and Law School. Being able to intellectually “dip my toes” into these other fields really helped shape my dissertation research, but also afforded me skills and training when applying for jobs. If your department has this flexibility, don’t let this opportunity to branch out intellectually pass you by! The rewards are invaluable.
What are the main skills that you acquired as a PhD student which help make you successful in your current career?
The PhD process was the ultimate project management training program! You’re essentially carrying an extremely complex project through all its stages from inception to completion, while continuously fine-tuning your strategies in research, analysis, and writing. On top of that, you have to balance working both independently and in a collaborative setting; and when your work is finished, you have to present it and persuade others of the relevance of your work! These are skills not to be underscored, which you are all acquiring regardless of your field of study.
Did you acquire any professional experience related to your line of work while in graduate school (either through part-time work, volunteering, networking, or other forms of training)?
During my six years at Yale, I took advantage of every summer to acquire work experience to fine-tune my career path. Everything from internships in government to stats/market research analysis for private firms, I constantly sought different ways to implement my degree until I found the right fit. Additionally, I was always at every networking and career path event possible. I still recall how hard it was so pry myself from my research, even for two hours! But the introductions made and information gained at these events were invaluable.
What advice would you offer PhDs who are interested in your line of work?
Due to an overall increase in charitable giving at a national level, now is the perfect time to get your foot in the door at a local nonprofit. Sure, you can peruse online listings, but nonprofit work at the grassroots level is very much face-to-face work. So, just give them a call and introduce yourself. Or just show up and knock on their door! We all know the worst they can say is, “No.” Just treat it as another A/B test; you won’t know the results until you’ve tried.