Prior to coming to Columbia Business School (CBS), I worked at J.P. Morgan in the Private Bank on the Alternative Investments Team. I came to school to transition into a role in social enterprise, little did I know about the journey I was embarking on.
Some people sit at desks and stare at screens the entire summer. I on the other hand, spent the majority of my summer on the back of a motorcycle working for an awesome for-profit social enterprise called Tugende, based in Kampala, Uganda. Tugende provides responsible boda-boda drivers (motorcycle taxis) the means to a better life by giving them a loan in the form of a motorcycle (after completing the loan their income doubles). Drivers typically use their extra income to increase school fees for their children, purchase property, buy a house, or start a second business. The company has successfully completed 50 loans, has over 150 loans outstanding, and has more than 200 drivers on the waiting list. It truly is an amazing company that makes money but, more importantly, has a real social impact.
I arrived in Kampala at the end of May not knowing what to expect. To be honest, I didn’t even know where Uganda was on a map. I soon found out I was in for the adventure of a lifetime. Being someone who played college athletics and then worked on Wall Street, I am use to structure. I quickly realized Uganda is the antithesis of structure. This, by far, was the best thing that could have happened to me. All the structure that was built into my life went out the window and I had to learn how to operate and succeed in a very unique and challenging environment. Looking back on it now, it is pretty cool to think about what we were able to accomplish in 11 quick weeks. We came up with and implemented a social impact measurement system; migrated loan data to a micro-finance loan tracking system; instituted a branding strategy; digitized the loan application process; and did a myriad of other projects.
When not working or riding on the back of a boda, I went on a safari in Northern Uganda; slept on the banks of the Nile River; rafted the Nile River; took an overnight bus to Nairobi; saw the Pyramids in Egypt; and established lifelong friendships. Everyday was an adventure of epic proportions.
What Did I Learn?
I am extremely fortunate to go to CBS. None of this would have been possible without the school’s Social Enterprise Fund. With the support of the school, I was able to take a chance and go totally off the map and try something different. I didn’t make $20k this summer or get a lucrative offer from a Fortune 500 company; to me though, what I did was much more valuable. I learned that I can thrive in a chaotic environment; that money isn’t nearly as important as we make it out to be; and that there are some really cool jobs out there where you can not only make a living, but also truly have a profound positive social impact. My summer at Tugnede has forever changed the course of my life.