Welcome to the third article in our newest series, “Kaur Careers”. Often times a lot of us just aren’t aware of all the career options out there. So, in an effort to highlight non-traditional career paths and to inspire Kaurs to explore different educational and job options, Kaur Life launched a new series called “Kaur Careers.”
Today, we’ll take a look at Sikh woman who works for the Clinton Health Access Initiative
Occupation: Partner Relations Manager, Clinton Health Access Initiative
Education: BA at Wellesley College; MPA in International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School
Describe what you do:
I work at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). CHAI was founded by President Clinton in 2002 and since then our mission has been to increase access to medicines and other medical necessities in developing countries, with a focus on HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other communicable diseases. I’ve been with CHAI for eight years and in that time have played three different major roles. When I was first hired, my role was to work directly with national governments around the world (primarily in Africa and the Caribbean) to help them expand their AIDS treatment programs. This encompassed a broad spectrum of activities, including developing drug forecasts and thinking through supply chain challenges. My primary memories from this role are hours in hot offices with officials from various ministries of health, all huddled around a spreadsheet on my laptop.
After a couple of years in that role, I transitioned to a new position focused on lowering prices for emergency food needed by children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This position involved working primarily with manufacturers of these goods (based in countries ranging from Niger to Norway) and trying to understand their production process in order to identify areas where we could realize cost savings. It was fascinating to see the variety in the production facilities, from a facility in Norway which housed the largest bread baking operation in Europe (bread crumbs were a major component of the food they produced) to a facility in Haiti where peanuts were sifted by hand and there was only one instrument to grind the nuts.
Most recently, my role is to work with CHAI’s donors and to support the development of proposals and reports to fund our work around the world. In a way, it’s coming full circle at CHAI – first working on our programmatic efforts in a number of countries and now helping to make sure that those programs have funding to continue their good work.
I fell into this career path a bit unexpectedly. During my last year at college, I was unsure where I should go next, so the career counselor suggested that I consider management consulting. I applied to a consulting firm based in Chicago and was offered the position. There I spent two years strengthening my analytical skills. The work was interesting, but I wasn’t satisfied working in the corporate sector and never felt quite right about spending countless hours helping already wealth companies become even richer. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to somehow contribute to society. So I decided to pursue a masters degree in international development. While in grad school, I had a summer internship with the UN in South Africa. I was assigned to the program focused on HIV/AIDS, and seeing the scope of the problem there, as well as the many amazing efforts in place to support the people in need, I was inspired to follow a career in international public health.
What do you enjoy about your job the most?
There are a lot of really wonderful aspects of my job, but my favorite part has to be my colleagues. CHAI has a collection of the most interesting and most thoughtful people I’ve encountered, and I learn from them every day.
Considering it is nontraditional, what were your parents’ reaction? How did you deal with their response?
I am so lucky to have the most supportive parents. They’ve encouraged me at every step that I’ve taken in my life and have always made it clear that they trust me and my choices. I couldn’t have asked for more.
How do balance family and work and hobbies?
One of the unique aspects of my job is that I frequently work from home. This is great for flexibility, but it can make it hard to draw boundaries between work and home life. In general I try to address this by waking up at a reasonable time and sticking to pretty traditional business hours. I try not to use my work laptop outside of these hours and only work on the weekend if there’s something urgent. It has taken a few years of practice, but I think I have the balance down pretty well at this point!
Non-profit work, almost by definition, is built on the principle of seva, as most people are not in it for the (non-existent) financial rewards. The core of the work that I do is to try and help those in need, and to leave the world a better place than it otherwise would be. The other Sikh value that underscores my work is the idea of equality for all of humanity. Most of us in the west have access to medicines and high-quality care if we should need it, but this is not the case for the majority of the world. Much of my work is to try and balance out this inequality and help everyone access the healthcare that they need.
What advice do you have for young Kaurs who are unsure of what career they should pursue?
My advice would be to not worry if you don’t have everything sorted out right away! It can take a while to find the right path for you, so don’t feel rushed or stressed if everyone around you seems to already have it all figured out. Be open to new experiences and talk to everyone you can about what they do and how they got there. You never know when inspiration will strike!
Want to learn more about Kaurs in cool careers? Check out our first Kaur Career that we explored, speech-language pathologist represented by Rubeena Kaur, our second career was clinical psychologist and life coach represented by Puni Kalra.