Student Voices: How I Landed My Dream Job through MBA@UNC

Thanks to MBA@UNC, I landed my dream job.  

When I began the program in January 2012, I had been working as an IT project manager for an e-commerce solutions provider in Guangzhou, China. My husband and I were in China on a two-year overseas contract through his employer.

I chose MBA@UNC, in large part, because the program offered me the flexibility to earn my degree from anywhere in the world. I was also won over by the thoughtfully constructed, globally oriented curriculum and UNC’s impressive faculty. As our time in China was nearing an end, my husband and I were weighing a number of options, both domestic and international.

In March, I attended the MBA@UNC quarterly immersion in San Francisco. With the theme of "Innovation & Entrepreneurial Thinking," it was a perfect fit with my tech passions. On the very last day—after an engaging array of diverse panels, activities and lectures—Dr. Bradley Staats presented a recently published Harvard Business Review case study that he had co-written, “Give Work, Not Aid.” The case was about Samasource, a nonprofit social business whose mission is to alleviate poverty by employing impoverished youth and women to dignified work via the Internet. It was love at first sight.

Allow me to back up and provide some context. I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and I was heavily involved in activist organizations aimed at providing a voice for minority students. After graduation, with the heavy weight of student loans on my back, I pursued a practical, hearty-paying job. After several years dutifully following a technology consulting and project management career track, I found myself fulfilled intellectually but not invested emotionally.

I had always promised myself to return to work with social purpose, but struggled to find an application that also leveraged my strengths in technology and problem solving. Enter Samasource. At the San Francisco immersion, Dr. Staats invited Patricia Li, director of delivery of Samasource, to join students for analysis and discussion of the case study. After the class session was over, I connected with Patricia to learn more about opportunities at Samasource, and today, I am Samasource's sales engineer. I gather requirements and scope prospective projects with clients from companies including eBay, Microsoft and Walmart. I also consult cross-functionally between our engineering, sales and professional services teams. We break complex data projects that require human touch into microwork—small computer-based tasks—and distribute them among our workers via our proprietary SamaHub platform. 

This model empowers capable, marginalized people to perform sustainable digital work. Combining equal parts persistence and fortune, MBA@UNC connected me with this incredible opportunity. Now, almost a year into the program, my expectations have been more than exceeded. With every class comes fresh insight into new aspects of business that I can apply immediately to my day-to-day work. Marketing shed light on how to articulate value proposition and develop a pricing structure. In Operations, I began to think differently about process efficiencies in our workflow. Analytical Tools equipped me with skills to geek out on forecasting and statistical significance. With Finance, I am calculating estimated house payments and planning for retirement like nobody's business.

I cannot imagine myself more fulfilled in every aspect of my life, and I attribute a substantial part of that to MBA@UNC.  

About the Author:  Julia Lee Elliott is a sales engineer with Samasource, a nonprofit social business that connects people living in poverty with dignified work via the Internet. She earned her BSE in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, she worked in Guangzhou, China, as an IT project manager for an e-commerce solutions firm overseeing a local team of developers. She currently lives in San Francisco, CA, with her endlessly supportive husband and dog. In her spare time, she loves nothing more than to watch hours upon hours of asynchronous course materials.