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The Long Way Round

by Kavilash Chawla

Even as a student at Drake (AS '98), I tended to take the long way round.  Instead of studying International Business or International Relations, I studied economics, history, and political science, essentially getting the same degree but in a slightly more indirect route.  To a large degree, my career after leaving Drake has similarly taken an indirect path to a very deliberate outcome.  Like many Drake students, both from back in 1998 when I graduated and through to the current incoming freshman from the class of 2018, I wanted to not only graduate as a global citizen but live as one as well.  This meant not only being professionally successful but also making a difference in serving those less fortunate than I, and playing a leading role in addressing global issues like poverty, sustainable development, climate change, and the like.  Instead of joining the U.N., a NGO, or another civil society or development institution I went into investment banking in London and then on to setting up my own advisory shop, supporting strategic and financial investors in the development and execution of their growth and business development strategies.  On paper, this seems like a very long way round - and a very far way off - to being the global citizen I envisioned when I graduated.

In practice, thankfully, the long way round actually pays off.  Earlier this week in Doha I had a chance to sit down with a regional foundation to help them better strategize about how to develop and implement a blended return investment fund to address youth unemployment and enterprise development in Arab countries.  Last week in Dubai, I had a chance to sit down in front of 400 Islamic bankers who control almost US$2 trillion in assets and discuss the potential opportunities to generate commercial rates of return through social impact investments in high growth sectors and frontier markets.  In Kuwait next week, I will be meeting with the largest investment house and the regional development bank to discuss investment opportunities into Iowa's agriculture and ag-related sectors, both to address food security and supply chain issues in the Middle East, and job growth and FDI needs in Iowa.  And when I finally get back home to the US in early October, I get to meet with an angel investment group to hopefully close on an investment into a "social crowdfunding + ethical marketplace" platform we are building.

My point is, the future is a long way off, so the long way round can have its benefits.   As you think about your life and plan your career, be deliberate and strategic in your decisions, but always be open to opportunity.  As a Drake student and as a Drake alum, don't be afraid to give of yourself, of your time, your intellect, your expertise, your knowledge, and your compassion.  If you have an opportunity to contribute value to someone or something, do it.  For me, it has opened doors and created opportunity to succeed, professionally, personally, and in serving society in many more ways than I ever could have imagined.  Sometimes, it's good to take the long way round.

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