Like many other freshly minted Marshall MBAs, Sam Reid was invited to start his professional career with a top consulting firm following an impressive summer internship.
He respectfully declined.
Sam wanted something more. He saw organizations doing good in the world – rural development, microloans, disaster relief – and wanted to use his business skills to help these organizations make the greatest possible impact upon society. Although the consulting firm was offering to pay for Sam's second year of business school and he had no guaranteed fallback option, he decided to forgo job security in favor of finding real meaning in his work.
His first chance came shortly before graduation, when he was accepted to the MBA Enterprise Corps, a nonprofit organization that sends recent MBA graduates from top-50 business schools on one-year assignments to support and grow small businesses in emerging economies.
During the time between graduating from Marshall and working for MBAEC, Sam began to consider how he could continue to use business to change the world after returning from his overseas assignment. He pitched a proposal to McKinsey & Company for a "post-MBA internship" within their Organization practice. Sam was attracted to McKinsey's commitment to the social sector and their proven ability to help their clients make progress on some of the world's most challenging problems – among them, hunger in Africa, climate change and securing New York after 9/11. McKinsey agreed to hire Sam for the summer, and by the time he left for India two months later, Sam had a standing offer to return to the firm after completion of his work with MBAEC.
In India, Sam worked with the Grassroots Business Fund (GBF), a social venture capital fund. Sam focused on building the capacity of a water purification company selling water to villagers at one fifth of the market price, developing a business plan for a rural agricultural company that supported hundreds of female entrepreneurs at the bottom of the pyramid, and helping a variety of nonprofit organizations develop the ability to use for-profit spin-offs to become more sustainable. With each investment, Sam and the GBF were looking for a balanced combination of social and financial returns.
After six months on the front lines in Ahmedabad, India, the GBF promoted Sam to Portfolio Manager for India, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. When he rejoins his colleagues at McKinsey in late 2009, Sam says he will miss working with the "small, driven, world-changing entrepreneurs" he met in Ahmedabad. Sam is not sure where he will be living or what he will be doing a year from now; but he says that if he can keep looking for meaning in his work, "Everything will fall into place perfectly."
Sam recently spoke at Marshall about making a difference through social entrepreneurship. He started the discussion with an Apple video about 'the crazy ones' who are ambitious enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who actually do. From there, he walked the audience through his journey of pursuing careers that fulfilled his needs and desires, and making difficult decisions and tradeoffs to follow those career choices. He ended with a video that motivated the crowd to make a difference.