Meet Zoe Gadebegku (C’15), Aspiring Storyteller

This fall, the University launched “Georgetown Stories,”  a multi-media, first-person, “vlog” (video blog) that will follow 11 undergraduate students throughout the academic year as their Georgetown stories unfold.  Each student’s story will be told through a series of videos, still photography, emails and social media posts with the goal of more intimately connecting everyone in the Georgetown community (both on and off of the Hilltop).  In a series of blog posts this year, ACS student intern Khadijah Davis (N’15) will be sharing these stories through the Alumni Career Services lens.

Zoe Gadebegku, the Storyteller

Zoe Gadebegku (C’ 15) describes herself as someone who is passionate about people and their stories.

“Everybody has an edge or something that makes them interesting,” she says.

Zoe has an interesting story herself. Her Georgetown Stories series chronicles her everyday experience as a curious student, tenacious leader and encouraging friend.

The Transition to Georgetown

For many students, the transition from their home town to Washington, D.C. is a culture shock. For Zoe, a French major from Accra, Ghana, the transition from her home country to the District is continuously evolving and has become a large part of her own story.

“My eyes had been accustomed to a totally different political and cultural landscape to that of my peers,” she said. “I’m still learning to laugh at my own nerves and timidity, glorying instead in my difference and celebrating the flavor I was adding to a place I have grown to love.”

Becoming a Writer

Being a woman for others is of much importance to Zoe, who once debated whether pursuing writing was the path for her.

When asked to reflect on her decision to become a writer, Zoe said, “Up until recently, I thought that the best way to make an impact on others was to go into advocacy or social work to ensure that I was doing something meaningful for others. I saw writing as a self-indulgent pursuit because it was something that I loved doing but may not have any direct effect on other people. Now I’ve realized that using my talent and passion for writing can be a powerful tool to uplift others and to spur social change.”


Zoe draws inspiration from a diverse range of writers, but greatly admires women writers of color. She said her inspirations include women such as Anita Desai, Ama Ata Aidoo, Toni Morrison and, more recently, Chimamanda Adiche.

She also notes that she is greatly inspired by alumni who pursue creative fields in film and literature post-Georgetown.

“There’s sometimes pressure to follow a more conventional path after graduation,” she said. “I heard Brit Marling (C’05) speak at the 2013 Senior Convocation, and I thought it was so inspiring that she picked up and moved to LA with two friends to pursue their aspirations in the film industry especially since there was no guarantee that they were going to be successful.”

On campus, Zoe serves as the President of the African Society of Georgetown and previous Editor-In-Chief of The Fire This Time, the university’s premiere multicultural news publication. Next year, she will begin her Fulbright Fellowship in Dakar, Senegal where she will write a collection of short stories on the women she encounters there​.  In ten years, she hopes to be well on her way as novelist that writes the stories that “make people feel something.”

Learn more about Georgetown Stories at and share your own Georgetown story #georgetownstories.  


Guest Post by Career Happiness Coach Anna Graham Hunter: How to Network When You Don’t Know What You Want to Do

By now, most people know that if you want to make a career shift you need to network. We’ve heard the statistics: between 70% and 80% of professional jobs are found through networking.

Yet for many, many people who want to make a change or find a job, the process goes like this: scour job postings, see “what’s out there,” and apply.

Why – if we all know what we’re supposed to be doing – are so many people doing the opposite?

The answer is simple: they don’t know how to network.

Many readers may scoff at this statement, thinking, “Of course I know how to network! I connect with people on LinkedIn, I meet former colleagues for lunch or coffee, I ask if people know of open positions.”

And, sure, two out of three of those can be semi-effective when the time comes to make a change (hint: it’s not the last one). But none of them are going to get you where you want to go, especially if you don’t know where you want to go.

If you start trying on different positions for size before you’re crystal clear on what you want to do next, you’re liable to talk yourself into just about anything. Admit it – how many times have you seen an appealing job listing and started imagining the two of you getting hitched and living happily ever after? I’ve done it, lots. As have most of my clients.

But applying for different positions is not the right way to figure out what you want to do. Because even if one of those applications does lead to interviews and an offer, it’s not like you chose it. You just threw a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what would stick.

In order to make sure your next step is the right one, you need to be intentional about what you pursue. And that involves talking to the right people at the right time in the right way.

Here are my tips for conducting effective networking conversations when you don’t know what you want to do:

  1. Craft a “What Do You Want to Do Statement” that allows you to explore different options:

“After several years of  . . . [describe your career to date in terms of your accomplishments and what you’ve learned], I’m now exploring opportunities that will allow me to . . .”

The second part of this statement is key to being able to explore a bunch of options. Rather than naming the position, sector, or organization you believe will make you happy, focus on the components of work you know have made you happy. Think about:

  • Tasks that have made you lose all sense of time and projects that have made you excited to get to work early in the morning
  • Colleagues who have brought out the best in you
  • Environments where you have been your most productive.
  1. Talk to creative thinkers and good listeners BEFORE talking to advice givers.

One of the biggest dangers of networking when you don’t have a clear path is getting flooded with advice. People who offer advice are almost always trying to help, but getting suggestions about what you should do next can be deadly when you’re still trying to get your own thinking straight.

The best people to talk to at the early stages will hold up a mirror and help you clarify your thinking rather than saying immediately, “Oh, you should do X!”

Set up these conversations by saying, “I’m in the early stages of exploring what I would like to do next, and I’d love to bounce some ideas off of you.”

  1. Once you get comfortable having these conversations, talk to people people whose work appeals to you to learn more about what they do.

These conversations are often called informational interviews, and they tend to be easy and fun. All you’re doing is asking to learn more about what someone does and how they got there, and for people who love their work, there’s nothing they’d rather talk about.

Invite people to these conversations by saying, “I’m in the early stages of exploring what I would like to do next, and I’d love to learn more about your work and career path.”

After enough of these conversations, your next step will begin to take shape, and you can pursue the path you want to take. By then, you’ll have a network of champions eager to help you get where you want to go.

Did you enjoy this article?  Sign up for Anna’s December 2 webinar for Georgetown Alumni!
Anna Graham Hunter webinar headshot

Anna Graham Hunter is a Career Happiness Coach who helps professionals create their dream careers. A Professional Certified Coach, she spent 23 years in a variety of careers – including education, journalism, politics, lobbying, nonprofit management, management consulting, and executive coaching – before devoting herself full-time to making career happiness a reality for others.  Learn more at

Guest Post by Lori Mihalich-Levin (L’05): How Your Maternity Leave Can Advance (Yes, I Said Advance!) Your Career

I know, I know…conventional wisdom says that maternity leave is a pause button.  An exit ramp from leadership.  And a hiatus from professional development.  Unless of course, you’re a hard-driving, cold, uncaring mama, who only cares about work at the expense of her baby.

But after having had two amazing little boys and returning from maternity leave after each of them, I’m here to tell you that I think conventional wisdom has it all wrong.  During my first maternity leave, I spent too much time worrying about what I had missed while I was gone, how I could possibly “catch up”, what I couldn’t do at work anymore (e.g., stay past 4:30pm), rather than all the things I could still do (e.g., work hard, think strategically, collaborate with colleagues, create new ideas…) – or all the skills I had gained or honed by becoming a mother (e.g., efficiency, negotiation skills, problem-solving, dealing with the unexpected).

But with the benefit of time, experience, and a second maternity leave, I have since come to view the leave and return experience as a chance to grow a career and develop some serious leadership muscles.  All while being connected to and nurturing beautiful babies.

What I am not talking about here is working more hours or spinning your wheels worrying about work while tuning out your baby.    What I am talking about is approaching your maternity leave and return in a mindful, thoughtful, and strategic way, so that you can grow in your career and focus on your baby in tandem.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you prepare to go on leave:

Before Your Baby Arrives:

  • How can I prepare my colleagues for my leave in a well-planned, thoughtful way?  Who will take over what work, and do they have the resources they need to get the job done?  Who needs to meet whom?  Have I made the necessary introductions?
  • What conversations should I have with my boss (and any direct reports), to set clear expectations about things like the length of my leave, who will cover what, how I will communicate while I’m out, and what work I expect to resume when I come back?
  • Can I build planning-my-maternity-leave into my official goal-setting process, and be evaluated on it?
  • Can I block times for pumping milk on my calendar now, so that I can carve out time in my day before other meetings get scheduled?
  • Are there colleagues who recently gone on leave at my organization who can tell me about their experiences? What do I like about their approach?  What do I dislike?

While You Are On Leave:

  • What type of expectation did I set around office communication?  Am I living up to that expectation?  If not, how can I best communicate to change those expectations?
  • Is it possible that not being in touch on substantive projects during my leave isin itself a strong leadership stance?
  • Toward the end of my leave, can I put meetings on the books with my key office stakeholders for the first few weeks I’m back, to have them fill me in on the key things I should know from my time away?

When You Return:

  • Is there work I want to or feel I should take back?  Did my leave provide a growth opportunity for any colleagues, such that there are things I don’t need to take back – and where I can take a managerial or strategy role in instead?  Can I continue to mentor these colleagues?
  • During my annual review process, are there ways I can take credit for a well-planned and executed leave and return?
  • Are there skills I am gaining as a parent that I can put to use in the office?  How can I advertise this new skill set to my colleagues?
  • How can I build a ritual into my day to preserve time (even just a few minutes) for myself and my own sanity? (Recently, I’ve taken to choosing a route from the metro to the office that includes a stop by a beautiful and calming fountain, where I can pause, breathe, and collect my thoughts for the day.)

As you approach your leave, take some time to think through and even write down answers to these questions.  It may be obvious that having a baby and going on maternity leave will help you grow as a mother and a woman.  But know that this experience can help you grow as an employee and creator of your own career as well.

 Lori K. Mihalich-Levin, JD, founder of Mindful Return and creator of the Mindful Return E-Course, is mama to two beautiful red-headed boys (ages 1 and 3) and is the Director of Hospital and GME Payment Policies at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Lori has been committed to promoting women’s equality and leadership throughout her career.  Most recently, she founded both the Returning to Work Community (RWC) for mothers at AAMC who return to work from maternity leave and a D.C. Health Policy Lean in Circle.    As an undergraduate at Princeton, she wrote her thesis on immigrant women in France who were victims of domestic violence.  At Georgetown Law, she was the co-President of the Women’s Legal Alliance and represented clients through the Domestic Violence Clinic.  In private practice, she was a member of her firm’s Women’s Initiative and a member of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia.

At the AAMC, Lori works on regulatory policy issues relating to graduate medical education reimbursement, hospital price transparency, and inpatient and outpatient hospital payment policies.  Prior to joining the AAMC, Lori worked as a healthcare attorney at Vinson & Elkins, LLP and King & Spalding, LLP.

Guest Post: Beth Taubner, Brand Strategist, Mercurylab

In our upcoming webinar later this month, we are going to talk about what it really means to be a brand and why branding matters. The “B” word is thrown about quite loosely, so as a primer I’ll start by defining what it means to be a brand.

1. The power of authenticity.
Generally, we think that brands are about marketing and advertising, and that a branding approach applies only to big brands, “out there,” whereas the real material we use in defining and constructing our own brands stems from our belief systems and our own psychology. A strong brand marries this deep exploration with objective analysis to come to market in a meaningful way, no matter the size or type of the offering.

2. Brands are the marriage of emotion and facts.
It’s important to convey what makes you different — your special capabilities and attributes — so that potential customers can easily understand what sets you and your business, product or offering apart from the competition. If you visualize a target, brand definition and brand attributes sit at the center, and then the ways in which you apply or communicate your brand radiate in circles from that center.

3. How do you communicate as a brand?
For example, strategy and implementation for designing your logo, marketing, advertising, packaging, and line expansion should be governed by your brand’s unique attributes, brand story and business strategy. A brand with a clear identity and communications stands out from the competition, with a resulting increase in awareness and market share.

4. Is it for everyone?
Brand strategy and communication applies no matter what field you are in.  And if you are just starting out, working from a brand perspective will help provide a focus for all of your activities moving forward. You want to root all that you say or do in the authentic brand core of your business or offering.

5. How to get started.
All of my clients start with what I call “discovery” sessions, where we bring to light your business culture, your goals and aspirations, and what works — and doesn’t — in the way you have been approaching your business or in presenting your offerings to the marketplace, no matter what sector you are in. With my guidance, we rigorously dig down into order to benefit the most from the branding process. If you are doing brand discovery on your own, without a brand consultant, start by writing about “the make or do” for your company and products — that is, the facts. Then move on to writing about where you are now, where you would like to be, and what YOU believe your audiences think about you. It’s helpful to remember that brands are about perception, and sometimes that perception is a misperception, so try to write honestly about how you believe that you, your company and your products are perceived in the marketplace.

Once you have spent some time thinking about your own brand, then you will be in a
better position to develop the tools that are specifically right for YOU, your company, and your products. There isn’t one unilateral set of tools that is right for every company. The best results are derived analytically, and then married with strategy and clear emotional expression.

To learn more about Beth’s work, visit

To check out past webinars on branding, visit our Marketing & Branding Playlist on our Webinar Archive.

Georgetown Influences: Marianne Perez de Fransius (F’02)


From Conflict Avoider to Conflict Expert

Thinking about how I ended up as an expert in peace and conflict transformation, I realized that my time at Georgetown was pivotal. In the spring of my sophomore year, I studied abroad in Jerusalem and then worked at the Jerusalem Post over the summer. There was hope about the seemingly impending peace between Israelis and Palestinians. By the time I got back to campus in September 2000, the second intifada had started, and the news was flooded with images of bloodshed and destruction in places I’d been only a few weeks earlier. I was so overwhelmed that I literally had to stop watching or reading the news.

The following spring, I went abroad to Turkey and stayed there over the summer. We had a spring break trip to Syria and a lot of coursework on Islam and the Middle East. I was back on the Hilltop for just 2 weeks when September 11 happened. I remember the campus being eerily quiet as I walked down to Village A and seeing the smoke plumes coming off the Pentagon. The air traffic that all new arrivals notice ceased for several months. And when National Airport opened again, some of my fellow students panicked, fearing a plane was going to crash into Healey. The media was filled with a lot of Muslim bashing which directly contradicted my experience in the Middle East.

Hearing Georgetown’s twin mantras of “You are the leaders of tomorrow” and “Men and women of service to others,” yet seeing the deep crisis that not only the Georgetown community was going through, but the whole nation, pointed to a deep conflict for me. At the time, I didn’t know how to resolve it, so I decided to flee it. The climate of fear in DC and in New York (where I grew up) was palpable and I couldn’t escape it by turning off the news. To get away from it, I moved to Paris. After a couple years, I decided to get a masters degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, thinking that it could be something relevant to study.

I went into the masters program focusing on the role of the media in portraying peace and conflict and looking at big international conflicts. As a result of my work there, I was invited into the TRANSCEND network, a community of peace workers and researchers, and got the first article about Peace Journalism published in the elite journal called Journalism. This opened doors to offering trainings at the UN, to national lobbying organizations and to groups focused on the Middle East.

Fortunately I picked a program that taught a model for creating peace that is applicable at the meta, international level all the way down to the micro, intrapersonal level. Using this model, I’ve learned that instead of avoiding (or fleeing) conflicts, I can engage with them and even gain something fruitful from them. I’ve learned how to navigate dreaded conversations with ease, how to create win-win opportunities, how to monitor my media intake to stay informed without getting depressed, and so many other skills that are vital to living a balanced and meaningful life, both personally and as a world citizen of service to others. I hope you’ll join me for my upcoming webinar in which I’ll introduce you to this model.

Marianne founded Peace Is Sexy ( with a mission to redefine peace as sexy, possible, profitable and fun. Marianne has offered trainings at the UN, to national lobbying organizations and to ones that work on the conflict in the Middle East. Currently, she’s training Mozambican journalists in conflict analysis and peace journalism.


Notes on Evernote


I’m testing out a new method to organize the chaos that is my desk.  As you saw in a recent post, the ACS team is using Wunderlist to keep track of both our work and personal to-do’s via individual and shared lists.  The ease and simplicity of that platform is perfect for tracking tasks and even sub-tasks but doesn’t really help me with the million and one notepads, notebooks, and papers strewn across my desk.

Enter Evernote.  

What is Evernote? Evernote apps and web-based products allow you to easily collect and find everything that matters – notes, business cards, etc, are all accessible across all of your devices – phone, tablet, computer. There are free, premium, and business versions and multiple apps that make up the the Evernote family that we will discuss in this ongoing blog series.

Disclaimer: I’ve only been really using it for a week or two and I’m just starting to uncover all it has to offer, which, to be honest, can be kind of confusing and enlightening at the same time. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

evernote pen

1.  The Jot Script Evernote edition stylus.  I’m still getting used to it. At $  74.99 it’s pretty pricey but after some basic research it seemed to offer a smaller tip for writing that I thought would be useful.  My intention is to transition to taking notes in meetings using the stylus on my ipad. It takes a bit of getting used to though – I find that you have to write larger than you may normally and notes look a bit messier. NOTE:  And here is where I got confused.  You need to use a separate app for writing called Penultimate.  Once you take your notes you sync it to Evernote.  Still figuring that part out.

evernote moleskin

2.The Evernote notebooks by Moleskin. They enable you to easily take photos of your notes and upload them into your digital Evernote notebooks.  They come with stickers that enable you to tag your notes as well as 3 months worth of premium Evernote.  I’m still understanding whether the Evernote version is REALLY necessary/easier to photograph as opposed to other/regular notebooks.

3.  You can photograph business cards to keep track of your network.  Instead of having a million business cards sitting on your desk, photograph and file them in your Evernote account.  Seems like a great way to make business cards more actionable!  Bonus tip:  jot a few notes before you take a photo of it to remind yourself about your connection with that person.

4.  You can use Evernote to go paperless.  I’ve been taking notes either in my Evernote moleskin notebook or on a meeting’s particular agenda, photographing it and uploading into my Evernote digital notebook. So far so good.  Apparently your notebooks (even handwritten notes) are supposed to be searchable by keyword but I haven’t gotten quite that far yet.  I organize my digital notebooks by particular project areas to keep track of historic documents and notes meeting to meeting.

So far I’m probably just scratching the surface of what Evernote has to offer and I’ll keep you posted as I learn more. Have any Evernote tips?  We want to know!


Back to the Grind: Making Your Post-Vacation Transition Easier

It’s summer. And hopefully all of you will be able to get away for a bit to relax and rejuvenate. Bonus points if you’re able to REALLY check out and not be on email the entire time!  While you may be relaxed and rested, all good things must come to an end and the return to the office is inevitable.  Here are a few tips to help make the transition back to work at least a bit less painful!

1. Create a to-do list and leave it on your desk before you head out.
There’s nothing worse than forgetting what you were even working on before you left the office.  Make yourself some notes right before you head out the door so you can at least reorient yourself when you get back in to the office.

2.  To check email or not check email: That is the question.
Some people argue that just checking out of work totally is the only way to really get a break and rejuvenate. Others say that in today’s tech savvy world that’s not an option.  I go for the hybrid approach where I check email twice a day, delete anything that is irrelevant or junk and respond to any fires. Other than that I’ll get back to you when I return to the office.  If I go through things throughout my vacation I find I’m less overwhelmed by an overflowing inbox when I get back.

3. Don’t schedule meetings the morning you get back!
I’ve done it and it’s the worst. Who wants a 9 am meeting on a Monday much less a Monday after vacation? It may sound like a great idea when you’re heading out of the office on a Friday looking forward to 7 days and 2 tickets to paradise but, trust me, you’re not going to feel as motivated when you are sporting your tan at the water cooler instead of beach side.

4.  Have a day at home before you head back into the office.
A day to catch up on laundry, unpack, and get situated can help make the first day at work a bit less painful.

5. Schedule lunch.
Ease into your first day back by scheduling lunch with a colleague that you need to catch up with.  Combination of work + fun is ideal. Plus, you probably won’t have too much food in your fridge.

6. Work on your favorite projects first.
Which parts of your job do you love the most? What are your pet projects? Work on those to help get your head back in the game.

How do you manage your vacations and transition back into the office?  Any tips to share?  We want to hear! In the meantime, happy summer Hoyas!


image source:

Hoya Influencers: Jessica Barrett (B’07)

Moveo Moti Motum – the Latin phrase defined as “to move, arouse, affect, influence.”  We’re happy to announce our first guest blogger in a series of posts we’ll be doing on the people within the Georgetown community that have moved, aroused, affected or influenced alumni throughout their journey to find career happiness and success.  We hope you enjoy these reflections and will comment on posts that resonate with your own experiences.

As an undergrad and more recently as an MBA student, I have gained an incredible amount of career wisdom in the classroom.

That being said, some of the most influential lessons that have shaped my professional decisions, and my life more broadly, have come from outside the classroom. In fact, I would attribute the top three tenants of my career approach to fellow Hoyas who I’ve crossed paths with since my time on the Hilltop. I am grateful for the inspiration they have provided to me, and hope that I can pass that along to others in the Georgetown community.

  1. Roger C. Altman (C’67), Founder, Evercore Partners – Failure is more important than success. This was the theme of Roger’s speech as the keynote speaker at my MBA graduation. He spoke about how his failures in life have been the best learning experiences, both for acquiring specific job skills, as well as in helping him shape his leadership style. The advice he gave to us was to be prepared for and accepting of failure, and most importantly, to have a positive mindset about it. Handling failures is the most important component for future success. One of my favorite phrases, in Latin, “ex tenebris lux” meaning “from darkness, light”, summarizes Roger’s advice perfectly.

  1. Mary Callahan Erdoes (C’89), CEO, Asset Management, J.P. Morgan – Be a subject matter expert. I had the privilege of working directly for Mary for almost two years. While her leadership style, charisma, confidence, and kindness are all incredibly inspiring and critical components of her success, she is impressively knowledgeable of her industry and the markets, which she has always prioritized. Knowing something critical to your business in more depth and breadth than anyone else makes you an invaluable asset. That concept motivates me every day to make the extra effort to learn more about the function and industry I’m in, and I believe it is what got be hired into my current role. I also see how my knowledge gaps play a more significant role in my credibility than I ever imagined – reinforcing Mary’s message of being a subject matter expert.

  2. My Classmates, (2007), Entrepreneurs, Visionaries, Risk Takers – Take risks + dream big. One of the best parts of being a Georgetown alum has been witnessing my fellow classmates emerge as successful entrepreneurs. From the guys who brought us Sweetgreen, first as a small shop on M Street, to now a national chain, or to my friend who left the art world in London to develop a hotel in the Bahamas with no prior hospitality experience, there are Hoyas across the world who have taken risks and believed that the impossible might be possible, and have made it happen. Seeing that in others is truly inspiring, and as I continue down my professional path with a goal of becoming an entrepreneur myself, I take comfort and encouragement from my fellow Hoyas who have taken big risks and done the same.

Jessica Barrett is a 2007 graduate of the McDonough School of Business and  received her MBA from Columbia this year.  She recently started a new position in business development and sales at pymetrics, a New York-based startup using neuroscience and data science to make the recruiting process more efficient and accurate.  To hear more about Jessica’s career journey, visit