UBC Philosophy BA ’02
Program Manager, Global Performance & Talent Development Team
I sort of fell into my current role and career but, looking back, it seems obvious where my professional life would take me. I have been a Program Manager for the better part of 15 years in several industries, including aerospace engineering, medical devices, and computing technology. I love the innovation, the technical challenges, as well as the team building aspect of what I do. In addition to my philosophy degree, I am also a certified Life Coach, which gives me an additional set of skills to apply in leadership development and team building activities. As a program manager, I am sometimes responsible for large budgets and globally diverse teams who have many ways of working through technical challenges and occasionally very different definitions of success based on diverse cultural backgrounds. It is this aspect that keeps me excited about my work and motivated to always try to do better job at building strong teams who trust each other, excel at innovation, and have fun in the process no matter where we are located across the globe. At Microsoft, I work with a group of incredibly talented people who hold themselves to the highest bar, not only on the solutions that we deliver, but on how we deliver them.
I’ve always had a penchant for philosophy, believing – against the practical advice of my engineering friends J – that it was vastly important to train my mind to think critically and clearly in order to bring my best out into the world. A degree in philosophy did that for me. No, it may not seem like the most marketable degree to the untrained eye, but you have no idea how many doors it has opened – especially in today’s world where critical thinking has become something of a dying art. When you know how to speak to the critical importance of this kind of thinking and the role it plays in today’s work environment, you appeal to what many business leaders and HR teams already know: there is an existing shortage of this skill, and this makes you a highly desirable candidate. Yes, you need to have other skills that lend themselves to the practical application of life, but do not think that philosophy isn’t included as a superior skill in your toolbox. Combine a well-trained mind with an industry, a company, or a cause that you are passionate about and the world is yours. I am grateful for my philosophy degree and always happy to answer questions posed by potential employers and colleagues with a quizzical brow, “A philosophy degree? How interesting…tell me more.”
I didn’t start out pursuing a philosophy degree…I took the long (and expensive) way around, because I didn’t trust my gut. I started out in political science thinking I would pursue Law, then biochemistry thinking maybe Medicine was my calling – all great degrees leading to potentially fulfilling careers, but my heart wasn’t in it. After starting out with what I thought were very practical choices, I ended up making the best decision I could have and where I should have started all along…pursuing a philosophy degree. Trust your gut. Don’t only consider where it may or may not lead and how you are going to make money after you complete your degree. Although important to consider, trusting that you will find a way to make it work and that the perfect career is waiting for you if you only follow your heart and your instincts is what I bet on and it worked. There is nothing that a well-trained mind, a little perseverance and a lot of heart can’t achieve in the world today.