Exchange Matters / October 25, 2023

Career Connections San Francisco: Empowering ExchangeAlumni through Technology and Entrepreneurship

By Karinuelle (Karin) Krisdiva, Career Connections Intern, Global Ties U.S.

The San Francisco Bay area, known for being a center of technological innovation, was the perfect location to welcome U.S. citizen exchange program alumni to the Career Connections: Technology and Entrepreneurshipprofessional development seminar September 24-25. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and hosted locally by Global Ties San Francisco in partnership with Global Ties U.S., this event brought together 51 ExchangeAlumni to connect, network, and share their international exchange experiences.

A blonde female speaker address attendees seated at round tables in a hotel conference room.

Alannah Crandall, Manager for International Programs and Events at Global Ties San Francisco, welcomes attendees to Career Connections: Entrepreneurship & Technology. Photo by the U.S. Department of State

ExchangeAlumni participated in several activities taking place simultaneously across the venue in Hotel Zelos, including resume reviews, headshot photos, networking, a session on careers at the U.S. Department of State, led by Diplomat in Residence Ryan Gliha, and an elevator pitch workshop with messaging coach Steve Smith.

A male speaker stands in front of a powerpoint presentation he delivers to attendees seated at round tables in a hotel conference room.

Diplomat-in-Residence Ryan Gliha discusses what a U.S. Foreign Service career entails during a block session. Photo by the U.S. Department of State.

Participants also learned about tech and public health careers at the U.S. Department of State, as well as the ins-and-outs of being a Foreign Service Officer. With a shift from remote events during the pandemic to in-person ones, Ryan stressed that “virtual cannot replace in-person meetings” and that the goal of the U.S. Department of State is to “make a lasting footprint with countries to strengthen diplomatic ties.” Ryan also spoke about the many paths to the U.S. Government and emphasized the need for more representation in public service of people from diverse backgrounds.

Participants enjoy the Autumn Moon Festival at San Francisco’s Chinatown. Photo by the U.S. Department of State.

The venue was buzzing with chatter from the alumni as they shared their own exchange experiences and their experience at Career Connections. One participant remarked, “The event is very organized. I appreciated the amount of information given by the U.S. Department of State in the block session earlier – it’s very helpful.”

The day wrapped with a visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown, one of the oldest in North America, and participants had the opportunity to enjoy Autumn Moon Festival activities, including live performances, food stalls, and traditional arts and crafts.

Sunday’s Career Connections programming started off with a juggling warm-up from an attendee and a keynote address from Shay Franco-Clausen, a political and community entrepreneur.  ExchangeAlumni were brimming with excitement during the career roundtable discussions, led by experienced entrepreneurs and representatives from top tech companies including Google, Meta, and LinkedIn.

An attendees opens the day with a juggling warm-up. Photo by the U.S. Department of State.

The participants then split into two rounds of concurrent breakout sessions, with a networking lunch in between. In the first rotation, attendees explored topics including diverse mentorship in tech, personal branding and venture capitalism to support and grow businesses. Attendees appreciated the speakers’ concrete examples on ways to build relationships with potential mentors, their practical tips on entering and advancing careers, and their stories and anecdotes. The networking lunch included remarks from the Office of Alumni Affairs on ways to stay involved with the U.S. ExchangeAlumni community beyond Career Connections seminars.

The afternoon round of breakout sessions introduced attendees to grant writing, how to prepare a pitch deck, and the career trajectories of women in tech — including tips on applying for a Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund (CDAF) grant and examples on strong pitch decks from well-known companies and speaker Nancy Hayes’ career stories, these sessions provided alumni with helpful tips to grow their careers. A particular highlight from the afternoon was Jen Cohen’s session on “Women in Tech.” Jen shared stories of well-known companies that rose to worldwide frame from startup-up status, attendees of all genders noted their appreciation for the integration of professional stories into the presentation.

Jen Cohen, Fractional CTO and Tech Strategy Consultant, gives a presentation on Women in Tech. Photo by Global Ties San Francisco

Alumni attendees gather outside at Boedekker Park, Photo by U.S. Department of State.

Attendees closed out the program with an augmented reality (AR) exhibit, “Live at the Black Hawk,” developed by U.S. ExchangeAlumni Julia Beabout. Julia is an alumna of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program, and CEO of Novaby, an AR agency and animation studio. She spoke about how attending an Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminar (Alumni TIES) inspired her to apply for and receive a TIES grant, which she used to start the nonprofit, Tech in the Tenderloin, to host a hackathon.

Julia is passionate about using AR and technology to contribute to the revitalization of the historically low-opportunity Tenderloin neighborhood. This TIES grant led to the creation of “Live at The Black Hawk,” which recreates a symbol of San Francisco’s history –- a famous jazz club called “The Black Hawk” housed in the heart of the Tenderloin’s Boedekker Park. The session closed with a visit to the park, where alumni could see the AR exhibit in action through their smartphones and witness how Boedekker Park is becoming a crucial center of the Tenderloin district’s revitalization.