Answers from Jake


1) During your time at Pomona, where did you see yourself a few years out from college? How did your path differ from this and what most surprised you?

I entered Pomona thinking I'd go into business. I wasn't particularly passionate about it, but it seemed like a good enough choice, and I wasn't especially concerned with the future. I had my first "aha!" moment in Rick Hazlett's intro to EA class, when for the first time I gave a damn about something (the environment). I also discovered science as a strength/passion and figured a research career in the chemistry of photovoltaics would enable me to lend a hand in the fight against climate change. But senior year I realized that I needed more human interaction and sunlight than the laboratory could provide, so I switched gears and finished up the pre-med requirements and worked as a medical scribe for a year after graduation. I saw some really weird stuff and it was awesome, but I determined that medicine was not right for me. I switched things up again and took a Fulbright to the Philippines to work for an off-grid solar non-profit, and BAM - that was my second "aha!" moment. Instant clarity. I immediately knew that international development, specifically bringing enabling technologies to the bottom of the pyramid, was my calling. It has been such a relief to find my true passion, and everything has come naturally since then. I wasn't surprised per se, but I couldn't have predicted that this is where I'd end up. It was just a matter of trial and error to find the thing which ignited a hitherto unknown passion. The development sector is quite broad, and I still don't know exactly which enabling technologies I'll devote my life to (currently I'm focused on rural energy access, but next year I could be into healthcare or education), but I'm totally fine with the ambiguity because I'm on the right path. I'll continue to dabble and hone in on the things which I find most fulfilling.

2) Any regrets - things you feel you didn't make the most of but should have during your time in Claremont?

Truthfully, I wish I hadn't studied as hard. Not once has an employer asked to see my transcript or GPA. I wish I had been more involved in activities on campus, and placed more importance on my social life. Balance is important.

3) Do you think the liberal arts aspect of your education helped you after college? How so?

I'm not sure. I took almost exclusively science classes, and I wish I had dabbled in the humanities a bit more. I don't know that it would have made me a significantly different person, but it might have at least helped me reach those "aha!" moments a bit earlier.

4) What would be your advice to a student who is really unsure about what they want to do after college?

Just shotgun it. Try everything and see what you like. You'll know once you find it. Network to the extent that you're comfortable - like it or not, it really is all about who you know. But the good news is that most people are more than happy to help. LinkedIn is amazing, and your fellow Sagehens are a tremendous resource. Brush your teeth.

5) What was your experience of transitioning from college to the outside world? What would be your advice for students to handle this?

Not that Pomona wasn't fun, but I have enjoyed life after college so much more. The big transition for me was finally becoming a contributing member of society. Up until graduation, I had done nothing but consume resources invested in me. Post-graduation, I was finally working and producing something, and that has given me immense satisfaction. Nonetheless, it can be difficult living far away from friends rather than constantly around the corner, so you may have to put more effort into maintaining your friendships. If you're having difficulties adjusting, trust that your peers are too, so reach out and commiserate.

6) How do you - apart from this - bear your added riches to the world?

More than anything, Pomona taught me how to think critically and creatively. I like to think I bring a healthy, balanced mindset to whatever I'm a part of, something that is much needed these days.