In undergrad, Dana fell in love with the culture and people of Latin America when she studied abroad there as part of her international development major. She realized that if she wanted to work in development when she graduated and make a real impact in Latin America, she needed to live and work on the ground so she could truly understand the challenges they faced. Her work took her to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, and more.
These experiences taught Dana the meaning of diversity and empathy. She worked at a small nonprofit that helped early-stage social businesses figure out their business models and secure investment to grow. The work was fulfilling, yet she remembers being frustrated because nothing ever started on time. When meetings finally did start, instead of getting right to business, people would spend 10 minutes asking about each other’s families. One of her Nicaraguan co-workers explained to her this was a part of their culture and how they did business, and helped Dana see the benefits of building relationships and creating a family-like atmosphere; today she wholeheartedly embraces the practice.
After four years, Dana was ready for a change. She pursued her MBA. Initially, Dana didn’t feel her nonprofit experiences were relevant to the business world until a mentor helped her understand how those skills had great value. He told her that if she could raise millions of dollars for a nonprofit that doesn’t offer funders anything tangible in return, then she could sell anything. After an internship at Microsoft, Dana graduated from her MBA program and landed on the CSE team.
At the start, she was intimidated by her technical co-workers. Rather than shying away, she was up-front about her non-technical background and asked lots of questions to help her learn. Rather than turning her down, everyone was excited to explain concepts and share their areas of expertise. This made her feel welcome and invigorated to learn. Keeping with her Latin American learnings, she continues the practice of taking time to build connections and relationships with her teammates, which serves her well as a Program Manager since her work is so dependent on others. One of Dana’s favorite CSE projects so far was working on the COVID Health Bot. She is proud of her team for jumping into action to help make something critical to the world. The project brought her back to her social impact roots.
Outside of work Dana loves backpacking, mountaineering, and skiing. She has completed a 5-day trek in Patagonia, hiked 45 miles around the base of Mt. Hood, summited multiple volcanoes including Mt Baker in Washington and Cayambe and Cotopaxi in Ecuador, just to name a few. She loves using her PM skills to plan her adventures – researching the routes and weather, determining what gear to bring, evaluating risks, making back-up plans, and then using all this knowledge to make real-time decisions.