What do an artificial heart, the theater, and Gabon all have in common? From where you’re sitting, probably not much. For me, however, they are key facets of my life that have led me to a career in impact investing. Years ago when I was an undergraduate, a team and I were assigned to construct an artificial heart. This heart that we built was intended to test a new piece of medical technology, a hemofoil valve. The valve, we found, held significant promise of reducing the development of fatal blood clots. The technology was pretty straightforward to me, however the questions following the test were not. Who now gets access to this valve? Only those who can pay the price? Only those who are younger, healthier, and have a possibly longer life to live? The discussions exposed me to the world of inequality that we live in – a world in which not everyone has equal access to technology, medicine, and opportunities more broadly.
After graduation I joined the Peace Corp in search of a new adventure and greater exposure to the world. I ended up working in Gabon, where I taught math and English to middle school-aged students. I lived in a small, rural village, of about 100 people, that had no access to electricity or running water. Despite these challenges, the village was able to support and care for each other. It was clear that their survival was very much dependent on their ability to come together as a community. I was impressed by their ability to work as a group, acknowledging and being respectful of each other’s and each of their own interdependence on one another. When I returned from Gabon I made the decision to focus on finance. My experiences abroad alongside my education had led me to the thinking that capital equates to power, and is a key determinant of capability for individuals, businesses, and communities. Although now I know that finance is only one piece of the pie of life, I still maintain the important role that it plays.