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Joy Zhang

joy zhang

BA 2010

Skoll Foundation

your job

Briefly describe the mission of your organization and how your role contributes to it. What does a typical day look like?

The Skoll Foundation is a philanthropic foundation that invests in, connects, and celebrates social entrepreneurs who are driving solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. I work on the portfolio team, which is responsible for sourcing, selecting, and managing our portfolio of Skoll Awardees for Social Entrepreneurs and other investments. I spend most of my time doing due diligence on organizations, speaking to external partners and references, conducting research and analysis, and writing recommendations for potential investments.

your inspiration

What made you go into this profession? Why are you doing what you are doing?

While I am employed by the Skoll Foundation, I always say that I work for the social entrepreneurs who create impact at the end of the day. I wasn’t looking to start a career in philanthropy when I started working in a foundation; I was looking for ways to support the courageous individuals who are championing a brave new world. Philanthropy is one way to do that, but there are others. I chose to go into a private foundation out of college because it offered a unique perspective on a broad range of social entrepreneurial approaches. It is like the management consulting of the social sector in that respect, giving a sweeping view of many different issue areas and building an understanding of business models, strategy, impact evaluation. Skoll’s motto is support good people doing good work. And that is what I am trying to do with my career, no matter where I go.

your advice

What recommendations do you have for current Stanford students interested in pursuing a career in a similar capacity? What skills or knowledge should they focus on at Stanford? What tips do you have regarding the job search?

I got into philanthropy through somewhat special circumstances (a unique postgraduate fellowship in philanthropy of which there are three at Stanford), and I would say that it would have been much harder to get in the door if it were not for that fellowship. Philanthropy does offer roles for young, recent graduates but not many. As an undergraduate, it might be hard to find open positions at foundations, but instead you might have to work through your network (alumni are great resources for this) to land an internship or to get yourself in front of hiring managers. Same goes for graduate students though there are more positions available to those with a graduate degree. Foundation work is a unique blend of brains and heart. Analytical rigor, being data and evidence driven are as important as passion and compassion.

your life vision

How do you make this unconventional career path work in your life?

It hasn’t been a hard thing to “make work” in my life because I find it way more interesting than anything else I could be doing. Otherwise, don’t know that I’ve lived enough to say yet!

 

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