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Carnegie Mellon Volleyball Alum Chisom Amaechi Dedicates Herself to Service

Carnegie Mellon Volleyball Alum Chisom Amaechi Dedicates Herself to Service

From Carnegie Mellon University Athletics

Chisom Amaechi had a clear idea of what she wanted to do in 2009 when she graduated with her chemical engineering and engineering and public policy degrees from Carnegie Mellon University. Her time on the volleyball court and in and out of the classroom had prepared her for her life's journey and for her next step, graduate school.

Amaechi's plan was to obtain a Ph.D. with research centered on solar energy.  She would then use her experience and training to become a technical expert for grassroots work in solar rural electrification in emerging markets.

As part of her undergraduate experience, Amaechi traveled to Brazil with classmates the summer prior to her senior year. The travel program focused on environmental sustainability in emerging markets and her time in Brazil solidified her desire to use her engineering training in that arena.

"Learning about the role solar energy could play in developing economies in the global south really drove my career decisions," Amaechi said.

Amaechi's studies took a slight turn when she obtained her master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 2011. After a year working for a non-profit, Amaechi became an air quality engineer at an international sustainability consultancy in Boston but still yearned for something more aligned with her goals and sustainable development.

"I really wanted to focus on clean technology, especially with my experience doing research in solar energy," Amaechi said. "I understood I needed to get experience working in an emerging market and I realized most employers that work in the sustainable development space prefer their employees know more than one language."

While living in Boston, Amaechi volunteered with a Christian microfinance organization called PEER Servants and spent a week in Guatemala. The trip was transformative and provided clarity on the next steps Amaechi could take to transition into a new field.

As Amaechi began plotting her next move, she received word her grandmother had passed away.

"During the weeks following my grandmother's passing, I felt God clearly tell me to move to Guatemala and work on learning Spanish while I apply to graduate school," Amaechi said. "God used that time as a way to give me the push I needed to take a leap of faith and move to Guatemala and that's exactly what I did."

Amaechi left her comfortable life in Boston and moved to Guatemala in June 2015 where she began searching for volunteer work to gain additional cross-cultural experience. Starting in the city of Quetzaltenango ("Xela"), Amaechi found the weather a bit too cold for her ideal experience in Central America so she moved her job search to Guatemala City where she stumbled across her current employer, Kingo.

"It was so surreal," exclaimed Amaechi. "Kingo is a solar prepaid electricity, social enterprise, based in Guatemala with first-mover advantage in Central America providing electricity to the millions of people at the bottom of the pyramid, living without access to energy. They do solar rural electrification!

"It had been seven years since I was in Brazil and first grabbed hold of the vision of using solar energy for rural electrification and I honestly forgot I still had this dream! However, the seven years that followed my experience in Brazil were preparing me for such a time as this! Seven is a number that symbolizes completion and I felt that this was the right time, despite all the closed doors in the past. After requesting an internship, I had an interview and was hired on the spot!"

At Kingo, Amaechi works directly with the CEO to find new opportunities to secure finances through grants as well as equity and debt investments. In addition to seeking finance, she performs data analysis using the information the in-house developed software gathers on the technology and customer use. They use the analysis to better understand how the business is tracking along key performance and social impact indicators to make real-time business decisions.

With new experiences in hand, Amaechi found her segue to what's next, and that is her matriculation to the Yale School of Management. She will begin in New Haven this August working towards her MBA as part of the class of 2018. Her interest and focus will be on impact investing and social entrepreneurship, with an interest in clean technology and emerging markets.

"Impact investing is sometimes considered a separate asset class or a strategy where investments are made in companies that provide a social and/or environmental impact in addition to financial returns," said Amaechi. "So, essentially, I would be investing in companies like Kingo!"

Amaechi is certainly ready for her next challenge and credits her time as a Tartan for providing valuable opportunities to work as a team and adapt to her colleagues.

"During my interview for business school, I was asked to describe a time when I had conflict at work and it was suggested that I likely have a good example from my current job related to cross-cultural issues," Amaechi said. "However, being able to function as a unit with my coworkers and with shared goals and vision has really helped me to fit into my new role at Kingo very effortlessly and I truly love the people I work with. This is something I developed and learned while at CMU and I've used it in all my work experiences.

"The ability to work alongside so many different personalities for a singular goal, like going to Nationals, which we did my senior year, is something I wouldn't have thought possible without my experiences as a Tartan."

Amaechi focuses on two things with each new move, finding a good church and a good volleyball league. She's found both in Guatemala where her volleyball team is currently competing for a national championship.

All this reminds Amaechi of her playing days at Carnegie Mellon. She stays connected by returning for alumni volleyball events when possible and has supported several fundraisers.

"Something I do regret is not giving as much earlier on. I guess I felt like I needed to be more established in my career to really have an impact, but honestly, anything helps and it also shows I support the program, which I absolutely do," Amaechi said. "Where Coach Kelly has been taking the program is really inspiring! To see the caliber of new recruits and new experiences available to them, like abroad summer trainings, gives me a lot of confidence in the program and how it will continue to excel."