NFBPWC Young BPW turns the spotlight on members who are making an impact in their profession. Featured members exemplify the mission of the BPW of uniting and advocating for women everywhere.
Meet Caroline Rakus-Wojciechowski!
Caroline graduated from Harvard College in 2018 with a B.A. in Anthropology, a completed pre-medical track, a secondary field in human evolutionary biology, and a language citation in Spanish Language and Literature. She is originally from Lindenhurst, NY.
She is currently a Global Goals Ambassador for Sustainable Cities and Communities, a GPODS (Global Policy, Diplomacy, and Sustainability) Fellow, and serves as the Chief Partnership and Innovation Officer for the Youth Sustainability Development Conference 2021: Pan-African Edition, the Global Board Treasurer for the International Association of Political Science Student, the Founding President & Chairwoman for the UNA Brooklyn Chapter Young Professionals, and is an En-Roads Climate Ambassador and Climate Reality Leader. She is a YOUNGA 2020 Delegate and has attended the 2019 UNGA74 Youth Climate Summit and Social Good Summits.
For her innovative work and partnerships for Sustainable Cities and Communities and concern for adverse effects on youth empowerment, she was invited to the 2019 World Bank Group Youth Summit Delegate for Smarter Cities for a Resilient Future and the First Annual Conference in Global Energy Transition Law and Policy. She has also been a youth speaker at several conferences hosted by ANYL4PSD Africa, the YSDC Network, EnviPol, and Avant Guarde, Ltd. on issues ranging from quality education, decent work, climate action, and partnerships.
Caroline is currently consulting for a Harvard College team building a spring semester curriculum on sustainability, and she is preparing to launch a sustainable tourism accelerator and consulting startup in Ecuador in December 2020. She will serve as Co-CEO and co-founder of Taita.
Q: Tell us about your education.
I graduated from Harvard College in 2018 with a B.A. in Anthropology and completed Pre-Medical track, minor in Human Evolutionary Biology, and Language Citation in Spanish Language and Literature.
Q: What are you doing today to make your career aspirations come to fruition?
My goal is to be a sustainability and development consultant for the United Nations, universities, and businesses. This means I would be able to use my practical and applied knowledge of creating sustainable communities and development programs on a Global Scale and use it to teach and empower young people, facilitate intergenerational conversations, and most importantly, empower communities to implement their own sustainable development programs. I am currently developing Taita-a sustainability consulting firm, where I will be serving as co-CEO. I also serve as Chief Partnership and Innovation Officer for the YSDC 2021: Pan-African Edition. These programs are dear to me because they have allowed me to empower communities to invest in youth potential through education, incorporate those left furthest behind into the intergenerational hierarchy of the job market, and to create sustainable solutions of their own.
Q: What brought you to this career path?
A friend and I recently discussed this: Treat others how you weren't treated. Growing up, Education became Empowerment. As a low-income, first-generation Polish-American, I didn't have the luxuries that my peers had growing up- my hardworking parents were not always able to afford me going to extracurricular programs or giving me money to buy lunch at school. Add to this, lack of a social relationship with my peers in my childhood because I had a responsibility to my severely autistic sister, the only outlet that gave me comfort was my studies. During college, I intended my then-calling to be a pediatric doctor to be the way that I teach youth about their health and lead them to healthier lifestyles and stop unhealthy areas of their lives, like domestic abuse, from stifling their potential. On the other hand, I also majored in the archaeology track of anthropology because I was deeply invested in understanding the histories of cultural norms and traditions, as well as connecting with people by culturally immersing myself on an interpersonal level during any study-abroad programs. After college, I searched for opportunities to be an educator, but I found the traditional routes and curricula were no appealing to me- I was far more attracted to charter schools with innovative, project-based learning programs. Now, two years after graduation, I have found my exciting niche in social innovation and entrepreneurism through collaborating on innovative sustainability programs on a global level and am in the process of making that dream and vocation a reality. I am a global citizen and a servant leader and nothing brings me more joy and humility than helping others find their vocations and empowering them to achieve those vocations.
Q: Can you tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career so far?
I wish I hadn't thought there was "a right path" and "the right career for someone who [insert achievement here]." I'm grateful for my path: student to aspiring neurosurgeon to aspiring JD International Relations/MA Forensic Anthropology to social entrepreneur and global citizen. However, beginning in late middle school through this year really, I had a mentality of "What job can I do that will give me the respect I did not get growing up? What recognition and accolades can I achieve that will show I'm qualified?" For some people, that is enough for them to find their vocation and I am so happy for them. For me, this was not enough. One of my mentors had asked me, "In all of these things you're doing, where is Caroline?" and I had no response. Truly, of the 7 pages of my CV, I could point to only two or three things that really defined the character and values that make me who I am because those are the projects where I am my most authentic self. Furthermore, they were not at all related to the "right path" that I had been grasping for so blindly for years. I found my calling when I looked at what mattered to me and ever since, have been following "my path," and I feel so much stronger and happier for it.
Q: Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are today?
“Uncle” Sherman, my greatest mentor, my personal trainer, and my friend. I’m actually writing a book on all the lessons that I learned from him. When I first met Sherman, I thought he was the meanest, scariest man: I was doing the Krav Maga Academy 6-week challenge and had to be in NYC early for an interview, so I decided to do a 7AM class. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I love to smile- it is my natural state. The first words I heard out of Sherman Mui’s mouth were “THERE IS NO SMILING IN MY CLASS!” and I was terrified. Of course, now after 2 years with the Academy- gone- FitiHit Official, Sherman is by far my favorite trainer because he cares so much about the well-being, mental and physical, of his students and works so hard to accomplish that.
During COVID, I began personal outdoor training (yes, my VO2 Max increased from training in a mask) with Sherman and it was the biggest mental game of my life. Every time that I put on the gloves, it was an hour of battle that I had with myself. And every session, Sherman would yell and shout and I would laugh and cry. Then one day, I realized “Get[ing] out of [my] head” meant more than just on the mat: it was a lifestyle and a mindset. I started looking more closely at Sherman’s sayings and realized a lot of what he said could help me transcend my mental barriers and consequently, I grew stronger every time I trained with him and it spilled over into other areas of my life. I felt empowered to do things I didn’t think were possible and am shifting my mindset into a more self-loving and self-empowering one, which is a hallmark of achieving any goal or career. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am with any of my programs if not for Sherman’s support.
Q: How did you find BPW?
BPW found me- I graduated from Harvard, so naturally, after graduating, I was enrolled in the Harvard Club of NYC membership. It was there that I met Francesca Burack, President of the NFBPWC/NYC and powerhouse of a woman. She became a mentor and friend to me and inspired me to join this great organization with her passion. I think she is one of the most devoted people to this organization and has contributed a font of knowledge and effort in making it an incredible community for women. I enjoyed being the Communications and PR Chair and my one-on-one meeting with Francesca the most so far!
Q: How can the BPW club and its members help you on your career path?
If you know or need anyone to consult on strategizing a development program or sustainable solution, whether for a person or business, please put them in touch with me. Also, as I’m developing my first business, putting me in touch with anyone who has experience in developing their own business in consulting or nonprofit would be greatly appreciated.
Q: Can you share how you have evolved since Covid-19 disrupted 'normal' professional life?
Covid-19, despite being a horrible virus, allowed for me to have time to develop my business, study, improve my health, and figure out what I want to do once it is over.
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