A Passion for Transforming Lives: Q&A with Angela Choi
Angela Choi is a former TechnoServe Fellow who worked in Zimbabwe in 2017 performing an agricultural value chain analysis. In this Q&A, Angela shares how she got involved, what inspires her about TechnoServe’s work, and what she learned from her time as a Fellow.
The TechnoServe Fellows Program is a highly competitive fellowship where business professionals contribute their skills to help change the lives of those living in poverty. Since 1996, TechnoServe has engaged over 1,000 Fellows on three- to twelve-month projects throughout Africa, India, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Angela Choi is an international life purpose and career coach. She helps professionals who feel “stuck” and unfulfilled to discover their purpose and how to work toward achieving both the impact and income they want. Previously, she’s served as a career coach for 9/11 and military families, worked at a behavioral healthcare startup, and hosted monthly workshops for professionals working at Rockefeller Center. Angela graduated cum laude from Yale University with a degree in psychology.
Q: What inspired you to become a Fellow?
A: I was inspired to become a Fellow because I wanted to see how I could leverage my consulting and operations background in the realm of international development.
Q: Can you describe your experience in three words?
A: Life-changing, transformative, memorable
Q: What was your experience like on the ground in Zimbabwe?
A: My experience on the ground was eye-opening in many ways. I was able to leverage my operations background and my ability to approach a problem from multiple angles through our agricultural value chain analysis. We met with various stakeholders (abattoir employees, government officials, farmers, etc.), and they each had different pain points.
As such, it was important to figure out how to prioritize which pain points to address and where to direct financial investments. We traveled extensively across the country to meet with these stakeholders, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see and experience many parts of the country. We drove through Hwange National Park and would stop to observe elephants, monkeys, and all sorts of animals in their natural habitats.
Q: What life lessons did you learn from your experience as a Fellow?
A: One–“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” I was hesitant about embarking on this journey. Prior to Zimbabwe, I had negligible experience in developing countries. Furthermore, my departure date kept getting pushed back due to the military coup, which exacerbated my concerns. However, had I let my fears stop me, I would not have had the experience of being a Fellow.
Two–“Take everything in stride.” Once, en route to meet with a stakeholder, we were driving down a one-way road when we suddenly encountered an abandoned oxcart. Too heavy to push out of the way, we had no choice but to turn around and figure out a new route, which delayed our plans. Although unexpected challenges were not uncommon, everything always worked out in the end. It’s easier to take everything in stride rather than fixating on things that aren’t working and that we don’t have control over.
Q: Why does TechnoServe’s work matter to you? What continues to inspire you?
A: TechnoServe’s work matters to me because it focuses on having a lasting impact by equipping people in developing countries with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to alleviate poverty. I’m inspired by how TechnoServe embodies the spirit of the quote, “Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Q: How has seeing TechnoServe’s work firsthand impacted your views on international development?
A: Meeting with a variety of stakeholders on the ground (farmers, government agencies, abattoirs) and documenting their pain points and challenges helped reaffirm the importance of talking with people and understanding what is happening day-to-day so that we can better determine how to allocate resources (e.g., financial investments, training, etc.) rather than taking a blanket approach.
Q: How has the TechnoServe Fellows Program impacted you and your career path?
A: The TechnoServe Fellows Program has impacted me in so many ways. For example, from a global and practical perspective, it dispelled preconceived notions and fears regarding living and working in a developing country. Of course, there are differences between working in a developing and developed country (e.g., power outages, fewer resources, etc.); however, these were minor in the grand scheme of things.
Instead, what I remember most is Zimbabweans’ understanding of what works and doesn’t work in their economy and country and their desire to effect change. From a career perspective, the Fellows Program reaffirmed the importance of listening to my heart and trying something new and different, even if it seems scary.
Q: What advice would you give to Fellows just returning from their experience?
A: I experienced a bit of reverse culture shock upon my return. I missed my experiences and the people I met in Zimbabwe, and no one in my immediate circle back home quite understood the experience that I just had. Fortunately, I found community in the TechnoServe alumni network (I met another Fellow who worked in Zimbabwe, actually!), so I would suggest Fellows returning from their experience to plug into the TechnoServe community.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the TechnoServe community or Fellow alumni?
A: I came across the TechnoServe Fellows Program during a year where I was trying to figure out the direction that I wanted to head in terms of my career and life. During that year, in addition to completing the Fellows Program, I also completed a public policy fellowship, led trips for adults with developmental disabilities, and worked as a reporter and photographer on a cruise ship that sailed around Southeast Asia and Oceania.
I firmly believe in the importance of listening to our intuition and taking action accordingly. In doing so, at any given moment, we can reinvent ourselves. I am passionate about helping people design careers and lives that they absolutely love, and I would be more than happy to chat. Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about the TechnoServe Fellows Program and how you can apply today.