Molly Meyer is in the spotlight as we discuss ambitious this week. She might not own up to being the world's greatest mathematician, but defines her success by the opportunities that she seizes. She inspires us, and we hope she inspires you. Thanks, Molly!
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO RIGHT NOW?
I just took a job as a communications adviser for a public health consulting firm in Boston called John Snow, Inc. (not the Game of Thrones character, unfortunately). Essentially that means I help public health experts document the success they're having saving people's lives, preventing disease, and bringing medical supplies to people who need them in some of the most vulnerable areas in the world. It's a fantastic company and I've had the opportunity to see some amazing things, including meeting some of the health workers in Liberia who worked to eradicate Ebola while risking their own lives.
I finished graduate school about a year ago where I studied international relations with a focus on development and Africa-- I still can't believe it's already been that long! I still really miss school. While I was in graduate school I worked in the press office at the United States Mission to the United Nations, where I was able to work under two fabulous diplomats, Susan Rice and Samantha Power. Before that I studied journalism at a very tiny school in the Midwest, where I'm from.
WHAT IS YOUR PASSION? HOW DO YOU LIVE IT OUT?
I'm most passionate about sharing information to help people understand the world around them. I think it's probably the journalist in me, but I find that I'm happiest when I am able to help people learn something new or think about life differently. Often, this is through storytelling or imagery, but sometimes it comes from sitting down to talk with someone I don't know well about hard topics like politics and faith. I think this desire strongly influenced the field I'm in, but it's also been a determining factor in my friendships, especially for my friend group from college. "Going out" with us pretty much always means discussing contentious issues over whiskey and then all agreeing to disagree.
YOU CURRENTLY LIVE IN BOSTON. HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR FREE TIME?
Lately, I've been playing tour guide to my boyfriend, Karl, who recently moved to Boston. We were long distance for over a year, so we're both pretty thrilled with being in the same location for more than three days at a time! One of the great things about Boston is that it's a train ride or short drive away from a lot of great places, so we're able to see friends in New York or D.C. pretty easily but just as conveniently get to some great hiking trails. I'm a big fan of the East Coast, although I'm a Midwesterner at heart.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES?
I read a lot, especially the news, but my favorite things are traveling and photography. I've pretty much always have my phone out taking photos, but lately I've been taking some classes and trying out new techniques to expand my abilities, which is a nice creative outlet. It's very convenient that my job requires me to travel internationally fairly frequently, but I also love visiting friends and family around the United States.
WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS?
I'm constantly in awe of my "surrogate moms." My own mother passed away four years ago and she was pretty incredible on her own, but she also created a network for me of some of the most thoughtful, kind, and feisty women I've met. In her absence, they are wonderful reminders of unconditional love and sources of unflinchingly honest advice.
PEOPLE HAVE DESCRIBED YOU AS AMBITIOUS. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
I think my mom was the first one to describe me that way. In my baby book she recorded a quote from me at age four when I proclaimed in Target, "Molly has to go everywhere!" It's still true. I think early on, my mom recognized that I'm not the type of person who sits still or stays quiet for very long.
WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS AMBITIOUS?
Ambition itself is a complicated topic, so the answer is both yes and no! On one hand, when I was growing up, I was never very good at school. In fact, I nearly failed a grade in elementary school (I'm staggeringly bad at math), so I don't usually think of myself as an overly academic or successful person.
Somewhere along the way I realized that education was a way for me to channel my curiosity and that it was OK for me to be better at some things than others. Now, I think my drive doesn't necessarily come just from ambition or a desire for success, although that's certainly nice. I work hard and explore opportunities in part because it's part of my identity, but mostly because I genuinely find a lot of joy from what I do.
HOW DID YOU FIND YOURSELF IN THE FIELD YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN?
Two years ago, I had $17 dollars in my bank account and had been rejected from a few dozen internships, so I sent in a "hail Mary" application to my current company. After just a few months I fell in love with the company and have loved building relationships there over the last few years. I ended up in the international development/politics space in general because of a fantastic professor I had in college who forced me to speak my mind and think through issues critically.
LOOKING AT YOUR RESUME, YOU'VE DONE A LOT OF TRAVELING. HOW DO THOSE EXPERIENCES IMPACT YOU TODAY?
My first trip, at age 15, was one of the pivotal moments of my life. Feeling out of my element in the midst of unfamiliar culture made me feel small for the first time. The humility and curiosity that I felt still drives a lot of my interests and work. My longest trip, a nearly four month stint in Africa, was one of the hardest and best things I've ever done and actually was the tipping point for me to pursue graduate school.
WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION?
My grandmother is the bravest woman I know. She's been passionately in love with my grandfather since she was 17 years old and now that he has dementia, takes care of him every day. I love her wry sense of humor, knowledge of gospel and jazz, and ability to keep me honest. Someday, when I'm in my 70's, I hope I am still beating my friends at cards, sneaking peach champagne, and making the world's best chocolate chip cookies.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO GET INTO YOUR FIELD?
I would tell them exactly what I have to remind myself on a regular basis: You don't have to follow anyone else's life plan or any kind of norm if you don't want to . No matter what career you choose, at the end of the day, doing what inspires you and makes you excited is the best way to live.
Check out more from Molly below!
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