In this edition of GOLD Nuggets, our newsletter for graduates of the last decade, we introduce you to two of Clark’s international GOLD alumni, Mariana Ivette Lopez Davila ’13, MPA ’14, and Humza Hussain ’12.
When did you graduate and what did you do at Clark?
Mariana Ivette Lopez Davila: I graduated from Clark twice! I did undergrad in psychology and political science in 2013 and a fifth-year MPA in 2014. I did a lot of work with the International Students Association (ISA) and the annual Gala.
Humza Hussain: I graduated in 2012 with a degree in economics. I was actively involved in the ISA and the Clark Social Entrepreneurship Club and also was a resident adviser for a few years.
Where are you both now? What have you been up to?
ML: After graduation, I moved to D.C. There I worked with bilateral aid organizations such as USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help them develop and improve systems to track project performance, with the aim to help these organizations be more effective at improving people’s lives. My work took me to places like Ethiopia, Timor-Leste, Thailand, and Pakistan — where I got to catch up with Humza!
In August of this year, I took a break from the professional world and moved to Sweden to pursue a master’s in environmental management and policy at Lund University — we need more people working on preventing the world from boiling.
HH: I initially moved back home to Lahore, Pakistan, until about two years ago when I moved to Karachi. I actually started my own fin-tech startup, where after years of hard work, continuous pivots, and a whole lot of luck, I created Pakistan’s first fully digital micro-finance institution —Tez Financial Services. My company is focused on improving Pakistanis’ access to finance by leveraging modern technology. Banks in Pakistan usually take 30 to 45 days to process a loan or a credit application; Tez does the same within a few minutes.
What about hobbies? Do you have any new or developing ones?
ML: My main hobbies right now are bike touring, globetrotting, and kombucha brewing. In the past four years, I have learned a lot about bike touring and have done many exciting rides, including biking the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo, and the Great Alleghany Passage from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.
HH: My schedule is pretty tight and much of my day is spent at work. The one thing I’ve kept going since my Clark days is cooking. Whenever I have a tough day, I cook up a storm and call some friends over to share a meal.
Do you have any ‘adulting’ tips or advice you can share with your fellow Clarkies?
ML: To challenge convention, you have to take risks. Don’t let uncertainty — or a preconceived notion of what you should do — stop you from doing it. If you’re curious about working abroad, go for it. If you want to work on a political campaign or volunteer with an international movement, do it. You can always rejoin the labor force later and do what “everyone else is doing.”
For my fellow international friends: Finding a job and obtaining a visa can be a very stressful and challenging endeavor. Try to identify cities that are friendliest to internationals, such as New York or Washington, D.C., and reach out. There are many of us out there who can help in a lot of ways. But know that if you don’t get sponsored, it’s not the end of the world. I have many friends who moved back home and are living amazing lives doing work they love.
HH: Yes, I can definitely agree with Mariana. While I miss my Clarkies in the U.S., it’s been great being back in my home country. My advice is to never undervalue your worth. While working as a risk analyst, analyzing various micro-finance organizations, I saw a gap between the 154 million Pakistanis and the lack of easy access to finance. That’s when I decided to quit my job and work on my own startup. I still vividly recall pitching my startup to one investor after another, receiving one rejection after another. But I didn’t let myself get down, and I persevered — because deep down I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew this is what I needed to do, and I knew I could get it done. Hustle, hustle, hustle!
My parting notes echo Mariana’s. To Clarkies and “Harry Potter” fans alike: “Help will always be given to those who ask for it.”