Cara Hagan, MBA ’15 and one of CSIL’s brightest stars, connected with us about her new position in Quito, Ecuador and we can’t help but share our excitement. Cara is an inspiration to fellow MIIS students who hope to follow in her footsteps working in the international impact space.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been doing lately.
I completed my MBA at MIIS with a specialization in sustainable supply chain management. After MIIS, I joined MUJUS as a production manager in Quito, Ecuador. MUJUS is a social enterprise that produces contemporary artisan jewelry under fair trade practices. In this position, I have learned how to manage an efficient supply chain while maximizing the social impact.
Then, like any start-up employee, I had to exercise my versatility. These days I am temporarily working for MUJUS in New York to help with the busy holiday markets. Working with sales and distribution on the US front has allowed me to see all sides of this social enterprise. It is amazing to understand and be a part of the entire value chain, from sourcing raw materials in Ecuador to placing the product in a customer’s hand in New York. Although I am loving the lively environment in NY, I look forward to returning to Ecuador and our incredible artisan partners in a few weeks.
Why did you choose to work in the social impact space?
Prior to my MBA, I worked from an activist/NGO standpoint to fight social and environmental injustices that businesses commit in their supply chains. I then transitioned to researching and working with these issues from the business angle, as more opportunities were arising in the wave of responsible and sustainable business.
Then while at MIIS, I learned about social enterprise and impact investing as a new approach to international development. This is what sparked my interest in working for a social enterprise. I also wanted to gain experience in supply chain management. The production manager position at MUJUS was the perfect fit.
How did your experiences with CSIL impact your current path?
While working for CSIL, I worked closely with the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program. During the FMS trainings, I learned the motives behind the fellows wanting to work for social enterprises and impact investing firms. In my work and in attending conferences, I built an extensive network in the impact space, from FMS fellows to employees and founders of social enterprises and impact investing firms. This network was very useful when I was applying for jobs post-graduation. The individuals in this space are passionate and connected.
In fact, my network continues to prove extremely useful in my current job. For example, I have reached out to FMS fellows in the field working for impact investing firms such as Pomona Impact, and to fellows who work for similar social enterprises in order to find raw materials in the Andean region.
Above all, CSIL was helpful to me because I learned valuable lessons from the amazing CSIL directors and staff. I learned that 1) You can learn from every single experience in life, and 2) It is worth it to work hard, make sacrifices and do absolutely everything in your power to have an impact career.
These lessons have proved very useful in my current job. Working for a start-up and social enterprise has been both challenging and rewarding. My team and I learn as we go. We are part of an exciting journey of growth. I have learned not to be afraid to make mistakes, and that we are all in a process of self-improvement and self-growth, even the most experienced professionals.
Social entrepreneurs are driven, hard-working individuals. Working in a social enterprise is thrilling. From managing artisans in Quito to managing salespeople in Manhattan holiday markets, I Iove seeing the connections between production and sales, between success and social impact.