It’s hard to believe almost eight years have gone by since I graduated from Colorado College. I recently had the opportunity to return to campus as part of the Stratton Series, which allows students to meet members of diverse industries, learn about their career journeys, and seek advice for breaking into these fields. My visit was a strong reminder of the impact CC has made on me as I’ve developed in my career as a businesswoman.
As I presented to students on how to navigate the career journey, spoke as a guest in Professor of Economics Jim Parco’s Business Organization and Management class, and held roundtable discussions with student groups and faculty members, I realized how much CC has shaped my passions, leadership style, and sense of adventure. Here are five ways my CC education has impacted my life and career:
1. I was exposed to complex issues at the global level, which prepared me for graduate school and a career in tech.
After graduating from CC, I received a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to attend the University of Oxford for graduate school. My time at CC, in no small part due to the intimate class sizes and easy access to professors, prepared me to effectively communicate, debate, and engage with my classmates at Oxford. My academic studies at both institutions gave me exposure to complex political and economic issues at the global level. I realized the world was becoming borderless and saw the challenges people were facing across the globe around access to education, welfare, and economic security. I wanted to work for a company that had the ability to do something about it, and that’s why I joined Microsoft in 2012 and IBM in 2019. Technology has the power to change the world, and I want to be part of that change.
2. I developed tangible skills that have served me well as an international businesswoman.
I embraced the interdisciplinary, liberal arts nature of CC and majored in International Political Economy, where I gained a broad spectrum of knowledge that has served me well as a businesswoman. My economics courses conditioned me to possess good analytical and problem-solving skills. My political science courses gave me insight into international relations, the balance of power, and the impact of policies. Minoring in Journalism and serving as editor of The Catalyst honed my reading, writing, research, and communication skills. Serving as president of various student groups helped me cultivate skills around leadership and influence. All these experiences sharpened my competencies and gave me a strong foundation to deliver appreciable impact in a multinational corporation.
3. I learned how to create a liberal arts experience for myself in corporate America.
I intentionally targeted a job at a Fortune 500 company upon graduation because, like many new grads, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. Microsoft was attractive to me because it offered a plethora of options. Its products spanned across consumer and enterprise, the company had a global reach, and there were jobs in every business function imaginable. When I joined the working world, I quickly threw out the idea of a career ladder and instead focused on gaining a set of skills that would set me up for the long run. I’ve spent the past eight years working across various functions at IBM and Microsoft including sales, business development, financing, and marketing. In essence, I’ve built upon my time at Colorado College by creating a liberal arts experience for myself in the business world.
4. I figured out how to master the art of balance by immersing myself in different activities.
At CC, the opportunities were limitless. Because I was focused on one class at a time, I was able to fill my days with a variety of activities. I could go to class, meet with my study group, take a dance class, see a speaker on campus, attend a debate, write an article for The Catalyst, and go to a theme party all in one day. CC showed me that it’s important to find a company that allows you to exercise your curiosities and interests. One of my passions is advancing women in business. At Microsoft, I had the pleasure of co-chairing the Women@Microsoft group, where I led a group of 20,000+ women globally and was focused on attracting, retaining, and advancing women at the company. Similarly, I still love to write and currently publish articles on Forbes.com as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council.
5. I still take block breaks!
Block breaks were always a great way to relax and rejuvenate. To this day, I take a few days each month to immerse myself in something that allows me to exercise my curiosity, adventure, and imagination. My jobs at both IBM and Microsoft have included extensive travel, which often allows me to carve out personal time in order to unplug and explore. Over the past eight years, I’ve traveled to five continents and 25 countries for work. Turning business travel into short “workations” has made my trips more balanced and memorable.
In many ways, I didn’t (and still probably don’t) fit what people consider to be the “typical CC profile.” I’ve never been particularly outdoorsy, I came from a humble background, and I knew I wanted to work at a Fortune 500 company — a path most CC students weren’t interested in. Despite that, I always felt like I belonged at CC. The beauty of CC is that it offers so much room to pave your own path, whether that’s starting a nonprofit or going into politics or becoming an executive at a multinational company like I did. My time at CC helped me create a life that’s been beyond my wildest dreams. I’m so grateful to El Pomar Foundation for selecting me as a scholar, and to CC for instilling in me the importance of being a lifelong learner and adventurer (even in corporate America!)
It just goes to show: At the end of the day, you can take the kid out of CC, but you can’t take the CC out of the kid.
Rakhi Voria ’11 joined IBM as director of global digital sales in March 2019. Previously, she worked at Microsoft and most recently served as chief of staff to the corporate vice president of inside sales, where she played a key role in growing the team to 2,000 sellers globally. Voria has a strong passion for advancing women and millennials in business and shares her thoughts on these topics by speaking at conferences and writing articles on Forbes.com as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. She was recently named a Top Sales Woman to Watch in 2019.