Two alumni from the Gates Foundation offer advice to students

Almeera Anwar (L) and KC Cowen (R) with Department Chair David Domke. Photo by Victoria Sprang.

Almeera Anwar (L) and KC Cowen (R) with Department Chair David Domke. Photo by Victoria Sprang.

Over a dozen Communication students joined recent grads KC Cowen (B.A., 2008) and Almeera Anwar (B.A., 2012) for a career chat over lunch. Cowen and Anwar met through the Association for Women in Communications (AWC) during their days as students and now both work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They landed their jobs through a temp agency, sharing with the students that this is an excellent avenue in an increasingly competitive job market. Each student walked away with a copy of an article recently posted on the UW Professional and Continuing Education site about how temporary or contract work functions.

Both Cowen and Anwar gave a straight talk about working for such an internationally recognized organization. At the beginning of each day, said Anwar, “it’s just a job” with all of the day-to-day tasks any job requires. She arrives at her cubicle, checks her email, gets a cup of coffee, goes back to her email, creates spreadsheets or communication pieces, or any number of tasks that she needs to do to help the people she works for do what they need to do, to help the people in the field do what they need to do in order to deliver the vaccines.

Not all nonprofits are the same. The Gates Foundation employees get a laptop and a smartphone – a great perk, but one that comes with the responsibility of being available to respond quickly and sometimes after regular work hours. The pace is fast at their job and they both love what they do. They stressed to the students to not assume that their first job out of college has to be a bad job. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” quoted Anwar.

“Being a soon-to-be graduate of the Communication department with a strong interest in global health, meeting with KC and Almeera was a huge benefit,” one student said. “What they do is right up my alley, and I was so happy to speak with them afterward. Because of the meeting, I now have an opportunity of speaking again with them in the near future.”

Another student said, “I learned many lessons and got several tips of how to behave in a professional manner. I just wished the meeting was longer, but I had to leave early to go to my next class.”

The career chat is part of our Communication Works! series, offering professional development events throughout the academic year.

About the mentors:

KC Cowen was recently promoted to Senior Assistant on the Global Health Financial Planning and Analysis Team. She is responsible for providing high-level support to the Global Health Program Chief Financial Officer. She previously worked as a Program Assistant on the Global Health HIV Team, responsible for team-wide coordination, event planning and relationship management with grantees and partners. Before the Gates Foundation, she was employed at the Medina Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the University of Washington Office of Development and Alumni Relations. Cowen is a proud 2008 alumni of the University of Washington and owes her professional success to the connections and skills she developed as a student in the Department of Communication. She continues to give back by mentoring current Department of Communication students. In her free time, she enjoys walking Green Lake with her new husband Brian.

Almeera Anwar is a Program Assistant on Vaccine Delivery. While in college, she participated in the Dream Project, First Year Programs, Association for Women in Communications, Residence Hall Student Association, Associated Student, UW Leaders, and Relay for Life. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Anthropology. She did a Study Abroad in Switzerland, which was an intensive study on “Making Place: Tourism, Culture and Global Communication.” She considers herself an advocate for women and girls, education and cancer research. In her spare time she enjoys digging into a good book, trying out a recipe or exploring a new glass of wine with friends.