Aniela graduated in 2008 from Wesleyan where she majored in Economics and studied Spanish and Chinese. Graduating during the finical crisis, there was a lot of uncertainty, and jobs were hard to come by. She had to think a lot about what she wanted to do and how to get her foot in the door. She knew she wanted to do something taken seriously but also wanted to focus on making world a better place. In between her sophomore and junior year of college, she had visited China, exposing her for the first time to horrible pollution. Pollution "stopped being a concept and started being something you deal with everyday." She realized she took for granted how many natural resources we have in the US, especially due to exporting manufacturing to places that are now feeling the consequences.
With that mindset, Aniela decided to take a job in Beijing, China as a Business Development Associate assisting the commercialization of US technologies in China and working on clean energy projects. She spent 3 years there and learned a lot about living in a new area of the world with a novel culture. She developed a strong interest in sustainable development and realized that for her what matters is "not just sustainable development; it's sustainable community. It's not just the economy but also the people." Working in China, she had to overcome the hurdle of living in another culture and language. She says that you "have to learn how to be confident not being perfect." Even for simple activities like grocery shopping, you may not know how to communicate perfectly but you "just have to do it." I'm studying abroad next semester and will try to find my confidence as she did.
When Aniela came back from China, she decided to spend the summer working on an organic farm in Michigan. After chatting with someone about her background, she was advised to go talk to people at NextEnergy, where she was soon hired and moved to Detroit a few months later. She found herself intrigued with what is going on in Detroit stating that the same "issues here exist in a lot of places," but people don't see them on a daily basis. She acknowledges that the system broke here and let down a lot of people, and now she's motivated to think about why and to find a system that might be better. She's passionate about the human element of her work, how to use advances in technology to meet the needs of Detroit and its people and to then share that progress with other cities.
Her vision of social entrepreneurship is the idea that "companies should be adding value to society." The purpose of a company is to provide a product or service that is making people's lives better. The role of business is to create the product or services that people need, not just want to consume. Social entrepreneurship is a return to orientating the company around offering a real value to the world, more than selling things. Most of the companies NextEnergy works with embody this type of social entrepreneurship.
I loved getting to know more about Aniela. She's so young but has already lived in China and set up an amazing career for herself working on sustainability. I feel that I have a lot to learn from her.