Called to serve

When Sarah Daubenspeck ’00 graduated from Grove City College, she laughingly said she was “pretty convinced that the world was my oyster and I only needed to choose what I wanted to do.”

“I graduated truly believing I could change the world immediately,” she said. “Then you enter the job market and things are a little bit harder. I hit during the dot-com bust and was laid off several times. I was pretty naïve.”

Daubenspeck found herself in a series of jobs that were unfulfilling, but paid the bills. She followed her grandfather’s advice to “quiet down a little bit and put your head down and do good work.” Eventually, he told her, it would speak for itself. Looking back on that time now, Daubenspeck realizes the value of that early career struggle and the wisdom gained through the experience. 

“It was frustrating because I wanted to do more and felt I could do more, but I just wasn’t there,” she said.

Well, she is now. 

After those early struggles, Daubenspeck landed a job at global professional services company Accenture and has risen in the ranks over 14 years to become a managing director in Accenture Strategy, where she is part of the leadership of the CFO and Enterprise Value practice. She said her team helps companies “figure out where to go next and how as they navigate a rapidly changing landscape and new digital agendas.”

It’s a high-powered strategy consulting position that’s taken her around the world – and led to her selection earlier this year as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. The organization is best known for its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that draws luminaries from government, business, entertainment and academia. The Young Global Leader program brings up-and-comers from those spheres together with thought leaders, officials and executives to study, discuss and brainstorm solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems.

“The mission is to be a community of talent that is driven to solve complex global problems,” Daubenspeck explained. “It’s a community of highly motivated problem solvers, and it really is a bit of find-your-way, based on your passion and the skills you bring to the table. You have an opportunity to connect with this community and then, ideally, a new project, a piece of research or, in many cases, a company, a non-profit, advocacy for policy change and more can come out of it.”

It’s early days for Daubenspeck in the role, but she’s focused on improving the lives of women. It’s a subject she’s passionate about, largely as the result of her experiences abroad and exposure to cultures where the fundamental rights of personal safety and education are not inalienable for women. “Just the right to exist as a safe individual and use your brain,” she said. “It sounds foreign, but it’s not a right that women have everywhere.”

While working in Tanzania, her intellectual understanding of that fact crashed into the reality of a culture where rape was so prevalent – and tacitly accepted – that the government mounted a PR campaign to discourage it. “It was shocking to be looking at a poster that said ‘Real men don’t rape’ and to realize I was in a community that needed to explicitly state this in a campaign.”

“In some countries, the lives of women are effectively disposable and that just doesn’t feel like the way God created things to be. Coming out of Grove City with a strong faith I’ve always felt called to do more for the communities that I work in. I believe in leaving every city that my project teams are a part of better than when we landed. That means there is some sort of outreach on every program that I run, some kind of teaching aspect to what we’re doing with our team,” she said.

In India, where she was based for the better part of two years, that took the form of a leadership development team for women employed by the company she was working with. They focused on public speaking, management and budget skills, adopted an orphanage, using their skills to secure funding for it and improve conditions. After two years, Daubenspeck said, female representation on the company’s leadership team went from one woman out of 50 to 40 percent. In San Francisco, she partnered with Genesys Works to secure white collar internship opportunities for low income students at schools that don’t have access to business networks. It opened doors to professional opportunities that may have not been readily apparent or accessible.

“I think that being able to serve people in communities where their communities don’t serve them is something that I have taken away from my time at Grove City. It has very much shaped the way I’ve approached my professional career and fueled my personal mission as I think about the opportunities that I hope to have through the World Economic Forum process,” she said. 

“Now that I’m in a different position in a different stage of my career it’s time to get a little bit noisy about changing the world again. It’s time to get a little bit noisy on behalf of people who aren’t getting equal opportunities and to get a little bit louder and use the influence that I have to go after all those things I was so passionate about coming out of Grove City.”

“There are alumni of Grove City that are blessed with evangelical skills. There are alumni that are blessed with medical skills, alumni that are blessed business skills and more. I have not been called to preach. But I have been called to serve.”

This story originally ran in the Summer 2016 GēDUNK magazine. Read more HERE.

Called to serve

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