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MBA Program Alumni Profile and Spotlight: Tiwonge Ghambi

Brandeis IBS MBA Alumna Spotlight

Tiwonge Ghambi, MBA '11

Tiwonge Ghambi, MBA '11
Malawi

University namesake Justice Louis Brandeis advocated for people to do well in business by doing good for society, a concept that Tiwonge Ghambi, MBA ’11, takes to heart. After working in accounting for several years, Tiwonge decided to focus her interest in corporate finance through the MBA program at Brandeis International Business School (IBS). She hoped to establish a career where her skills in finance could be applied toward a humanitarian cause. 

After positions in higher education, she began work at Open Society Foundations in New York, a philanthropic organization emphasizing human rights that fulfills her career goal of making the world a better place. 

How was your adjustment to living and learning in the U.S.?

It was overwhelming at first. Back home in Malawi, it was hard to find relevant books for my undergraduate courses. I relied mostly on my class notes. In the U.S., there were so many resources to use that I experienced quite a bit of culture shock at the start. The transition to student life was challenging as expectations of the American classroom are faster paced. I was expected to speak up and contribute on every topic. In the end, that transitional experience was the best life lesson. It taught me how to voice my opinion regardless of my audience and to frame communications to achieve my intended goal. 

What was your goal in getting an MBA at Brandeis IBS? 

I was eager to attend graduate school in a vibrant city like Boston, where I would be academically challenged and introduced to career opportunities and great mentors. For my career, I wanted to become empowered to influence the lives of marginalized groups using the latest in resources and tools. To a large extent, my goals were all met. From my perspective, success is about being useful and making a difference in people’s lives. I didn’t lose sight of that end goal, and in 2014, I moved to New York to join Open Society Foundations.

What does your typical work day look like?

I support the Open Society Foundation’s budgeting matters for our national and regional offices in South Africa, Kenya and Senegal. My normal work day spans multiple time zones, so I’m often navigating between conference calls on priority projects from as early as 6 a.m. I play a pivotal role in determining the specific tools and reporting requirements in our annual budget cycle and spend much of my time with finance directors in my portfolio. I don’t count how many hours I work; I just get my job done. 

What appeals to you about the finance world?

My work positions me at a central point where decisions are made to move funds toward entities and strategies that ultimately make the world a better place. I worked in the industry before attending Brandeis IBS and have always found it fascinating since its many moving parts shape how things get done in the global economy. Having a background in finance also allows me to apply my skills to causes that matter outside my job. I serve on the finance committee of the Philanthropy New York board of directors. The time I spend helping them with budgeting and investment decisions allows me to bring best practices back to Open Society Foundations while learning from other industry players. 

What advice do you have for students looking to make a difference in their industry?

Don’t undermine the possibility of making an impact in a completely new environment or country. Identify a mentor who can help you understand your capabilities and open new networking opportunities. Share your aspirations with your family and shape your career goals with the people and passions that matter in your life. Don’t be afraid to ask for connections with people whose interests and goals are similar to yours – it may change your life forever.