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Why I Don’t Work for the CIA

My grandfather thinks I work for the CIA. No, he isn’t senile. He isn’t obsessed with conspiracy theories, nor is he mentally disturbed. In fact, my relatives – including my parents – suspect he may be right.

In August, I began my first “real” job as an associate in SAP’s Graduate Academy, a cross-functional rotational program. I’m exposed to four different areas within the company over ten months before I choose one to apply for a permanent position. Throughout the program, we receive additional professional training – everything from how to properly use my silverware during a business lunch to how to clear slides in a PowerPoint deck. It’s a fantastic opportunity that exposes me to the variety of positions available in this behemoth of a company and allows me ample time to taste-test my options before committing to a single post.

So why would my grandfather ever think I was working for the CIA? Simple. I graduated from Princeton University this past June with a degree in History and certificate (minor) in Near Eastern Studies. I studied classical Arabic for two years. I wrote a 100-page thesis comparing the developments of Hamas and Hezbollah. Sending a resume into SAP was an easy decision for me: I had no idea what the company did at the time, but I knew I wasn’t getting favorable responses from the State Department and I needed to find employment before my impending graduation. But as my grandfather put it, “What technology company would hire a history major?  It’s a cover for sure!”

Why does my background matter? That’s the thing: it doesn’t anymore. I am of one of the Millennials – the buzzword being thrown around businesses recently to describe the generation born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. This generation is fast becoming both the bulk of the workforce and the main grouping of consumers, meaning we will drive business over the next several decades. As a member of this generation, my story isn’t atypical for the following reasons:

  1. )     Millennials do not follow a “traditional” career path.  A history major transitioning to a technology company right out of college isn’t just the norm: it is encouraged. I don’t have a background in technology or sales, but you can bet I’ve developed the skills to learn, research, and analyze whatever topic is thrown my way. It isn’t so much what one brings to the table anymore. Instead, it’s about approaching ideas that currently exist and asking how we can look at them in new, creative ways.
  2. )    Millennials think globally.  Part of the reason I wanted to learn Arabic was to better understand the culture of the Middle East.  Even if I never travel there, I work for an international organization that will inevitably do business in the region. While most business is conducted in English, a few words of greeting or gratitude in your client’s native language are simply a sign of respect. Millennials have grown up in a world where the internet connects the most remote corners of Earth together. Globalization isn’t an option these days, it’s a necessity.
  3. )    Millennials value width over depth.  I read my news on Twitter every morning, simply because the 140 character limit allows me to scan quickly enough to know the necessities and delve into article links that interest me more. The same applies to the Graduate Academy program: I can scan the options of projects and careers before I dive into a more permanent role I’m passionate about. Millennials see specialization as a death sentence: they’d rather be well-versed in several areas — with an in-depth look at a select few — than be a master at one particular area.

Simply, my grandfather and I are generations apart. My grandfather sees the options of a different era: a history major must either work in the area of her studies (in my case, counterterrorism), go to graduate school, or become a history teacher. But that’s not the situation anymore. Millennials have the abilities to think critically, globally, and widely, opening us up to a wide range of possibilities for our post-graduate future. That, or I’ve just outed myself as the worst secret officer in the history of the CIA.

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  • Nice story Lauren!

    I hope you’ll find a cool spot somewhere inside this very large company. Good to know they value diversity and ‘even’ history majors 😉 .

    Have fun!

    Cheers, Fred

  • I never realised SAP to be a cover-firm for the CIA! What an eye-opener! It all makes sense now.

    on a more serious note:

    Millennials see specialization as a death sentence: they’d rather be well-versed in several areas — with an in-depth look at a select few — than be a master at one particular area.

    I so can relate to that! Someone recently described my interests as “eclectic”. Now I understand why 🙂