I’m Moving to Peru

15 Sep

What

In a nutshell: I’m quitting my job before the end of this month, and moving to Tarapoto, Peru, to volunteer as an Economic Development Consultant for an NGO called Technoserve.

Longer version: I’ve worked as a management consultant for Deloitte Consultant, based in the Washington, D.C. area, for the past 3+ years, since graduating from college.  About two years ago, my friend Nick, a Maryland alum and Deloitte consultant like me, quit his job to go volunteer with Technoserve (TNS) in Swaziland.  For almost a year I have explored several possibilities for working/volunteering abroad; it took almost four months from the time I applied to TNS before I heard back about this opening.  Several rounds of interviews later, including proving my rusty Spanish was up to the task via long-distance Skype calls of sometimes dubious sound-quality, I received an offer to work on a USAID-sponsored development project.

I will be involved with the latest edition of Idea Tu Empresa (“Your Business Idea”; website is Spanish-language), a series of business case competitions run by Technoserve to cultivate high-potential entrepreneurs who will create or expand successful businesses.  Specifically, the competition seeks to assist people and businesses with limited resources, by supporting ventures which can create jobs, have high-profit potential, and benefit the “Base of the Pyramid” by providing new goods or services.  I will be serving as a consultant to a number of participants in the competition, providing advice on business planning, financing, legal issues, effective communication, presentation skills, networking, and more.

“You are bringing the necessary resources to small economic groups that have very determined ideas but lack the technique.”

— Idea Tu Empresa participant (source: IADB)

Why

I’ve always wanted to spend some time living abroad, and have wanted to live in a Spanish-speaking country so I can improve upon the Spanish I studied through high school.  This opportunity is ideal because it has a business/economics focus and makes significant use of the professional skills I have developed as a management consultant for Deloitte.   Additionally, because I will be volunteering for an NGO, I get to feel some pride in being a do-gooder.  (Although, of course, part of the allure of an opportunity like this is the adventure — after all, there are plenty of worthy volunteer opportunities in areas of need right here in the United States.)

I don’t know yet what I want to do with my career long-term, but I think this experience will be beneficial for a number of areas I’m considering: whether that is a large economic development agency (e.g. IMF, IADB, World Bank), entrepreneurship (working for a start-up), international business (I think it would be very interesting to work for a major consumer goods retailer selling in foreign markets, for one), or something else.  Having experience working abroad and developing fluency in another language opens many doors, and I’m looking forward to seeing what opportunities may come after this.

Where

I will be based in Tarapoto and work throughout the San Martin region of northern Peru, which will have a very different feel from the coastal capital of Lima or the Andean heights of Cuzco and Machu Picchu.  It is jungle country, with much of the region covered by the upper part of the Peruvian segment of the Amazon rainforest.

Tarapoto itself is a town of about 65,000 people (including the immediate surrounding area, the population is about 120,000).  From what I gather, it is generally a quiet town, and although an important local hub, is not on the vast majority of tourists’ itineraries when visiting Peru.  So I’m expecting to get a good glimpse of what rural/small-town life is like in Peru, and hoping that isn’t too sleepy for a city kid like me.  To that end, this dissenting comment posted to travel review site TripAdvisor was interesting:

“This is not an area for the faint of heart as armed robbery of tourists is common to the point of being almost routine so be warned… We were held up by armed bandits and were shocked how routine it all is.”

Truthfully, I don’t put much stock into that account.  From what I’ve heard about the place from people working there, and what I’ve read on expat blogs such as Tarapoto Life, I am expecting relatively uneventful small-town life.

* * *

Now that I’ve given notice to my employer, the next couple weeks are going to be a mad dash of packing up my apartment; acquiring a business visa and a health insurance plan; ensuring my vaccinations are up to date; canceling certain credit cards, bank accounts, and cell phone accounts I won’t use (while finding replacements to use in Peru); shopping; setting up the new netbook I just bought (actually, it was free thanks to cashing in all of my Deloitte AmEx rewards points on Amazon.com!); scheming a way to watch the NFL in Tarapoto; and cramming what I need to set up my new life into a couple of suitcases.

And oh yes, I’ll be needing to spend as much time as I can hanging out with friends and family before I head out!

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3 Responses to “I’m Moving to Peru”

  1. Andrew T September 16, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    Crrazy, hope you enjoy yourself. Tarapoto actually seems like a decent-sized town, I’m sure you won’t be bored, and the area sounds beautiful. Probably a bit hot and humid for my tastes, but on the other hand “cloud forest” just sounds damn cool! You better contribute to the Google Maps street view of the area by submitting photos so I know what it’s like for you around town 🙂

    • Andrew T September 16, 2011 at 7:48 am #

      (Also, good location for staying out of the way of the Bolivian army.)

  2. Ben S. September 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Whatup Jay. I’ve been at deloitte since April of this year (Wei-wei referred my resume in February). Somehow I never internalized the fact that you were working at the same place. Anyway, good luck in Peru. I’m sure it’ll be a lot more rewarding than worrying about metrics and firm contributions.

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