Career Q&A: Jay Nwachu ’04, Psychology

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do, how they got there, and the advice they’d give to future UMBC graduates. Today, we’re talking with Jay Nwachu ’04, psychology, who transitioned after a years-long career in the corporate world to Baltimore Corps, a startup that connects talent with nonprofit and social services organizations around the city.

jay-nwachu-new-photoName: Jay Nwachu
Current Job Title: Director of Development and Communications, Baltimore Corps
Grad Year: 2004
Major: Psychology

You mention in a recent interview with SparkVision that you came from a corporate background. What prompted you to make the switch to the nonprofit startup realm?

Like many college students, [my] goal of securing higher education was to graduate and make as much money as possible to change one’s economic situation. I also come from a family that was constantly working to establish some sense of security and until today, we saw it as something that could easily disappear in a moment’s notice. Going from the private sector to nonprofit and now to a startup nonprofit is not necessarily what one considers chasing security. Quite the opposite. But after being in the talent acquisition and management field for now almost 14 years, I have learned that some of the places we consider the most secure aren’t always so.

Switching to a startup has all the perks once could think of: working in a fast-paced culture where one is part of building something, where creativity runs free and results are clearly identifiable. It is a place for those who really enjoy what they do and want to put their entire beings into it. There are perceived challenges with “security” since a significant number of startups fail quickly but this is where interviewing an organization as much as [you’re] being interviewed comes into play. There is no such [thing] as 100% secure, but best judgement can be exercised with due diligence.

It isn’t for everyone, but for those seeking those benefits mentioned above, it is worth a try.

What is your favorite thing about the work you do?

I just recently switched from being in a role where I am worried about putting talented people in roles on a day to day basis, to development and communications, which is exciting yet challenging. One thing that I have learned in nonprofit life is that employees are more likely to give their all into the work for the mission if they don’t have to worry about the financial health of the organization on a day to day basis. Back to that sense of security. Another is that they are able to effectively describe what they do daily, especially its impact. I am happy to be in a role where I can help ensure that our staff are equipped with the resources and tools necessary to live out our mission. It is truly a privilege.

Was there anything about your UMBC experience – e.g. a particular class, professor, or internship experience – that’s affected your career path?

Where do I start? I came in as a computer engineering major and changed to psychology the first semester of my fourth year. I ended up doing the entire psychology program in [a year and a half]. The switch in major really came about because I realized that by [my] fourth year, I had way more fun growing as a campus leader, finding ways to ensure that those around me were on the right path. Campus leadership really showed me how much I did not enjoy coding and putting together [logic models]. It was a risky move that paid off.

I took the risk of changing majors after the McNair Program provided me the opportunity to do independent research the summer before my fourth year. I did a study looking at the [intersection] of technology and human behavior, which solidified my love for human behavior more than technology. In my very last semester, the Shriver Center provided me with an opportunity to be a recruiting intern at an insurance company in the area, that is where I fell in love with recruiting.

I had individuals like Dr. Yvette Mozie-Ross, the late Mr. LaMont Toliver, Ms. Cynthia Hill, Ms. Betty Glascoe, Mr. Donald Knight, Mr David Hodnett and others who didn’t let me take the easy way out of anything. They challenged my every assumption along the way and helped me see the bigger picture in life.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give an incoming UMBC student?

There is a lot of life to live beyond UMBC. The life you envision now might be what you end up with and it might end up the complete opposite. There is never going to be a time in life where anyone can really securely guarantee what future [he or she] wants. Hard decisions are made constantly to adjust, push forward and take a step back when necessary to live a fruitful life. Someone said it best: “the only thing constant is change itself.”

Watch our newest alumni cross the stage into the next phase of their lives here! Congratulations, Winter 2016 graduates!