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Pacific student from Kenya finds purpose here, lands job

May 7, 2019

Lucy Kamau is a fan of shifting forces and finding different ways to approach problems. That interest has led her to applied economics.

“It’s a changing dynamic and so it allows you to think about things in different ways,” she said. “You’re given tools to understand how things work, but you adjust it to how things change and that's what I really love.”

Kamau has learned a lot about adapting since she moved to California from her home in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2014. Her parents encouraged her to study abroad after high school, and she already had relatives in the Sacramento area. Her aunt, Perpetual Kamau, received her PharmD from Pacific’s Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy in 2008.

Kamau said her two biggest adjustments in California were the weather—temperatures are more extreme here than they are in Kenya—and the language.

“We speak British English in Kenya,” Kamau said. “Saying ‘petrol’ instead of ‘gas,’ ‘boot’ instead of ‘trunk.’ Just weird things that you would never think of. Driving on the opposite side of the road. That was scary.”

When Kamau arrived at Pacific, she already knew she wanted to study economics, but it was through professor Sharmila King that she fell in love with macroeconomics, which focuses on large-scale factors, such as interest rates and national productivity.

“In particular, she loves international finance,” King said. “Given her background, it makes sense she’d be interested in global matters. That’s her passion.”

In addition to her classes, Kamau is treasurer of Pacific’s chapter of the economics honors society, Omicron Delta Epsilon, and project manager for the Integrated Development Group, which provides business consulting for nonprofit and sustainable development organizations.

She is also the chief investment officer of the Student Investment Fund (SIF) in the Eberhardt School of Business, an opportunity she called a “game-changer.”

“I now understand how to value companies,” she said. “I get to recommend my stock. It’s exposed me to a world I never knew I could go into. I am now considering a career in the finance world because of SIF.”

Kamau will get to use the skills she learned at Pacific in her new job as an underwriter at the Travelers Companies. She interned at the insurance company last summer after learning about it through the Eberhardt Career Management Center. She received more information from the university’s Career Resource Center and applied on the Tiger Jobs website.

The internship allowed Kamau to work on two company projects, make two presentations and travel to the company’s headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut.

Her supervisor commended her for going above and beyond, offering solutions and recommendations that managers were not expecting and thinking outside the box.

The internship went so well, she was offered a permanent job last fall—months before she was to graduate. Kamau was allowed to choose between the San Francisco and Walnut Creek offices. She chose Walnut Creek and says she looks forward to working in the millennial-friendly workspace.

“I love the work-life balance that they have. They allow you to set your hours. It’s not 8 to 5,” she said. “They have more open space. Even though you have your own space, there’s an open setting that allows collaborative work.”

As she gets ready to transition into the work world, Kamau looks back at the change she’s been through and the opportunities she’s made the most of.

“People should never feel limited, and they should never close off their ideas because there’s so much more that could happen than what you think,” she said.

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