Careers That Feed the Soul

In one room at the Upper School, Lisa Sherman ’91 is talking about working on her first congressional campaign at age 16. Alice Storm ’05 is talking about building an urban garden in Baltimore in another. Over at the Kogod Arts Center, Annie Weissman ’01 is asking the students in her session for one word they hope will define their future careers.

This was the scene for Let Your Life Speak, a morning to showcase the wide variety of careers Sidwell Friends alumni have chosen—and to examine why.

For Kathryn Bostic, becoming a musician and a composer wasn’t an easy choice, but it was the only one. “I was miserable doing anything else,” she said. In her keynote session that kicked off the day—one that was part talk, part concert—she spoke about the necessity of answering the call you hear, even if it’s not the safe thing to do. She also emphasized the basic need for restoration and quiet. “These are my hands on the steering wheel of life,’” she said. “And sometimes I need to pull on the side of the road and just idle.”

Bostic, who has earned an Emmy nomination, garnered several other awards, and composed the score for the 2019 film Clemency, also detailed how grateful she was that her success came later in life, and not on the schedule she had set out for herself. “If I had gotten what I wanted when I wanted it, it would have slipped out of my hands like water,” she said. “Life is not linear. It’s a footpath, but it’s also a labyrinth. Enjoy every step of it.”

After the large session, students split up for smaller group chats. Most of the speakers talked about their time at Sidwell Friends—what they remembered, what was different, what was the same. Sherman, who during her time was the only girl to play 7/8 baseball, described how the experience made her tough, a necessary quality for someone who spent her life in politics and now is the deputy chief administrative officer for the U.S. House of Representatives.

For Andrea Razzaghi ’78, the director at the NASA Office of Jet Propulsion Laboratory Management and Oversight, it was what she didn’t hear that made a difference. “I talked to the college counselor, and I said, ‘I like math, I like physics,’ and he said, ‘Well, why not study engineering?’” she said. “He didn’t say, ‘Oh, you’re probably going to be the only girl in all of your classes.’” He assumed she could handle it, so she did.

To wrap up the morning, Marcus Shaw ’95, the CEO of AltFinance, spoke at the closing session. He echoed Bostic’s wisdom from earlier that day. “The path to success is nonlinear,” he said. “It It is tough to believe that there is that of God in everyone when you’re standing across the room from people who hate everything that you stand for. But it is your burden to be optimistic.”

Let Your Life Speak isn’t just focused on professional success. Instead, it shows students how their future careers may be full of surprises, frustrations, failures, and triumphs—but most importantly, how their careers need to serve them and reflect their values. “Look less towards how your job makes you feel,” said Weissman. “And more towards if it feeds you.”

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