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Caryn Sowa is the current program manager at the freedom project at Wellesley college. She got her start in events management which eventually led to her working in companies such as the New England Patriots, Disney and the Boston theatre. Wanting a change of pace, Caryn switched to Academia where she is currently the program manager at the Freedom Project, a program which aims to promote conversations and boundary-breaking on campus for a plethora of issues related to freedom in all of its manifestations. This program can be viewed here.
What inspired you to pursue project management/ event management? Furthermore, what inspired the switch from primarily entertainment to the Freedom Project?
Approaching college, Caryn didn’t have a definitive field or ambition she wanted to pursue, this prompted her to go into a relatively encompassing business management degree. After a bit of travelling and an entry job, Caryn came across the opportunity to go into event management and seized it. While she had no prior experience in the field, her passion for it drove her to keep on applying, resultantly after a year she had got into her intended role. This role brought her all over the world where she was able to set up entertainment based programs for all sorts of clients. Afterwards, she began a job with the New England Patriots at the Foxborough Stadium where she would go on to take on the role of Entertainment Manager. This led her into further positions in the Arts and Entertainment area as consulting, working for Riverdance, Harvard Business School, the Boston Music Awards and the Boston Theatre. After taking a break, Caryn returned to the project management scene but wanted to pursue something new; Academia through the freedom project at Wellesley College.
Over time, have you observed the youth becoming more open to having their views questioned and having more conversations? If not, how do you think we can create a culture that fosters this kind of environment?
Caryn believes the most important factor is ensuring that freedom of speech is not only tolerated but encouraged. By building a culture of discussion and open communication, students are more open to having challenging and sensitive conversations. This in turn, drives better quality engagement and conversations. These conversations also start to entertain a plurality of views and opinions. Making students more comfortable in questioning their existing views and engaging in robust debate with others, in a safe space.
Can you think back to what was the most challenging project to set up and manage, what important lessons were you able to take from this experience?
Caryn referred to a point in her journey where she had just been hired to join the Boston Theatre as a manager. However, due to not possessing any prior experience in the specific company, Caryn was not ‘accepted’ in a way the other team members were. To break this barrier, she tried her best to portray her capability while adapting to the new environment, specifically in terms of working with the other members. Over time, Caryn says she felt as though the team grew to be a ‘family’. Caryn is evidently a believer that when we are young, different challenges build character.
If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?
The advice given to us by Caryn was something quite personal to her own journey. While it’s important to have determination in whatever you do, this should always be accompanied with building our self esteem and confidence. This comes through acknowledgement that it is okay to make mistakes as long as we possess a growth mindset. If we are able to accept and forgive ourselves for our failures, we will be able to take risks and learn a lot more throughout the course of our lives.
From the Guest Student
I’m very grateful to the Discere team for the opportunity to connect with Caryn Sowa and learn about her career journey. Our talk provided insights into the events management industry and growth in different work environments as an employee. I am in a similar position as she was at the start of her career and talking to her opened my eyes to a range of different possibilities as a business student that I hope to have the chance to explore. The advice she shared and her approach to the challenges she faced was inspiring and I believe that it can resonate with students in any discipline.
I have always been keen to discover the journeys of professionals and delve into their different mindsets. I’m excited to learn about the personalities that the Discere team interview next!
– Emily Jayamohan, Commerce Student at the Australian National University