3 Questions with Jonathan Mazumdar, A09, Co-Founder of Growth Teams, Startup Nonprofit

Welcome to “3 Questions with …”, a recurring feature on the Career Center blog. We’re asking alumni of all graduation years and career interests to share a bit of their experiences and advice. 

Jonathan Mazumdar, ’09, Co-Founder of Growth Teams, a Startup Nonprofit

1. In just a few sentences, please tell us about your current job/graduate program/vocational endeavor.

I’m currently co-founder of Growth Teams, a startup nonprofit that advises governments to problem solve for economic growth. We support developing country governments to translate the plethora of research and policy reports they receive into tangible actions on the ground. Prior to this, my career journey included stops across India and Africa in government advisory (Tony Blair Institute), venture capital impact investing (Acumen Fund and Sangam Ventures), and rigorous impact evaluation (J-PAL).

2. How did your time at Tufts influence your career journey?

Tufts provided my first taste of intellectual passion — being deeply engrossed in new ideas and the act of learning. This was a big deal. Until college, schooling felt mechanical and dispassionate — it was an escalator of convincing gatekeepers to let me into prestigious institutions. In particular, courses in religion and math had a big influence. Finding more intrinsic motivation really opened up my eyes to a world of new possibilities. I came to Tufts for its strength in international relations…and then never took a single class. I ended up majoring in Mathematics and Quantitative Economics. When I look back, my time at Tufts was about learning to think critically, to write and communicate clearly, and to learn independently. Those broad, flexible skills have been the most valuable and enduring throughout my career so far, across a range of roles.

Finally, the exposure to new places and experiences started me on a journey of self-discovery to actually learn about what I like to do. Studying abroad in Argentina gave me a hint that I wanted to live and work outside the US; a summer internship in investment banking made it very apparent that I did not want to do that. These real world experiences gave me some general direction and ultimately a place to start my career.

3. What advice would you offer to a student who wants to pursue a career path like yours?

I’m not sure you’d want to pursue a path anything like mine — I’ve been searching for what I want to do when I grow up! So I’d say go do that. Go experiment with different fields. Try lots of stuff. The switching costs are lower when you are younger, especially right out of school, and the information value to new things is high (i.e. you learn a lot). There is a tradeoff between exploration and exploitation in decision science, and generally, you need to explore first.

Also, get out there and get your hands dirty. For example, if you want to work in international development or emerging market investing like me — grab your bags and go live and work in developing countries. The experience is invaluable, and you can’t get it from Cambridge or DC. And remember that you’re looking for a career that you want, not one that is expected of you. There are a whole bunch of social pressures and expectations, particularly in a high-performing environment like Tufts. Try to be comfortable being different, if that’s what you want.

Get advice and information through career conversations

Chat with people like Jonathan in our flash mentoring database, The Herd

By Kelly Roberts
Kelly Roberts Assistant Director