How Getting Fired – From an Unpaid Volunteer Job – Was the Best

Bread being fired in Malawi

Bread being fired in Malawi, on Mt. Mulanje

In 2013, I did something I never really thought was possible: I got myself fired.

From an unpaid volunteer job. Eighty-six hundred miles from home.

I love telling the story – it involves an incompetent NGO, and a CEO unaccustomed to underlings openly disagreeing with his grand plans – but it’s a tale for another time. For now, suffice it to say that I actively midwifed the process along, knowing full well what was about to happen.

Getting fired was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me.

Responsibility-less, I was able to spend the next five weeks traveling through Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya, which led to a few nice pictures, a lot of amazing memories, and some fantastic stories.

But more importantly, it also led directly to this: in a few weeks, I’m moving to New York City to work for a small, global healthcare-focused social enterprise startup.

The organization is called Gradian Health Systems. It manufactures and distributes an anesthesia machine designed for difficult environments – places where consistent electricity and functioning supply chains can’t be relied on. My soon-to-be boss, Erica, did a TEDTalk on the device and the organization’s philosophy, which you should watch here.

(Coincidentally, I listened to the talk for the first time almost two years ago as I was running around the Stanford University campus one evening after work, and thought it was a pretty cool idea.)

Earlier this year – after I was fired – I began consulting for Gradian (how this happened is the definition of serendipity, and also a good story), helping to establish a sustainable base for the machine to be sold, maintained, and repaired in Uganda. As part of the job, I visited almost two dozen hospitals in nearly every major city in Uganda to see how anesthesia was practiced (which featured heavily in my The Atlantic article on medical device donations).

In New York City, I’ll be living in the Upper East Side a few blocks from Central Park, working on strategy and business development for Gradian full-time. I’m very fortunate to have found a job with an organization doing global health right, and even more fortunate to have the chance to frequently travel internationally for the role.

So getting fired was pretty awesome – in 2013. Fingers-crossed it doesn’t happen again in 2014.

  1 comment for “How Getting Fired – From an Unpaid Volunteer Job – Was the Best

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *