Alumni Spotlight: Shane Mulligan, GHD ’17

Tell us about your current role: I recently started a coffee company, Elysian Coffee Roasters! I’m doing a little bit of every job of a complex organization, but on a smaller scale for now. The unique aspect of this company is that we’re integrating social responsibility. Coffee companies have done a lot of great work with farm owners, but not much with their poorer neighbors who don’t own land. My goal is to show how coffee can increase the rate of economic development of the communities from which the coffee comes, not just increase the income of individual farmers. To make this happen, we’re our investing our resources in nutritional programs for children in those areas.

How did your experience at GHD prepare you for this work? The idea for the coffee company began as a project in Derek Byerlee’s course on global value chains and incorporated ideas from Holly Wise’s course on the role of the private sector in development. Overall, the GHD program took my experiential knowledge and enhanced it by providing me with new tools to analyze and assess that knowledge with confidence. Every day I find myself using different skills I learned!

Tell us a bit about the non-traditional career path you took: After graduating from GHD my classmates and I began looking at all of the usual suspects for job opportunities; government organizations, consulting positions, and contracting roles.  After a lot of thought and discussions with previous professors and classmates, I decided to start my own company.  The business model was originally conceptualized during a class project, a for-profit company sourcing commodities from developing communities with a built in corporate social responsibility (CSR) program.  The difference being that this business model would aim to incorporate a CSR program that focused on contributing to the long term development of the communities from which the business profits rather than incorporating CSR programs for public relations purposes only.  While this may be a lofty goal, I determined this was a worthwhile concept to prove as a viable business model.  After discussions with professors and professionals I was convinced that there was no greater opportunity to try out a project like this than before jumping into a career path.

What was your most memorable moment while a GHD student? Pulling an all-nighter the first month of classes. I was stoked to be back in school, but underestimated my ability to jump back into study mode. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone and had some great company (names withheld).

What advice would you give to current or future GHD students? Take a course outside your comfort zone and on a topic you only know little about. You’ll know 100% more than what you did when you began the course and overcoming ignorance is challenging and great practice of humility.