Infinite Careers is a new collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.
MIT, SB Chemical-Biological Engineering (2009)
Tarikh Campbell is the Program Manager for Workplace Inclusion at Microsoft New England Research & Development. There he collaborates with many groups and individuals to develop new means of achieving the company’s diversity & inclusion goals, both internally and throughout the New England region.
Formerly, Tarikh was the Senior Director of Marketing at The Partnership, Inc., where he was responsible for driving the organization’s marketing strategies as well as administering the organization’s BioDiversity Fellows Program. Prior to joining The Partnership, Tarikh served as a Digital Marketing Manager at Ecovent Systems, a home energy startup where he developed, tested, and evaluated the online advertising strategy. Before joining Ecovent Systems, Tarikh was a Technical Marketing student at the Startup Institute, where he completed a career transition from engineering to marketing. During the program, he interned for OpenView Venture Partners, profiling the sales & marketing strategy of portfolio companies and making recommendations for improvement. Tarikh’s first role was Process Engineer in the Polymer Chemistry group at BIND Therapeutics, where he developed and characterized biodegradable co-polymers for an oncology drug formulation.
Tarikh was a peer collaborator in President Barack Obama’s 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program. He is also a frequent speaker on career trajectory at Startup Institute. He holds a B.S. in Chemical-Biological Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
What has been the most rewarding aspect of my career has been the realization of how much control I have in determining what direction I want to take it. After leaving the biotech industry in which I had worked for six years, and being laid off by a failing startup after six months, I made my third big career move. It was during this process that I truly understood how to utilize my network, determine how much of a fit I was for any one role, and successfully advocate for myself wherever I believed I was the right fit.
- What motivates you to do the work that you do?
Simply making progress that matters motivates me. Progress can mean a number of things, and sadly, most companies make progress in areas that won't help them improve, grow, or even survive. I see my mission as moving my organization in the right direction, at a pace that exceeds expectations but is grounded in reality.
- What is the biggest challenge you encountered in your career and how did you overcome this challenge?
The biggest challenge I have encountered in my career was a fear of being unable to change. My belief that all I was capable of doing was working in a lab prevented me from pursuing vastly different and interesting opportunities. I spent my first six years after MIT working in the biotech industry, not because I found my time there entirely meaningful, but because I was afraid to leave. Some number of those years could have been spent searching my interests for a new beginning, hopefully turning one into a more meaningful direction. What allowed me to overcome this challenge was witnessing friends make huge, non-traditional career leaps in the pursuit of passion. When I saw people my age parting with expectations they had coming out of college, and learning how to change in order to fit new environments, I was convinced that I was no less capable than they.
- What professional development activities do you participate in now?
I do a lot of 1-on-1 networking both at work and outside of it. I used to go to many large networking events after I left the biotech industry, and they were helpful at introducing me to a number of people that have had an impact on my career. Now I continue to foster relationships with those people through 1-on-1s, and engaging with new contacts on a deeper level. I have also taken workshops on a number of professional development subjects, such as: Understanding Organizational Life, Emotional Intelligence, Personal Branding, Cultural Fluency, Self-Efficacy, Storytelling, and others.
- Looking back on your experience at MIT, what advice would you give yourself if you knew then what you know now?
If I was to look back on my MIT experience, and offer myself advice, I would suggest choosing a highly interdisciplinary major or diversify the departments from which I took courses. I believe that much of what we discover about our passions comes years into our career after we may have been doing something we don't enjoy. By being encouraged to explore various interests at an early age instead of committing to one discipline, we can make the right decisions about the direction we want to take sooner rather than later.
- Do you have any tips for networking or job searching for current students and recent graduates?
My tip to students networking or job searching is to avoid doing it the normal way. I can't begin to tell you how many intelligent, experienced people go about applying for jobs through job-listing sites, company's jobs pages, and recruiting agencies. That's what everyone is doing, and the recipients of those job applications are being inundated. Your odds of getting looked at that way are low, and if you do, you're competing with people who on paper, seem exactly like you. If you really want to work for a specific company, you want the people you might eventually work with to get to know you and see why you're different from everyone else. This is where networking is key. Instead of applying to a job as a cold lead, find out who in your immediate network knows someone at that company. Ask for an introduction, and let that person get to know you in an informal setting. You can still talk about your passions, achievements, and goals, but you'll also be sharing your personality, values, and communication skills, all things you never see on a resume but matter so much to a company. This is also a good way to learn about the company from an insider, giving you way more information than you'd get from any website. With more info, you can decide whether this place is truly a good fit for you. If it is, the insider you just conversed with is likely to personally refer you for the position you're interested in, which will carry you a lot farther than just applying through the website.
- What is the best career advice that you have ever received?
The best career advice I have ever received has often been the hardest advice for me to follow. That advice was to never stay in a bad situation. It's sensible to ride out a bad situation for a while to see if it'll improve. But there may come a time when you realize you've sacrificed more than you should. And it is at that time that you should begin to reconnect with your network, and explore new opportunities. Once you find one that's a vast improvement over your bad situation, do not hesitate to resign. Do it respectfully and honestly, but don't let fear or hesitation stop you. It's bad for your psychological and emotional well-being, and it's a waste of your time. Sometimes we miscalculate what our experience at a company will be like. Other times, important factors change like your role or who manages you. Value yourself by not allowing yourself to stay in situations that are bad for you.
- Do you participate in any extracurricular or volunteer opportunities? If so, how do you manage your time and balance your professional and personal responsibilities?
I spend a lot of time running a dance company that mainly does hip hop dance. I also spend a decent amount of time teaching dance classes at studios and schools. I manage my time by having a highly regimented weekly schedule. I completely separate work from my extracurricular pursuits. On nights and weekends when I have dance-related responsibilities, I don't check work emails or spend time working on professional projects. Similarly, I don't spend time at work distracted by my extracurricular responsibilities. I use tools such as Google Calendar to carve out separate blocks of time for professional and personal pursuits.