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April 25, 2021

Ms. Natasha Bilimoria Shares Critical Career Insights Into Global Health

By Samantha Zaragoza (NHS‘22)

As a first-generation college student, thinking about my next professional steps after Georgetown has been daunting. It feels like there are so many opportunities available, yet every opportunity seems out of reach or incompatible. Ms. Natasha Bilimoria, deputy assistant administrator at the Bureau of Global Health at U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), spoke with the Conversations in Global Health students about her current position and shared insight into her career path. Ms. Bilimoria reflected on the knowledge she has acquired throughout her decades-long career in private and public sector institutions such as the Social Security Administration, the White House, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and Glaser Foundation.

There is not a rigid career path, and there is no right or wrong step. After graduating from the University of Chicago, Ms. Bilimoria was interested in law but was unsure how it would relate to her interest in global health. While applying to law schools, she discovered there were social work tracks within the law field. She was surprised and had not thought about social work as an option; however, she decided to go to a graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania. During this time, there were limited global health learning opportunities, but she continued to shape her career choices based on her interests, and eventually, they led her into global health.

Another significant insight Ms. Bilimoria shared with the class was that you never stop learning. At the beginning of her career, Ms. Bilimoria was on the economic reform task force for the Clinton administration, where she worked alongside economists; even though she “had no background in economics,” she learned on the job and was grateful for the people who gave her a chance. After this, she decided that she wanted to work in the global health field. She said, “Every step has been at the start of something that was supposed to get bigger.”

During her talk, Ms. Bilimoria iterated how her interests have helped give her a new perspective or re-focus on different aspects of her career. When USAID approached her about a position within the agency, she was hesitant about how compatible the job would be with her past working experience because it was “something very different.” A friend told her that it would be global health, but on a broader topic, something that she had not done before, and that it would be a fantastic opportunity for her. She accepted the job and is simultaneously learning and managing. The key takeaway for me was: do not be afraid to take on a new role or deviate from the path you laid out for yourself.

This conversation with Ms. Bilimoria has given me a lot of guidance about possible career paths and next steps after Georgetown. We should allow ourselves the flexibility to explore our interests, and no matter at what point in your career you are, you will always be learning something new.

Samantha Zaragoza (NHS‘22) is a third-year undergraduate student at Georgetown University studying global health and Spanish. She is a student in the Conversations in Global Health course.