Things don’t always go as planned.

After graduating from the Broad College of Business, Anna Spindler’s (BA Marketing ’93) career took off. She thrived in supply chain management for companies like Fujimi Corporation and Toyota, but her path steered an entirely different direction: out the office, and into deep field work with the United Nations.

Spindler returned to the Broad College to share her inspiring story, and how to make an impact using their business skills outside of a traditional office setting.

Anna Spindler at the Broad College.

Spindler spoke to Broad College students about taking the business road less traveled, and making an impact around the world

In 2005, Spindler accompanied her father on a medical mission trip to Honduras. Her father suggested that she go to the market to buy supplies, and work through the logistics of transporting the supplies to the mission site. When she returned to the United States, she fell ill and spent a few days in the hospital. When a friend of Spindler’s visited her, she joked that Spindler would never have to repeat this experience; but Spindler reflects saying, “Actually, I was laying here trying to figure out how to be doing that work full-time.”

Spindler researched ways to maximize her business expertise through humanitarian work, and after a full year had passed, she received a phone call offering an opportunity she couldn’t refuse: The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) asked her if she would like to take a post in Pakistan.

With only a 20-day window to get her affairs in order, Spindler headed to Pakistan for her seven-month post. She packed just one bag, and immediately immersed herself in an entirely different world than she ever saw before, and got right to work.

Occasionally, Spindler will spend time in an office, but she prefers to be in the field. Her current position as Head of Global Supply Chain and Logistics for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) took her to northern Uganda to work with South Sudanese refugees. Spindler estimates that by December, the UNHCR will have helped relocate 450,000 people. “Not only are you moving people, but it’s families and all their belongings,” said Spindler.

“In the deep field, you have to be a quick thinker, and be able to make decisions under stress, especially in emergency work,” said Spindler. “Problem solving requires one to be agile and flexible with resources because when the truck tips over carrying supplies, there is no tow truck; but, there is brute force and a creative use of available resources,” said Spindler. “I could not imagine working anywhere where I don’t have a team of 20 people with 16 different nationalities. I absolutely love it,” she added.

While some business professionals dedicate time to volunteerism to causes they feel passionate about, uncommon is it to find those whose careers follow that path. “You always hear people say they want to work in non-profit but they don’t always know how to adapt it. It’s really awesome to see Anna working for the UN, and making a career out of it,” said Sabrina Vernier (Hospitality Business ’18).