The World Trade Center Institute (WTCI) works with globally-minded business leaders every day. But few in our vast network have the same extensive lived experience of Bowe Fellow Sergey H. The director of global risk and compliance for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) boasts a career that spans multiple continents and has always been driven by a goal to put other people first.
Born in Armenia, then part of the USSR, Sergey was a recipient of foreign aid for many years. In 1988, when he was a teenager, the devastating Spitak’88 earthquake in his country left an estimated 38,000 dead and thousands more injured. And a few years later, the collapse of the USSR led to war and further destabilization. These formative years impressed upon Sergey the importance of foreign aid, and inspired him to pursue a career with CRS. That career took him on a path to the Middle East, multiple countries in Africa, and, finally to CRS’ headquarters in Baltimore, where he took note of the World Trade Center building in the Inner Harbor.
“I fell in love with the state of Maryland and Baltimore City, and everything connected to it, especially people” Hayrapetyan said. “I took the light rail every day to work. It was a perfect opportunity to learn about the people and the community and I really connected with people. I came across WTCI and was very interested. As I started attending WTCI events, I realized how many great global organizations are based in Maryland.”
That is when he decided he wanted to participate in our next Emerging and Developing Global Executives (EDGE) program, which started in the fall of 2021. EDGE participants, also called Bowe fellows, are business leaders with at least 10 years of experience that are hoping to join the C-suite. The program immerses fellows in some of the Mid-Atlantic’s most dynamic companies with a global footprint.
“When I was selected, it appeared that, in CRS, many people had attended the program,” said Sergey. “They started writing me to say congrats and, ‘oh you know we also went through the program.’ I was very supported and very excited.”
As a natural networker, EDGE was fertile ground for Sergey. Both he and the 23 other members of his cohort would agree that he came to every session with a question ready for everyone.
“What do you do?”
“What does your organization do?”
“What types of solutions are you trying to find?”
For Sergey, networking is just part of being a good leader. He believes that you might have the skills and the vision and the execution, but if you do not know who to call, you are handicapped from the start.
“In my career, I’ve probably learned more through networking and receiving knowledge through others more than from anywhere else,” said Sergey. “It energizes me, those events. To discover and learn about certain topics that I naturally would not go and say, ‘let me study this.’”
His EDGE cohort visited Maryland stalwarts like McCormick, Under Armour, Stanley Black & Decker, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. At every stop, Hayrapetyan was looking for ways to collaborate, and combine the global reach of CRS with the specific expertise of each company.
“How can we help each other to achieve our objectives together?” said Sergey. “Because it seems that our missions can be complementary in a particular geography or field. With companies like McCormick, for example, who is a big driver for agricultural development in the developing world, collaborations with global relief and development players like CRS and other public-private partnerships can bring development in the neediest communities by reducing dependencies for relief and getting on the path of sustainable economic development.”
As a seasoned networker, Sergey knows that not every connection formed at an event, or a party is going to create a long-lasting bond. There needs to be reciprocity to form a relationship that will continue to flourish. He estimates that, to make the same depth of connections he made during the EDGE program, would require 10 to 15 years of networking at typical work events. And for someone looking to help others and create lasting change in the world, that opportunity is priceless.
“It is a unique opportunity. I am planning to stay very involved. I have already approached many people to just tell them why I think they would be a good fit for the program and how it would benefit them and their organization.”
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