White Mountain Alumnae/i Are Making Their Mark in 21st Century Careers

Long-term career choices may not always be at the front of students’ minds. However, the academic and co-curricular offerings available through a White Mountain education will help make students appealing candidates in the future, not only to colleges but to potential employers, businesses, and organizations.

Many future careers, such as organizational disrupter, custom body part manufacturer, brain implant specialist, and personal microbiome manager, among others, don’t even exist today. At White Mountain, teaching focuses on skills and problem-solving, not facts and figures. The School’s approach to pedagogy recognizes that faculty cannot just teach the right answers. Instead, it emphasizes research and critical thinking skills, in addition to quantitative reasoning and, above all, communication and collaboration. Students are encouraged to be curious and persistent but also reflective. White Mountain has always had a unique and exciting forward-thinking approach to learning with an emphasis on building skills for continuous learning and adaptation—experimenting, learning from mistakes, reevaluating, and adapting to changing circumstances. Additionally, the School’s culture of inquiry and small class sizes help students develop the skills and habits to become creative problem-solvers. The skills and habits taught as part of a White Mountain education are ones that correlate with success and that students will need to thrive, not only as dynamic learners but as future leaders.

The School asked a group of alumnae/i in from class years between 2010-2015 how their White Mountain education and experiences positioned them when they started their careers—and they still utilize the same skills they learned at White Mountain ten years ago. They related that it was at White Mountain where they learned to explore their interests and develop their passions. When asked to participate, Will Mazimba ’11 answered, “I am always happy to help with new and current students, and White Mountain’s mission to help them grow, as the School did for me.”

Mikaela Houghton ’11

Mikaela Houghton ’11 says, “In addition to a variety of different academic, cultural, and social interests, the students at White Mountain were a melting pot, and the diversity of the student population helped in opening my eyes to see what the world was like outside of my home community.”

Mikaela and others also say they appreciated the School’s focus on volunteerism. “My favorite activities were those that revolved around serving others, which has always been a personal value of mine.” Her volunteer experiences when she was a student at White Mountain were driving factors in her choice of a career, and her volunteerism continues today. “Throughout the spring semester of my senior year, I had the unique opportunity to work with a staff member to create a community service plan. For several weeks I worked with a local daycare to assist educators in providing a curriculum that would enhance students’ learning and preparation for kindergarten.”

“My love for serving others, and passion for education, was developed not only by my unique educational experience but also by the White Mountain community with its combination of inclusivity and diverse values. White Mountain was home to students who challenged me to think critically about what it meant to be a global citizen, and the academics challenged me to achieve excellence,” says Mikaela, recalling the energy, passion, and dedication of her peers and the adults in the community as integral to her experience, too. “The community at White Mountain is unlike any other.”

Mikaela previously worked in development at the Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network. She is currently the manager of affiliate growth and development at Raising a Reader, a national literacy nonprofit. She oversees the growth strategy for 300 national affiliates. She has received prestigious recognition for her work, including being named to the Young Nonprofit Professionals of Atlanta’s “30 Under 30” list in 2018. Mikaela was also selected to serve as an international consultant to the United States Embassy in London, focusing on the United Kingdom’s Renewable Energy Strategy—specifically, addressing offshore wind energy in learning how international collaboration can solve real-world problems. She is also a graduate student at Northeastern University, completing a master’s in nonprofit management.

Misha Ignatenko ’11

Misha Ignatenko ’11 grew up in southern Ukraine and attended White Mountain from 2009 to 2011. “Being at White Mountain was mind-opening on all fronts: being in the U.S. for the first time, making connections with new classmates, and appreciating the School’s emphasis on sustainability and the outdoors.” Inspired by his family and later by White Mountain, he believes, “If you’re not making the best use of your limited time on Earth, then you’re just not making the best of your life. Why not make the best of the limited opportunities, limited time, and limited resources that you get? Why not see what you can do to challenge yourself?”

At White Mountain, Misha took every opportunity to try new things. Being at White Mountain made him more open-minded and unafraid to explore new ideas and activities in and outside the classroom. Taking Advanced Placement courses in calculus, physics, and chemistry led to majoring in math and computer science in college and was the foundation for his current work as a software engineer. He hopes to start his own business one day and says he is always doing research and reading up on new ideas, and the current market, a practice he learned at White Mountain.

Misha previously worked at BlackRock, a financial planning and investment management firm, as a software engineer for three years, before joining Qualia, a real estate software developer also based in San Francisco, as a software engineer.

Lydia Chen ’11

Lydia Chen ’11 shares, “White Mountain encouraged me to be continuously curious and to solve problems. In class, Morning Meetings, projects, and Field Courses, students are always praised for thinking outside of the box and asking questions.” Lydia came to White Mountain from China, and though she was far from home, the mountain landscape reminded her of where she grew up.

She loved everything about White Mountain. She mentions the variety of sports, art classes, including ceramics and photography, music classes, and wilderness first responder classes, in addition to the Field Courses and clubs, such as Astronomy Club. “Even though nothing led directly to my career, everything inspired me to pursue more creativity.” At White Mountain, she says she also learned to be confident about herself and who she is. “It’s such an important and impactful life lesson to me.”

Like other alumnae/i, Lydia says “community” is the first word that comes to mind when describing White Mountain, “White Mountain staff and their families are welcoming, accepting, and compassionate individuals.” However, she also mentions “adventure” as an essential component of the School. “I had more adventures in the two and a half years at White Mountain than the rest of my life. I think it is adventure that is the common interest that connects everyone in the community.” Adventure continues to be part of her life post-White Mountain. She loves to travel and has been planning trips to a few countries every year, traveling solo.

Lydia is currently working as a tech analyst in classifications at DoubleVerify, an advertising tech company in New York. The company focuses on advertising fraud and inappropriate content, in addition to authenticating the quality of digital media for the world’s largest brands, ensuring viewable, fraud-free, brand-safe ads. Lydia works on the classification team helping the staff and reviewers improve classifications using algorithms across all the company’s sites, including pages, mobile/tv apps, and YouTube videos. She is also a freelance data analyst. She consults on machine learning, database architecture-related projects, and tutors students in Python, SQL, and machine learning algorithms.

Will Mazimba ’11

“White Mountain taught me so many things that have helped me in my personal life, and my career,” says Will Mazimba ’11. “One of the most important ones was how to navigate the world on my own terms, and not be afraid to jump in and take chances when they’re offered. From going on Field Courses, to group discussions in class, to one-on-one’s with my advisor, I learned how to talk to people, and how to make connections. That, in and of itself, is a huge skill to have when navigating the working world. One conversation could change the trajectory of your career, and that’s not a bad thing at all.”

In addition to favorites classes, Will mentions the variety of sports offered at White Mountain. “Sports was maybe one of the most influential parts of my education, because it drives home the point that you are always going to be part of a team, and need to understand how to work as such.” Whether you’re on a big or small team in your career, or you choose entrepreneurship to build a business, you will have to rely on others to help you get to where you need to go.”

To students who are considering White Mountain as a school to attend, Will advises, “Never be afraid to jump into something new, it could be the best decision you’ve ever made, and a fantastic learning opportunity. White Mountain creates an atmosphere that feels like home, and gives you the ability to explore who you are, and what you love, then supports that creativity with the necessary resources to help you find your passions. The amazing thing is that even if you don’t think you have a passion, White Mountain will give you something to be passionate about.”

White Mountain was “freeing,” according to Will. “[The School] provided the structure, freedom, critical thinking skills, recreation, friendship, and home that allowed me to get where I am today, along with all the relationships I’ve built and maintained along the way.” Will started his career working at WorldApp, a small, Boston tech company that has a focus on improving workflow operations via automating forms and surveys. After a year there, he became an engagement specialist at a financial tech company called Eze Software. He is currently a product manager at LogMeIn on the care support platform, supporting all the company’s customers on all their products.

In addition to the young alumnae/i profiled here, many others are pursuing a wide range of careers and graduate education in traditional and emerging fields. White Mountain provides skills that can be applied to all career choices and opportunities. An essential goal of the School is to help students and alumnae/i find something they love that will give them intellectual, spiritual, and personal fulfillment. At the heart of each White Mountain classroom is the belief that each student can succeed. Faculty and staff realize that the success of every student should not always be evaluated based on predetermined, external measures, and not only recognize different forms of success and interest but actively inspire their discovery. Faculty emphasize the basics, such as time-management and study skills, but also foster and encourage congeniality and adaptability, along with social responsibility, all areas that are essential to successful lives and careers.

The School aims to help students to explore the boundaries of subject areas offered at White Mountain, to seek connections to those pursuits which excite them actively, and to place their ideas within the context of their lives. The traditions of curiosity, courage, and compassion—both intellectually and spirituality—all resonate here.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a coeducational college-preparatory boarding and day school for 135 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

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