‘Doing something you love doesn’t feel like work’

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Beckie Callahan and professor Ulrike Schaede

How alumna Beckie Callahan transitioned from the tech sector to a nonprofit

In 2022, Beckie Callahan attended a program supported by the National Association of Japan-America Societies and Keizai Koho Center, where her former adviser, Professor Ulrike Schaede, was speaking.

This chance encounter would drastically change the trajectory of her career, leading her from the tech industry to a role as president of the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth, a nonprofit organization that works to further mutual understanding and ongoing engagement between Japanese and Americans. 

Early interest in international relations

Callahan grew up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and earned a B.A. in psychology and international studies with a concentration in Asia, from Northwestern University. 

“Because my mother is Japanese and I was born in Okinawa, Japan, I have always been engaged in cultural exchange,” she explained. “My interest in international relations influenced my early positions, such as an internship at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Chicago and teaching English in Yokohama, Japan, through the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program.”

While at Northwestern, Callahan met a representative from the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy at a career fair.

“I was drawn to the program because it was so interdisciplinary and had a strong Asia focus, compared to other international relations programs, and the West Coast location was also appealing.”

While working at a middle-market investment banking firm in San Diego, she attended a  session where she was impressed by the GPS Career and Professional Development Center team, which solidified her decision to pursue a master’s degree.

“In my role, I noticed that many buyers were international, so a professional graduate degree offered networking opportunities across business, policy and environmental sectors,” Callahan explained. “Plus, after Chicago winters, San Diego’s weather was a bonus.”

At GPS, Callahan focused her coursework on international management and Japan, graduating in 2008. The job market led her to Silicon Valley, where she landed a contract role at Cisco.

“The three-month summer gig evolved into nearly 15 years,” Callahan said. 

During her time at Cisco, Callahan embraced the company’s global remote-working environment, spending time in Croatia, Hungary, Portugal, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Argentine, Peru, Colombia and Mexico through a program called Remote Year.

“I lived in 12 international cities in 10 countries within 12 months because I wanted real experience working in many countries,” Callahan said. 

Transition out of tech

In February 2022, Callahan attended her very first Japan-America Society event in Dallas. 

Afterward, she began to attend Japan-America Society events, such as Otsukimi, the fall moon viewing festival, and Bonnenkai, the end-of-the-year party. Callahan decided to make the leap from the tech sector to the nonprofit sector when the top job opened at the Japan-America Society. 

Callahan said she loves being a part of building the international community in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. 

“I am so happy to pivot my career back to international relations. This opportunity allows me to give back to my Japanese heritage and contribute to my hometown’s development into a global city,” Callahan continued. “I have never been so proud to accept a new role — doing something you love doesn’t feel like work.” 

Callahan said the most rewarding part of her new job is connecting with people in the local community, from business and government leaders to Dallas Japanese School students. 

“The range of stakeholders in this Japanese-American community is vast,” she explained. “I love meeting new people and finding ways to improve relations to work together in the community.”

In March, Callahan attended the Sun and Star Symposium at Southern Methodist University, where Schaede returned to speak on a panel. 

“Sharing my new role with her felt like coming full circle,” Callahan said. “I aspire to bring my technology industry expertise to digitally transform our nonprofit organization by optimizing processes, building a new generation of volunteers and increasing community engagement.”

Regardless of the industry, Callahan credits GPS for fully preparing her for any challenges. 

“GPS taught me to be open-minded, collaborative and aware of stakeholders’ motivations,” Callahan said. “I am convinced that this is the perfect role for me — I hope everyone at GPS can connect to a mission and improve the lives of those around them.”

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Virginia S. Watson is the Assistant Director of Communications for the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She has spent her entire career in editing, writing and design, both in industry and higher education. She holds a master's in technical and professional communication from Auburn University and a B.S. in journalism from Troy University.
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