Alumni Profile: Jenny Ottenhoff, MPH '09
What degree did you receive from GW's SPHHS? What was your concentration?
MPH, Global Health
Please tell us about your current position. Can you describe a typical day?
The Center for Global Development (CGD) is a bi-partisan think tank that uses research, policy analysis and innovative communications to turn ideas into action. I provide policy outreach and communications support to CGD's global health policy team. My role is largely to inform key stakeholders about relevant policy recommendations coming out of CGD research. I also work closely with other think tanks and the global health advocacy community to stay informed about policy developments. Every day is different, but all generally involve writing or editing blogs and briefs, a lot of reading (I'm always trying to stay up-to-date on news and the latest research!) and a meeting or two with global health policy makers.
Please tell us about your path from SPHHS to where you are today. How did you get your first job in the field?
I was very fortunate to work for the Department of Global Health while getting my MPH and stayed for about a year after graduating. This position allowed me to explore different areas of interest within global health, and I benefited greatly from the expertise and guidance of the SPHHS professors and staff I worked closely with during that time. I gained proven skill sets in program development, policy analysis and communications, and the position helped clarify what I wanted to hone in on when I started looking for a position outside of GW. I applied for several positions that would utilize and grow my skill sets in policy and communications and was fortunate to land my current position at CGD.
What is the best career advice you have ever received?
Be patient and be flexible -- especially early on in your career. Some of the best opportunities come when and where you least expect them.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?
Look for individuals or organizations that work in areas that interest you and find substantive ways to engage with them: get an internship or volunteer; ask an expert (or their research assistant!) to coffee and go prepared with specific questions about their work; attend events and ask informed questions during Q&A or chat with attendees after; follow an expert's blog and leave a question in the comments field, or tweet them your question or comment. All of these things will help you build a network and enable you to gain confidence in navigating the professional landscape.
What was the impetus for getting your SPHHS degree?
I became very interested in global health while studying abroad in south Asia and Africa in college, which led me to pursue an MPH. I decided on SPHHS because of its location in Washington, DC and the access to career-building experiences this provided. The global health department was also one of the only programs in the country that offered concrete opportunities for overseas experience while completing my degree, which proved hugely valuable to my career.
Interview conducted July 2013.