Alumni Q&A Spotlight: Juliet Wiebe-King of Red River Foods

December 4, 2017
Juliet Wiebe-King

Though Juliet Wiebe-King (M.S. in Commerce '15) never intended to have a business-based career, her desire to make a difference while seeing the world led her to McIntire. After earning a degree in Anthropology and International/Global Studies from UNC-Wilmington, she was unsure about what path would best lead her to a satisfying line of work. A friend suggested she check out McIntire's M.S. in Commerce Program. Despite her initial reservations about pursuing a business master's without any previous experience, a visit to Grounds and a conversation with Assistant Dean of Graduate Marketing and Pre-Experience Recruiting Emma Candelier sealed the deal.

Wiebe-King insists that choosing McIntire was one of the best decisions she has ever made, as the rigorous coursework readied her for her current position with Red River Foods, a job that satisfies both her love of travel and strong commitment to bettering the lives of others.

She remains active within the School, having recently attended a mixer with incoming M.S. in Global Commerce students, and has collaborated with Management Professor Brad Brown's class by presenting them with a real-world business problem her company is facing.

We recently caught up with Wiebe-King to ask her about her experiences before she set off on another trip to the other side of the globe.

Your work has taken you around the world and back. What led you to become Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Red River Foods?

While in college, I took every possible opportunity to travel and ended up studying Spanish in Spain and Archeology and Spanish in Belize, and then again in Guatemala. After graduation, I took an internship with a social enterprise in Bali, Indonesia, East Bali Cashews, a snack company that was making a real difference in the lives of a very poor community. Unfortunately, after five months, my visa was expiring, and I had to return home. As luck would have it, Red River Foods, an importer of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, was the largest shareholder of this Bali-based start-up—and it was located in my hometown of Richmond, Va.

When I got back home, Red River Foods hired me as a Manager for East Bali Cashews. I loved what I was doing, but my boss knew that corporate social responsibility is what I am most passionate about, and I switched over to the CSR side of things, where I am now. I'm working as the Director of CSR and could not be happier. I am able to make a difference in the lives of people who are less fortunate, and I am able to travel (I'm actually writing this in the airport because I'm about to fly to China for two weeks!).

What do you find most challenging about your job? What do you enjoy most about it?
There are two things: The first is the autonomy I have. I am creating Red River's CSR department from scratch, so I have no one telling me how to do things. It's a lot of independent research and asking advice from people I trust. The second challenge is the multiplicity of problems. I am learning that it's absolutely essential to collaborate with people on the ground to create development programs; without them, you won't be successful. This part of my job is also incredibly rewarding, since I have been able to meet so many amazing people from all over the world and form long-lasting relationships.

Can you recall any important experiences during your time at McIntire that directly relate to what you're doing now?
Going into the M.S. in Commerce Program, I was thinking I would work for a nonprofit after graduation. However, after reading a case study on Patagonia in Management Professor Ira Harris' class—and seeing how much good you can do through for-profit business—I started looking into CSR. I went to many of my McIntire professors for advice, and all of them were incredibly helpful and supportive, providing me with contacts, articles, case studies, and more. Honestly, they are the best.

What advice would you give to any current students interested in jobs that are concerned with social responsibility?
Take risks and follow your interests. While in grad school, I applied to the more traditional roles like consulting and advertising, but I just couldn't see myself fitting in and enjoying my work. When the opportunity came up to work in Bali doing something that so clearly aligned with my interests, I jumped on it. I was hesitant at first because it was an internship and I was ready to dive into a “real” job, but something kept nagging at me. So two weeks after graduation, I hopped on a plane and flew to Bali. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was taking a calculated risk and following my interests, and there hasn't been a single day that I've regretted it.