Alumni Spotlight: Carolina Ferrerosa Young ’05
WIS’s mission is to be an exemplary learning community—enriched by differences, informed through inquiry, global in reach. Ultimately, the measure of success of any organization is how well it executes its mission, and for that we look to our alumni who continue to embody the values and mission of the School in their post-WIS lives.
In this issue of Alumni Spotlight, we’ve caught up with Carolina Ferrerosa Young ’05 to learn about her job as a Policy Advisor on the Future of Work for US Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and hear how her WIS experience set her on her path.
Carolina Ferrerosa Young
Policy Advisor on the Future of Work for US Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
Washington International School, 2005
University of Virginia B.A, 2009
- M.A., Political Science, 2014
- M.Phil, Political Science, 2015
- Ph.D., Political Science, 2017
Give us a quick rundown of your time at WIS.
When my parents left their home in Colombia and relocated to Arlington, Virginia so that my father could begin working at the International Monetary Fund, they were looking for an educational environment that had a broad representation of different nationalities. WIS turned out to be exactly that, which offered me something that is still quite unique: early training on global citizenship. During these troubling times when our political leaders often tout anti-globalist world views, WIS has been, and continues to be, an institution that teaches its students to see the intrinsic value in globally minded thinking. We need more of that right now, not less.
How does your background as a WIS student inform your current work?
In many ways, WIS laid the foundation for the intellectual approach I use today to tackle my work. I currently serve as the policy advisor on the future of work and responsible capitalism for Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. My work intersects numerous policy areas that are often treated separately, including labor, tax, securities law, technology, education, and others. WIS trained me for exactly this kind of cross-cutting, intellectually challenging work. As a student, I was taught to think outside the box, form connections between different fields of study, question my own assumptions, and critically evaluate the information I received. I rely on those skills every day.
What does a typical day of work entail for you?
Each day in the Senate is different. When I’m not at my desk, I might be running from meeting to meeting, staffing the Senator, attending a hearing, or participating in conferences on the future of work and the economy. For the most part, you’ll find me in the Hart Senate building writing policy memos, drafting bills, working to build legislative relationships with other offices, outlining speeches, preparing event briefings, conducting research, and—most importantly—finding creative solutions to complex policy problems.
What is the future of work and how can WIS best prepare students for what is to come?
With regards to the future of work, three developments are especially important:
First, more and more Americans are supplementing their traditional work with freelance, contract, and independent work. While this type of work offers flexibility, it does not come with standard social safety net protections like those offered for traditional full-time W-2 employment.
Second, the economy is transitioning to require a technologically skilled workforce. Basic computer literacy has become a de facto requirement for entry-level jobs all across America.
Third, the future of work will require us to reconsider our approach to responsible capitalism. Over the past several decades, companies have transitioned from investing in workers and communities to focusing almost exclusively on short-term shareholder returns. That is not sustainable. When companies fail to invest profits into human capital and communities, they hamstring their own ability to adapt and remain competitive.
So, what can WIS students do to prepare for a more automated, global future?
First, continuing education is key. Students should recognize that education is a life-long venture.
Second, students should take at least one computer science course or learn how to code. Every industry in the United States is using new technology that was not available even a few years ago.
Third, students should take advantage of the soft skills that are central to the WIS experience, including the ability to learn new languages, to work in diverse settings, to collaborate with people from all backgrounds, and to make connections between different issue areas.
I have no doubt that WIS students will be well prepared to enter the economy of the twenty-first century.
Any advice for WIS students who may wish to follow in your footsteps?
Be willing to revise your plan when preferences change or things don’t go as you initially imagined. You never know what’s in store for you, and in the end, careers are long and not necessarily linear.
Here’s the lesson I draw from my own experience: be willing to try working outside your comfort zone and have faith that you’re creating a path that is incrementally building on your collective experiences. You never know where it might lead.
When you’re not working, what would we find you doing?
Right now, my biggest project outside of my work in the Senate is navigating being a new mom in Fairfax County. For many wonderful reasons, including having my parents nearby, my husband and I decided to put roots down in Reston, Virginia. For the next few months, you’ll find us on leave settling into homeownership and new parenthood!