| by Philippa Lockwood


Philippa Lockwood
Philippa Lockwood MPA ‘10

Middlebury Institute graduates discuss where they are working today, how the Institute helped them get there, and what advice they’d give to current and future MIIS students.

My name is Philippa Lockwood and I graduated from the MPA program at the Middlebury Institute in 2010. My language of study while at MIIS was French. After graduation, I moved into the international development sector for a few years before transitioning into the corporate world. In my current role as program manager at Clif Bar, I draw upon my varied background, using best practices from international development to inform how I interact with a wide range of partners.

As part of the Clif Bar impact and sustainability team, I work within our supply chain to improve the environmental and social sustainability of the ingredients that go into our bars. I collaborate with farmers, suppliers, academics, NGO partners, and trade organizations, designing strategies, programs, and projects to address common challenges and meet Clif Bar’s business needs. There’s a lot of variety in my role and no two days are the same as I work with different stakeholders to gather information and input. Our team is collaborative, but we each have a high degree of autonomy; we rely on each other to be the experts in our respective fields and bring our best ideas to the table when it’s time to design or refine a strategy, project, or presentation.

To provide some context as to how I found my current role, I’ve been a fan of Clif Bar and their products since my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa (2009). When I saw my current position pop up on LinkedIn, I was already working with a career coach to get clear about my next steps and my big-picture goals. The job description matched exactly the kind of work I wanted to do AND I already loved the company, so I knew it was my dream job. I took the time to craft a tailored résumé and cover letter and my coach gave me pointers on how to make it even better. Unfortunately, my initial application was rejected, so I relied on focused networking with Clif employees to get my foot in the door another way. I also started writing blog posts tailored to different topics outlined in the job description as a way to demonstrate both my knowledge and enthusiasm for the position. Luckily, one of my contacts passed my résumé along to the hiring manager and, after three months of interviews, I got the job!

The MPA program at the Middlebury Institute played a pivotal role in helping me land this position. It helped me to see complex problems in a nuanced way and gave me the foundational skills I use every day to understand challenges and then design and manage appropriate projects. My career to date has been largely shaped by people in the MIIS network who, over the years, have made countless introductions, offered advice during job hunts, and passed my résumé along for many of my previous positions. By the time this position was available, my résumé was rich with experiences that made me a great fit and stand-out candidate.

Persist or Pivot?

The best advice I can offer is to persist but not be afraid to pivot if an opportunity presents itself. I graduated from MIIS in the middle of a global recession. It took me over a year to find a full-time position, during which time I moved back in with my parents and took a part-time job in a pizza kitchen. It was demoralizing, but I didn’t give up. After that experience, my first salaried job felt like an incredible blessing, but I soon realized it wasn’t a good fit, and it wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to go. Although it seemed irresponsible at the time, I left my first job after a year to pivot to something completely different. It was the first of many pivots in my career, all of which have led me to where I am today. 

When I graduated, it would never have occurred to me that I could be doing what I do now: working for Clif Bar, helping them build a more sustainable supply chain. Looking back, I can see how my unconventional past experiences, my persistence, and my pivots have created the path that brought me here. One day, the same will be true for you. Go after what you want (persist) but remain open to other possibilities as you learn and grow (pivot). Your dream job could be something you can’t even imagine (yet).

For More Information

MPA in Social Change