Reflections on YPFP NY: An 'Exit Interview'


Kara L. DeDonato and Andrea Zilli in New York on April 2015

Kara L. DeDonato, co-founder of Ginesthoi and Andrea Zilli, portfolio manager at Merrill Lynch, recently stepped down as YPFP NY’s Executive Director and Managing Director, respectively. We caught up in mid-April with Kara and Andrea for a final, “exit interview.” Below are highlights from our conversation.

On first joining YPFP…

Andrea: There was a colleague of mine who was an YPFP member. He invited me to my first event, which was about the China-U.S. relationship at Morgan Stanley’s boardroom. The caliber of the people and the speakers was very high. I was very impressed.

Kara: I joined as a member in 2012. I had just started my job at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to the United Nations and I was looking for other things to enrich my foreign policy education and work-life.

On how YPFP has helped them…

Kara: A lot of times I’d be at an event with an interesting speaker, someone who I admire who had written a book that I’ve read. With YPFP I could say, “hey, I’m part of this organization, we’d love to hear you speak to us sometime.” So that gave me the opportunity to speak with some interesting people. On top of that, it was just great to meet other foreign policy professionals throughout the city.

Andrea: I work in finance and we manage portfolios, which are global in nature. Foreign policy and political events tend to impact economies in the world so it was very useful for me to get different views and perspectives on facts and the news from people who are involved in foreign policy on a day-to-day basis.

On their favorite memories…

Kara: We used to partner with the Australian Consulate-General in New York. They had this group called the New York Young Leaders program. Phillip Scanlan, the Australian Consul-General at the time, was very interested in giving back, along the same lines of YPFP’s mission of fostering the next generation of professionals. We had an event featuring the Consul-General and beforehand, he invited the YPFP organizers to come to his office and have coffee with him. It was a really neat experience to get to know him personally.

Andrea: I have two events in mind. One was the Joseph Stiglitz event at the W.P. Carey Foundation offices, which was a really cool venue, and with Stiglitz there, I thought the access we got for our members was great. The second event was the first time we had Ian Bremmer. He was a very high-level speaker and he even came for drinks afterwards.

On advice for those starting a career in foreign policy…

Kara: New York City is so big, but you are always with the same people at our office or insulated within whatever community you’re part of. It’s easy to get out there and go to networking events. There are a ton of free events that a number of organizations sponsor around the city that you can really get additional networking enrichment and get new perspectives.

On the most challenging aspects of leading YPFP…

Andrea: We are in New York City; there are some many things our members can do on any day of the week. The challenge is to make it compelling for them.

Kara: And here, compared to other cities where YPFP is established, there’s this culture of working until 9:00 p.m. at night, which makes it a lot more difficult to get to our event.

On what’s next for them…

Kara: I’m segueing more into women’s wellness and empowerment, focused on domestic issues in the United States. But I’m still interested in foreign policy and will continue to be a YPFP member.

Andrea: After a long time, I think it’s fair for everybody to pass it along. As much as I enjoyed it, I feel like it’s time to give somebody else the opportunity to give more and do more for the organization.

Juan Machado is associate director of communications for YPFP NY.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of their employer or Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

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