Business schools are filled with do-gooders who have gone overseas to make a difference. But how many can say they worked with the Afghan government to identify opportunities for private investment by utilizing investment banking and consulting practices?
That is Benjamin Freedman’s background in a nutshell. His position was nested under the U.S. Department of Defense (D.O.D.) Task Force for Business and Stability Operations. There, he focused on the energy sector of Afghanistan, a war-torn country in desperate need of rebuilding. His mission was to help establish a more stable private sector so that the Afghan economy would be more resilient when all of its development funding left the country.
Freedman and his team helped the Afghani government utilize the country’s natural resources to secure funding from investors. “Outside investors were understandably hesitant to enter the Afghan sector,” Benjamin points out, so we started with a small natural gas project and then scaled up after that.”
During his fast-paced experience with the D.O.D., Freedman would commute from Washington, D.C., to Afghanistan once or twice a month to meet with various government officials, advisors, and engineering firms. On any given day, he exercised a range of skills in a number of contexts, from financial modeling and industry research, to briefing State Department officials and World Bank directors.
Freedman decided to attend the Yale School of Management because of the school’s mission to educate leaders of business and society. While there, he took an active leadership role within the Design & Innovation Club, the Student Government Long-term Planning Committee, and the Outreach Non-Profit Consulting Club.
He had a great summer internship experience with Google’s Real Estate Team Innovations Program in the Real Estate and Workplace Services group and will return to work with that group after graduation. During his career and life, Freedman hopes to weave through the private, public, and non-profit sectors.
I had a great experience with the U.S. Department of Defense. Being part of the team that launched the first compressed natural gas (CNG) station in Afghan history is one of my proudest achievements. My team laid the foundation for the Afghan natural gas industry…to alleviate the geopolitical pressures that come with importing fuel.
It was also one of the greatest challenges I ever faced. We had to figure out the logistics of shipping project supplies and equipment from eleven countries around the world to rural Afghanistan with its underdeveloped transport networks. There were so many moving parts, things at every turn. The perseverance and resilience put forth by the team to succeed made all the difference.
For me, [Yale] was the one school that truly placed business and business education within the broader frame of society. Finance and operations would exist alongside non-market strategy, design thinking, and education reform. In addition, I knew I would benefit from the incredible resources at Yale University and much of my learning would be enhance from the other schools on campus. SOM is a business school that’s very much part of the home university, not off to the side doing its own thing.
I am also very proud of the work I’ve done this year with the other leaders of SOM’s Design & Innovation Club, one of the biggest clubs on campus. We hosted several speakers, including the head of Google Glass and Pepsi’s Director of Foresight; taught members a completely revamped design and visual thinking curriculum; organized the fourth annual MBA Innovation Summit in New York City with an all-star line-up of guests; held four ideation workshops with top design firms and clients; led successful job treks to San Francisco and New York; and extended the club’s social DNA with a bunch of “Drink and Draw” gatherings. It’s been a whirlwind year for the club, and I’m thrilled to pass it along to next year’s leaders.