Finding My Niche in Development by Fred Perry

Today’s “Finding Your Niche” segment comes from a great friend and someone I admire deeply. Fred Perry was in high school in Cairo, Egypt when I first met him. He was attending Cairo American College and we first became friends with his parents. Fast forward several years and we ended up sitting at his house in Phoenix, a place where Fred and his wife temporarily set up a home, talking about our mutual love for the Middle East. We’ve been in and out of touch with Fred through the years but whether near or far we love watching two things continue to grow: his love for the world and his faith. Today he talks about how he came to the place where he works and lives today.

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How did I end up here? Doing this?

I am writing this blog entry on my fourteen-hour flight from Washington, D.C.  to Seoul, South Korea. After a two-hour layover I will continue to Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma) for the fifth time this year and as part of the first academic partnerships between an American and Myanmar university in fifty years. Myanmar is part of a larger travel portfolio that I cover with my job at the Indiana University Institute for International Business, a center within the Kelley School of Business.

The journey has been anything but dull, full of twists and turns and unexpected opportunities. Currently I live in Bloomington, Indiana with my wife of fifteen years and two great kids (12 and 10). I am a child of global nomads who travelled the world and lived abroad before and after I came into the world. By the time I was twelve I had lived in six countries across four continents. After graduating from high school I was convinced my future included lifelong residence outside my passport country. Living and working in the US was never on my radar. I moved to the US for College in 1993 and the plan was to get my degree and head back to what I was familiar with, which could have been anywhere in the world other than the States.

The last seven years of my teen hood was spent in Cairo, Egypt, which very quickly became the place I identified as home.

I fell in love with Arab culture and people and had every intention of moving back long-term. However, meeting and falling in love with Angie, my wife-to-be was the beginning of an adventure that would take me back to the Middle East twice with a three-year layover in Phoenix, Arizona before we landed in Indiana almost eight years ago. Four continental moves, nine apartments and a couple of kids later, we were back where it all started for us. To complicate my third culture kid hangover, Angie was the first in her family to leave the US and while we loved our adventures as a young family abroad, she was drawn to life back in the US and I was drawn to the expat life. Every time we moved one of us felt pulled in the opposite direction and stretched in the environment we were in. All of it was preparing us for what was coming later.

We were living in Beirut, Lebanon when things really started to make sense for both of us. For a long time I did not feel like the skill sets I had acquired while living abroad and my love for the Arab world would ever be transferrable to the US. There were a number of influencers that both drew me closer to the Middle East and planted a seed for moving to back to Indiana where I thought I could share the insights I had gained on this complicated but beautiful region of the world. Shortly after we moved to Beirut in 2004, what had been mostly a fourteen-year calm came to an end with political assassinations, the Cedar Revolution and random bombings meant to incite division among the Lebanese. Having lived through the Iranian revolution, periods of unrest in the Egypt of the ‘80s and the tense transition from Hafez to Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, there was something about living this history with the people of the Middle East that drew me in.

At the same time that my heart was being drawn into the Lebanese zeal for life in the midst of conflict, both Angie and I began to feel a peace about moving back to the US. I could not explain it and was not sure where it was going to lead.

With two young kids, my family still in Egypt and Angie’s in Indiana we felt it was time to be closer to her parents, to establish some roots and possibly for me to move in a different career direction after teaching for seven years. While I loved teaching internationally I had decided that if we returned to the US I would take advantage of the opportunity to get my Masters Degree in Middle East Studies and pursue a career that placed me in the midst of the people and culture that I loved. After two amazing years in Beirut we said goodbye to our new friends and community there and started our journey back to Indiana. Neither Angie nor I had a job waiting for us in Bloomington, but we experienced an incredible peace about moving back and had enough savings to hold us over for at least a few months.

Since moving to Indiana almost eight years ago a series of opportunities have led me to a place that I never imagined . . . living in a multicultural college town, close to family with a job that takes me all over the world working on exciting, value-added development projects promoting entrepreneurship and job creation. If you would have told me eight years ago that my pursuit of a Master’s degree at Indiana University and the experiences of my life abroad would prepare the way for me to work at a business school developing relationships and programs around the world, I would have said you were crazy.

Over the last four years in my job, I have been able to travel to eleven countries (many of them multiple times) and develop programs in seven of these with a team of colleagues who are passionate about making a positive impact in the developing world. While I often miss living abroad and wish that my family could be with me on the road more often, we have come to a place where we are settled to raise our family while I get to work in a place that keeps me connected to the world.

More about the author: Fred Perry joined the Kelley School of Business staff in 2009. As Associate Director for the Institute forInternational Business (IIB) he has been tasked with developing new and exciting internationalpartnerships for the Kelley School and managing their implementation. Having lived in eight countries, Fred is a third culture professional who has spent the majority of his life living abroad or working in aninternational field. In his current position, Fred travels extensively exploring ways to promote global entrepreneurship and economic development by leveraging the capacity of the Kelley School and IndianaUniversity. With regional expertise in the Middle East and North Africa, he brings a unique internationalperspective. His love and interest in other cultures has driven him to look for innovative ways to help bridge cultures and enrich the global character and involvement of the Kelley School of Business. You can check out his LinkedIn profile here.

 

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11 thoughts on “Finding My Niche in Development by Fred Perry

  1. I enjoyed reading how your path has been led in a spiral, back to the States, then out again, ever widening. How good God is! May He continue to bless your endeavors.

    As a side note, would you mind identifying what country the second photo of you was taken in? Where you are standing with a man in an orange shirt and black suit jacket. I think I recognize him…Thanks.

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  2. Fred,
    Loved your story. Your story overlaps significantly with mine, though I haven’t made that domestic change yet — still living in the Arab world, loving grassroots development, and yet wondering how my skills could ever be useful back in the US! If you can see my email please contact me — I’d love a 20 minute Skype call with you to ask more about the path you took, how you knew it was the right one, and what steps were most useful.
    -Dave McC

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    1. this comment really articulates the TCK dilemma – how can how we’ve lived and what we know be useful back in our passport countries? Thanks Dave and glad you connected with Fred!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story Fred! I’m jealous for the life you have…but I can see how God has clearly gifted you with your particular story for your particular calling!

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    1. Not only did I appreciate your story, I empathize with you! Fred’s blog reflects those of us who feel more connected to living when we’re connected to life through our passports.

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