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Inyoung Song (HS'07)

March 2011

Alum Q&A: Inyoung Song

Native South Korean Inyoung Song (HS’07, HZ’11) received her Bachelor of Science degree in policy and management. Following graduation, she began working as a research and programming associate for Kiron Skinner and the Center for International Relations and Politics. During that time, Song helped to orchestrate a daylong conference at CMU entitled “Renewing Globalization and Economic Growth in a Post-Crisis World," which was held in conjunction with the September 2009 G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh. Song caught the eye of the South Korean delegation and was recruited to help their government plan and execute their own G-20 Summit in November 2010. Song is now back in Pittsburgh taking classes at Heinz and working in Skinner’s lab. She recently sat down with H&SS News to talk about her experience on the global political stage.

You worked for the South Korean government to help them prepare for the G-20 Summit that they hosted in November 2010. How did you get involved with the project?

As soon as the CMU G-20 conference was over, I went downtown to volunteer for the Korean Media Center which was home-base for Korean journalists visiting Pittsburgh. There I met the General Director of Presidential Committee for G-20 Seoul Summit, and we talked casually about my education and experience at CMU, life in Pittsburgh and also about the process G-20. Since I just had finished writing a paper on G-20 process and had organized the CMU conference on globalization and economic growth, I was excited to talk about the issue. Even to this day this seems surreal, but after talking for about ten minutes, the General asked me to join the Korean G-20 team. With the great help of Center for International Relations and Politics and Provost’s Office, I was able to take a year off and work for Korean Government.

What were your job responsibilities?

My official job title was International Relations Coordinator/Editor and under this title, I worked on various projects. My main job responsibility was writing issue notes and Communiques for Finance Deputy Ministers’, Ministers’ meetings and Leaders’ meetings. Drafting speeches and correspondence for Directors, Sherpa, Minister and the President were also my responsibility. It was a great honor to have my written work read by the Minister in front of other global leaders and quoted in the media word for word.

To prepare, numerous early morning and late night video and teleconference with other G-20 member nations and international organizations had to be done. Since I was assigned to the Macroeconomy Division, I was required to constantly monitor changes in global economy affairs and exchange rate issues. During this process, I was able to first study confidential documents that were released by governments and international organizations. In addition to policy issue writing projects, I also helped to write the official English Korea G-20 website and press releases while attending G20 related meetings and conference around the world. In particular, I helped to organize Finance Deputy’s meeting in Berlin. I had to negotiate everything from security details to seating plan for the Deputy Ministers. It was similar to the daylong conference at CMU, but just on different level, and I am glad that I had the experience at CMU.

What kind of people did you work with and meet?

I most closely worked with Korean Government officials from Finance Ministry and Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry. It was the first time I worked with Korean Government officials. Although I am originally from Korea, I was away from home since I was 13 and worried that I would have difficulties working with them. However, Korean government officials were friendly, smart and hard-working. Given the nature of tight G-20 meeting schedules, most of the people I know worked nearly 80 hours per week, giving up their personal time to successfully host the events.

I also worked with foreign delegations from other countries, embassies and international organizations. It was always fun to meet the people after communicating via email and teleconference for so many months. In addition, at the G-20 meetings, I met global leaders from around the world, from the head of IMF and World Bank to President Obama and academic leaders. When I met them I was so excited, and it really felt like meeting celebrities for real! I was in the room when they discussed and negotiated one of most important economic decisions in this century. I dined and shared jokes with them. Mostly they were not so intimidating as I feared, and they were all down-to-earth friendly people.

What did you learn about yourself during your time in South Korea?

I enhanced and developed my CMU education during my year in Korea. By managing various projects, I was able to learn where my education can be used in real-life situations. In addition to the technical skills that I honed during my education, I realized that the attitude towards work was the greatest asset that I inherited from professors, staffs and fellow students at CMU.

For example, not being afraid of new challenges, creating innovative ideas to solve problems, having a positive and can-do attitude when facing problems and always knowing passion and enthusiasm are the main tool to strive my growth. Among many new skills, I am mostly amazed how much my communication and people skills developed. I used to be a very shy person, and whenever I met new people, especially the ones who are high-profile and whose work I admire, I was so nervous and had to practice how to say hello in my head for thousands of times before actually doing so. I learned a lot while working and observing closely how the global leaders think, negotiate and deliver their ideas by forming close friendship with each other while keeping their confidential information confidential.

The Leader’s Summit was held the day after my birthday, which meant that my birthday was the most stressful and important day for all of the delegates from around the world to finalize the agreements to be announced the next day. While waiting elevator at the meeting venue, I had my birthday cake in my hand. When the door opened, I could see that it was filled with delegates and I refused but they kindly made a room to just fit myself in. Of course, they asked me about the cake and wished me happy birthday. Normally I would blush and be nervous about being in that tight space with people I saw on TV and newspapers and who are making the most important global decisions at the moment. To their response, I asked them to include my name in the G-20 Leader’s Communique for my birthday gift– we had a good laugh and they promised not to worry since it would be the easiest negotiation they ever have to make. Half a year ago, I would not have a confidence or know how to start a conversation with strangers. I could not see my name on the Communique, but I am sure that it is embedded secretly somewhere, and I am glad to have that laugh with them on the most stressful day of G-20 process.

What’s next for you?

I will be graduating from Heinz in December this year. Technically this is my 9th year at CMU and I think I am ready to move and use my enhanced skills in other places. My study and work at CMU, and in Korea made me to realize a needed gap to fill in global stage: as the next future global leaders, we only not have to just speak the languages but also have to communicate professionally while understanding any cultural differences across countries and also various entities within one organization. I want to fill the communication gap between governments, companies, communities and people on global stage. I believe that my education at CMU will definitely enable me do grow much more.

Also, on the filling the communication gap agenda, I am teaching a StuCo course in Fall 2011 called "Refugee Studies in Pittsburgh" (98-170A). We will together study historical, legal, and cultural context of international refugees while facilitating community service to benefit Pittsburgh’s Refugee Community. In addition to academic module, we will also have guests to speak in our class and this will help any communication gaps between the Pittsburgh and CMU community. Any interested students are welcome to join us!

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