We grabbed coffee with Becca Engle to talk about the importance of creativity when scaling up a company, her experience working in international development, and her love of coffee.
Becca is the Managing Principal of Strategy and Operations at Karp Strategies. After a decade of working at the intersections of technology, policy, and operations, Becca brings her nuanced view of business development to Karp Strategies as we continue to grow. Since joining in June, Becca has helped us improve our sales strategy, expand our business development and further support our project managers in delivering excellent work for our clients. We are incredibly excited to have Becca on the team!
How do you like your coffee?
I am definitely a French press coffee person, and I prefer my coffee to be the darkest roast possible. I do drink it with cream and sugar, but I also drink the strongest cup of coffee that I know of.
Why did you join Karp Strategies?
A couple things stood out for me when I was considering taking the job. First of all, the team—everyone I met during the interview process was very engaged in the work, and excited about the opportunities in front of them. They also were open to having more support and bringing more people to the table to help facilitate the growth Karp Strategies is pursuing. There was a really collaborative spirit and sense of teamwork throughout the company.
Additionally, while I am not coming from an urban planning background, I have had a focus on small businesses in the last few years. My background in social impact matches many of the projects Karp Strategies takes on and aligns with my big-picture goals and mission-oriented work.
How did your experience in international affairs help to inform your current approach to optimizing business operations?
My experience in international affairs helped me be attuned to the different ways that people show up—whether that’s culturally or through their working styles. When working abroad, you learn that there’s no right way to do things and to learn how to read between the lines. You become more sensitive to the way that people work differently, and you need alternate systems and teams to help make things flow well. Also, I don’t really see the world operating in these geographic silos so mentally orienting yourself to a global vision, even if your work still has a localized focus, is incredibly important. Being aware of this is a competitive advantage for a lot of businesses, especially since, with tech, we are increasingly living in a more global world.
What do you see as the intersection between technology, policy, and operations?
Any well-run organization needs to think about how it’s harnessing people, technology, and processes. You can’t have these practices in silos—you must build them around the people that you need to succeed. We must lean into technology as a tool, a solution, and a source of inspiration and also understanding where its limitations are.
What do you like most about being involved in the scaling-up process of growing companies?
The fact that you have to be a creative thinker and willing to throw out the playbook periodically. After all, what it takes to get from point A to point B won’t necessarily also be the same thing that gets you from point B to point H. Additionally, there is no perfect business state—no nirvana that you’re building towards, but it’s important to focus on what you are building now, what do you need to get there, etc. I like the idea of being in organizations where you’re comfortable in that ambiguity, and the job you have today might not be the same one you have in 1-5 years from now. It’s exciting for me to rethink what is working well at a company but also parsing out if it will help us to get to the next place we need to be.
What has driven you to work in the social impact world?
My whole life, I have been very oriented to a professional career that looks at changing things in some way. It’s never been a choice but more of my personal compass. Along the way, I have learned where I have the most opportunity for impact, which is where I leaned towards social impact teams, startups, etc., instead of the traditional international development or nonprofit route. The impact I have seen that I can have allowed me to connect my own skills and experiences over the course of my career and the spaces I feel I can bring the most value to. I also try to be very mindful that I don’t know all the answers and must always be ready to learn and lean on others when I’m unsure.
Tell me a life-changing moment that helped shape who you are today.
It’s a few things for me. Having my daughter, who is now 14 months; having had the privilege of traveling and seeing the world, both on my own and now through her lens. Being a parent is also an opportunity to recalibrate and see what is truly important. It allows you to make sure you can make time and space to spend with family instead of getting sucked into the everyday stressors that always show up. Getting to wear these two hats simultaneously of having a family and having a career and seeing those things as not completely siloed from each other is incredible.
Last TV show I binge-watched: Snowfall on Netflix
Restaurant (delivery) I’d recommend to close friends: Karasu in Fort Greene—a great hidden little Japanese place
Book that changed me: A Brief History of 7 Killings by Marlon James—this book stuck with me for an incredibly long time
Best concert I’ve ever experienced: I’ve really enjoyed the concerts at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park—other than that, it would have to be Beyoncé, of course
Movie I’d pay to see again and again: My family has an annual tradition of watching Love Actually on Christmas Eve
My Heroes are: My friends who are dreamers and have managed to carve out their lives personally and professionally around their passions. Also, my husband—he is a photographer and is really intentional about studying his craft and trying to excel in it. And lastly Bozoma Saint John—she is super inspiring and shows you how to unapologetically be a leader and yourself at the same time