This story is a part of our ‘A Day in the Life’ series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. Throughout September, we’re celebrating Heritage Month in South Africa and featuring 2Utes located in Cape Town.
Natalie Williams dedicated her life to becoming a classical musician, but after enduring a vocal injury, her career came to a halt sooner than expected. Unwilling to let misfortune define her future, Natalie realized a path forward that would allow her to continue to enjoy what she always loved about performing: storytelling.
While trying to figure out her next step in pursuing storytelling, one of Natalie’s friends introduced her to GetSmarter, a brand of 2U, Inc. She started on the Sales & Enrollments team (now called Student Engagement) and really connected with her colleagues and the short course students she supported. Natalie quickly came to understand and really see the impact short courses have on people’s lives, and that was inspiring. From there, Natalie moved on to the Marketing team, and today, she’s found her home on the Communications & Engagement team.
After working for GetSmarter and, through acquisition, 2U for more than seven years, Natalie can confidently say that storytelling is at the core of everything she does. She’s doing what she had always hoped, just using a different medium than through music.
Read on to learn about Natalie’s evolved career and her perspective on Heritage Month.
How would you describe your role as a senior manager on the Communications & Engagement team?
I’m a connector! The Communications & Engagement team manages a number of channels, both internal and external. My role is to listen and connect people to support with overall storytelling
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to interact with a wide range of people. The most challenging part at the moment is coordinating a wide range of people remotely. This challenge is certainly not unique!
What’s your favorite part about working at 2U?
Purpose and people. Even before I knew what my career would look like, I knew I wanted to align it with a company that does good. I’ve seen firsthand how our courses change lives, and it’s a privilege to get to bear witness to that.
Personally, I’ve found and built some special friendships within this business. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by smart, kind people who want to do meaningful work.
What does Heritage Month mean to you?
It’s a moment to pause, reflect, and celebrate the richness and diversity of our many cultures. I’m a product of a collection of South African cultures, and I revel in that despite how confusing it may be for some. South Africa has a dark and painful history, particularly for black and brown people—we’re still seeing and feeling the results of the generational trauma and systemic inequalities and injustices to this day. So while Heritage Month prompts me to celebrate, it also serves as a reminder that we still have a lot of ground to cover. We’ve made some progress, but not nearly enough. We should all be able to live our cultural differences out loud and all the way through without the consequence of unequal treatment and opportunities. I’m proud of my diverse heritage and the unique stories that come from it.
During Heritage Month, you’re encouraged to celebrate your culture and the diversity of your beliefs and traditions. How will you be celebrating this year?
This year, I hope to (safely) reconnect with friends and family over a braai or at a vineyard. Cape Town is known for its many wine farms, so I’ll definitely try to embrace that part of our heritage.
What’s your favorite South African saying/phrase/word?
“Sjoe!” It’s a catch-all exclamation that can mean just about anything and it’s often followed by a great story.
Tell us about a favorite place in South Africa where you feel most rooted to your heritage.
I have two! Johannesburg, the city of gold—I grew up there. It’s a melting pot of cultures and traditions. It’s always very energising being surrounded by people from all over the country and other parts of Africa, too. It’s visually stimulating and colourful in a different way to Cape Town.
My other favorite is Paarl, Cape Town. It’s where my parents met, fell in love, and eloped! When I visit, I still have elderly community members who remember my dad and to be surrounded by the beautiful mountainscape and vineyards is very grounding.
Out of everything you’ve done 2U so far, what are you proudest of?
I’m proudest when I’ve been a part of something that makes 2Utes feel seen, heard, and appreciated.
What advice would you give to someone just starting at 2U?
Stay curious and practice empathy. This company is filled with people doing great work.
Are you interested in a job like Natalie’s? Check out our Corporate Services team page for information on open positions. We’re hiring.
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