Alumni Spotlight: Bernard Akem

Bernard Akem studied abroad with ISA Veritas in San José, Costa Rica in Fall 2014. Bernard was an ISA Global Ambassador before graduating from Northern Illinois University. Bernard has a Master’s in Project Management, and currently works as an IT Project Manager and Scrum Master. He also teaches Latin dance. We reached out to Bernard to learn more!

1. How has studying abroad prepared you for your current role as an IT Project Manager and Scrum Master? Also, what is a Scrum Master?  

In Costa Rica, I joined some of the student groups on campus and volunteered for several events. I was able to work with locals and fellow students in organizing some small events on campus and in the community. This added to the excitement of putting projects together and uniting people into a common goal or vision. The communication, people management skills, leadership and responsibility played a huge role in my current job position as an IT Project Manager. 

A Scrum Master is the facilitator for an agile development team. Scrum is a methodology that allows a team to self-organize and make changes quickly, in accordance with agile principles. The Scrum Master manages the process in which information is exchanged. 

2. What influenced you to get your Masters Degree in Project Management? 

Throughout my education as an undergraduate student, I was involved in several student groups and extracurricular activities. Within those groups, I organized multiple projects, events and volunteer activities. These projects inspired me to discover ways to do this as a career. Similarly, studying Project Management equipped me with the knowledge to apply my skills to different companies and different projects. 

3. Did you learn Latin Dance in Costa Rica? How did you get involved in teaching dance? Tell us more!  

I have always enjoyed dance, but it was in Costa Rica when I was exposed to Latin Dance. There was an instructor who would come to campus and teach Salsa and Merengue on Thursday evenings. We would all go out to the local club and dance the night away! These nights helped me truly discover my love for Latin Dance. After coming back to the US, I was trained in several different forms of Latin Dance: Salsa On1, Salsa On2, Bachata, and Meruengue. After about four years, I wanted to find more ways to share my passion and love for Latin Dance. The more I danced, the more my friends and people I met wanted to learn. This inspired me to start teaching and now I even travel to events to teach. 

4. How has studying abroad influenced you? What lessons do you carry with you today? 

Coming from a different country, Cameroon, and living in the US, I try to engage in diverse environments. Studying abroad and getting to connect with a different culture helped me develop another perspective in life. I’ve learned that we are all different and unique in our experiences; how we grew up and what we have encountered in life. However, one thing that we all have in common is that we have the power to influence, teach and learn from each other. No matter who you are or where you come from, happiness and joy are contagious. When I meet someone new, I like to find out what makes them unique and how I can make them smile. This helps us understand how to better connect with individuals. Find that connection and see what makes them, them.

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