Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Kedamai Fisseha

Class of 2010

My passion for finance was cemented during the MMS program … And I think it’s very possible to be successful, fulfilled, and a good citizen—those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

A Modest Diplomatic Upbringing

I was born in Ethiopia, and my family moved to the Washington, D.C., area when I was 3 or 4. I spent much of my childhood in D.C., which was great because it has a big Ethiopian population. When I was 16 my family moved to London, which is where I graduated from high school.

For most of my dad’s career, he held various diplomatic positions for the Ethiopian government, and he ultimately ended up being the Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK—that’s why we moved around. US diplomats are often associated with affluence and so it might sound like I lived sort of a glamorous life, but that would be a misconception in my case. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world and even the most senior diplomats live modest lives. So while I was able to enjoy the superficial perks of a diplomatic lifestyle, like the travelling and the events, I was never fully immersed in the hype. My parents made sure to remind my sister and me that our lives were more connected to the poverty in Ethiopia than to the protocol or the wealth of the places that we lived. The presence of such contrast in my life helped me to understand the world much better, and motivated me to take full advantage of the opportunities I was granted.

Aiding Developing Countries

Eventually, I’d like to bring foreign investment to developing countries like Ethiopia. My passion for finance was cemented during the MMS program, and it’s definitely where I need to be working. Being able to spend my career in corporate finance and simultaneously work on inducing investment in places like where I was born will be not only a lucrative career, but also personally rewarding. And I think it’s very possible to be successful, fulfilled, and a good citizen—those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

One of my goals is to fight poverty in Africa. Having a successful career can help me do that. Helping the poor in Ethiopia—and in any developing country for that matter—is at the forefront of my mind and it maps with my career goals and finance interests. There’s no reason it can’t all be done in parallel. Giving back and volunteering has always been a part of my life, and I want to continue that on an even larger scale.

Freshmen and Basketball

During the MMS program, I was an RA in a freshman dorm. It was a lot of fun, and it helped me to really get immersed in the college experience at Duke. Once I got into the swing of things and got to know my residents, it became one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever had. Because I lived on campus I was able to take advantage of everything happening here. There’s so much to do on campus—there’s entertainment and dining. Students get discounts on tickets to shows at the Bryan Center and there are actually a lot of really good places to eat on campus including the dining hall at Fuqua, The Refectory, and the deli in the public policy school.

I was in no way a Duke fan before I came here, but I ended up living next door to a group of die-hard fans as well as the freshmen basketball players. Duke basketball quickly became a part of my daily life. It became integral to being a true Dukie. I went to almost every home basketball game, which was awesome, especially since we didn’t lose a single home game. I even slept on a frozen sidewalk for Duke tickets to the Maryland game—Campout was a great experience. You have to do Campout.