We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the BlackEnterprise.com Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.
Thione Niang is on a mission to empower, inspire and uplift the next generation of global leaders. Raised in a family of 28 in Senegal, West Africa, Thione’s determination, diligence and courageous spirit has lead him on a successful path, yet he’s never faltered in paying close attention to his origin and roots.
Niang, since living and working in the United States, has explored an extensive political background and used this knowledge to found The GIVE1 PROJECT, a global organization that aims to engage young people as leaders in creating and building strong and healthy communities. The project accomplishes this aim through the successful operation of a network of hunger relief, health care, civic engagement, housing, legal services, employment training and educational programs. Niang’s work emphasizes how imperative it is for global leaders to leverage their talent and energy to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality across the globe.
Appropriately named one of “America’s Ten Most Daring Young Black Activists” by the Center For American Progress and among the “10 Young Activists Who Are Changing The World” by Complex, Niang’s work isn’t finished quite yet. His once grassroots non-profit organization has since expanded into a global platform, spreading his messages of leadership and economic empowerment around the globe.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Thione Niang to talk about his personal journey, cultural upbringing, his interest in serving young professionals with the Give 1 Project and the importance of global leadership.
BlackEnterprise.com: The Give 1 Project has seen phenomenal growth, having expanded into Paris, Canada, Benin, Ghana, Turkey and even your home country of Senegal. What prompted you to start this organization?
Thione Niang: Whom much is given, much is required. I was given an opportunity to dream and to realize my dreams in this country. Coming from a humbled beginning in Senegal in a family of 28 I saw firsthand the need to empower young people and help create those bridges for those going through what I went through. More importantly, I wanted to support those future leaders who will help shape the world the way it should be for our children and generations to come. This is why I started Give1Project in 2009.
You’re of Senegalese descent. How has your culture and upbringing impacted your career and the moves you’ve made abroad? Does your family still live in Senegal?
I was born and raised in Medina Baye, Kaolack, Senegal, a great country in the west of Africa. Senegal and my culture has always and continue to be in me. But traveling has enriched me to pick up the best of many countries that I visited. It matured more to our oneness, to sharing and to helping to empower everyone that I encountered no matter where they are from. This helps me see the good in everyone I meet. And yes, my family still lives in Senegal.
I came to this country by myself 13 years ago, without a family, with $20 in my pocket and limited English. But today, my family has grown and is all over the world. It is more than just my family in Senegal. The global Give1Project family is now in 17 countries and they are my family. We grew up sharing the bit that we had, and I think this impacted me in my career. The Senegalese “Teranga” as we call it, never left me.
You campaigned for President Obama in the 2008 presidential election. How did that experience shape your political views? Do you plan to run for political office one day?
I campaigned for the president in 2008 and in 2012, and that experience gave me the opportunity to know that change is possible when we are engaged against all odds. I joined the president in 2007. From the beginning many people doubted him— and the cynics said it was impossible — but in the end we did with a lot of determination from millions of Americans around the country calling for change and made sacrifices to make it happen. I was one of those millions who saw the need for change for our country. And I knew early on that if I wanted to change what was going on during Bush’s time to create a better America for my son and his generation, I had to fight for it. That campaign changed my life, it was bigger than Obama. This was history.
Prior to the president’s campaign, I was already involved in politics in Cleveland, Ohio. I ran a few campaigns there as a manager, from city council races to state Senate races. I also worked on our local mayoral campaign and was president of the Young Democrats there.
How would someone get started if they wanted to create an organization or spark a movement that advocates global leadership and diversity?
They can visit our Website at Give1Project.org. To spark a movement that advocates global leadership and diversity is easier than what we think because we are diverse by nature, even in our own communities. The world is interconnected today, so it’s a mistake to just think local. No matter what field you are in you can take it global because the tools like the Internet are here. I like to say to my fellow Americans that soon your competition in your jobs or businesses won’t be the kid in Chicago or New York but the kids in Singapore or Africa or Brazil. And I think it already started with some of our companies outsourcing most of their jobs. When you call your telephone companies you most likely will speak to someone sitting at a desk in Asia.
Let’s go global.
What are your biggest career challenges and how do you work to overcome them?
I run a global organization, so every country I go to has its own culture, its own language, and its own ways of doing business or politics. Like a chameleon, I try to adjust. So, every week when I am in a different country, I am a different person; and that’s a challenge, but I love it because the more I do it, the closer I am to our goal. The world taught me more than I could imagine.
What career advice would you tell your 21-year-old self today knowing what you know now?
To always do what you love—what you are passionate about. Because in that I found strength to live the life I was destined to live which is to make an impact, leave a legacy, and create a path for the next generation.