Spring 2016 Scholarship Award Honorary Mention: Tom Holub

People all around the world come to PCB Solutions to get a fair PCB quote or to get one of our flexible printed circuit boards. While that would keep most companies busy all year round, that is only part of what drives us. We want to give back to the community, as well, and we do that through the Chuan Ai Lu Engstrom Memorial Scholarship. Each year, we select one person to receive this scholarship. We received an unprecedented number of outstanding applications this year, making it difficult to select just one person. While only one person can go home with the prize, we do want to take a moment to mention Tom Holub.

Tom is interested in the connection between countries that globalization offers. He wrote about the devastating earthquake that killed thousands of people in Nepal and how the world responded immediately. After the dust settled, though, the world went back to work, and the people of Nepal were left to sift through the rubble. They are still struggling to get back on their feet today, and he hopes to help by creating a business that focuses on People, Planet, and Profits. The people of Nepal could use a man like Tom on their side, and we wish him luck.


Visiting a monastery on a remote mountaintop in Nepal, three days into the Annapurna Circuit, I was thinking about my wife back home. She was scheduled to conduct a memorial ceremony to honor Sarah, the mother of one of her good friends. Being in a sacred place, I felt connected to the spirit and energy of that event. I hung a prayer flag for Sarah as a Himalayan Griffon soared overhead.

Only 10 years ago, sharing a Himalayan experience with someone in California would have taken days or weeks, but in today’s globalized world, connection is more readily available. I took a phone selfie and texted it along with my best wishes to Sarah’s husband of 40 years.

A week later, a massive earthquake struck Nepal, killing over 9000 and destroying homes and businesses all over the country. The places and people I visited are forever changed. The global economy kicked into gear, with citizen reporters and social media documenting the extent of the destruction and mobilizing donations and aid for those affected. Relief arrived for the short-term issues of food and shelter, but what will happen in the long term?

The response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake has been criticized for lack of follow-through; after an initial flurry of aid, the rebuilding process stalled; today, evidence of the disaster remains visible throughout Port-au-Prince, and many Haitians still live in temporary shelters. Haiti, like Nepal, exists on the fringes, lacking the infrastructure and technology necessary to fully participate in the global economy. Will Haiti’s experience be repeated in Nepal? In 2020, will there still be Nepalis living in tents, dependent on diminishing international aid for their survival?

Globalization promises a rising tide to lift all boats, with prosperity from rich countries spilling over into places like Nepal. Nepal is among the world’s poorest countries in per capita GDP, but despite its poverty, Nepal is home to a rich and diverse culture, a wealth of natural resources, and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The untapped potential of the place provides reason for optimism that the inflow of reconstruction funds can build the economy into one that better supports the people and the land. The interesting challenge will be to find ways to take advantage of the opportunity international investment presents, without losing the essence of the place. The solution will not include replacing traditional tea houses with Starbucks.

My business will be built on the Triple Bottom Line framework: People, Planet, and Profits. We will earn money without forgetting the impacts we have on the people and culture of the place, and on local and global environments. Our goal will be to build an organization that employs locals at appropriate wages pegged to a Purchasing Power Parity index, mitigates carbon production and other environmental impacts of development, and builds appropriate solutions which enhance and support the local culture and economy.

In Nepal, I would begin with education and job creation. Only 60% of the adult Nepali population is literate, and many educated Nepalis leave the country because of limited job opportunities there. I would build an innovative school program, based on modern technological tools and teaching methods, aiming at increasing both language and technical literacy. The program would build on itself, with experienced students mentoring and teaching newer students, gaining valuable experience in a professional role. As the students advance, they would move on from basic literacy into technical skill development, learning the skills necessary to operate computers, develop web sites, or write application code. We would solicit projects from global institutions interested in outsourcing or offshoring, and use those as school projects; the students will effectively be interns working on real-world projects. Graduates of the program will be able to stay on to work as coders and project managers. The school would be funded with money from the offshoring operation.

The knowledge I have gained working in technology for 25 years and starting my own consulting business will be instrumental in developing a company which can meet the goals I have articulated. I will start by using my personal network to find administrators and teachers for the school, and develop business prospects internationally. My extensive experience managing people and projects in high-energy environments will help the organization get up to speed quickly, help us apply appropriate resources to the contracts we’ve developed, and make sure we execute to deliver great products.

The business will succeed on all three of the bottom lines:

  • People: Nepalis will get great skills and high wages.
  • Planet: Ecological impacts will be minimized: The knowledge economy runs on ideas.
  • Profits: The high purchasing power of foreign money will greatly benefit us as an international business.

That single text message I sent from a remote mountaintop represents more than a connection between friends. It represents a connection between worlds, between old and new, between traditional and technological, between the past and the future. Worldwide communication allows a person sitting at a desk in California to help the victims of a Himalayan disaster, and it also allows a person sitting at a desk in Kathmandu to help solve problems for a business in Cleveland. That interconnection is critical to helping bridge the gap between the richest and poorest countries, to ensure that everyone benefits from global prosperity.

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