YASMIN PADAMSEE FORBES MC/MPA 2008 is back in Cambridge. It has been nearly a decade since she graduated from Harvard Kennedy School and went to Myanmar for a job with the United Nations. Now, as the founder of Forbes Leadership Retreats, Padamsee is creating an intercultural environment for leaders from the United States and Asia to meet, learn, and transform. This year, she plans to focus on Myanmar.
“The reason I’m doing it in Myanmar is that, even though the country went through this incredible transformation and held elections, it still faces many challenges,” she says. “I have created an exchange at the interpersonal level to provide the movers and shakers with the tools to unleash innovative thinking and to be resilient in the face of challenges.”
Working in India, Myanmar, Singapore, and Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Padamsee raised the profile of Harvard’s alumni group and tripled membership by building international links. “Alumni are passionate about creating positive change,” she says of the Harvard graduates who work in these nations. “Many alumni are in important positions and I created a forum for them to meet and positively affect policy.”
Padamsee, a first-generation college student who grew up in India, England, and the United States, believes firmly in the need to connect leaders from multiple cultures and sectors so they can “work together to create a force for change.” She does this professionally through her work as well as through her volunteerism to Harvard, including fundraising for the Adaptive Leadership Network.
“At HKS, I was taught by inspiring academics and made 200 friends, my classmates, who are focused on making the world a better place.” This inspired her to serve as a director on the HKS Alumni Board, as an HKS Alumni ambassador, as an ambassador for HKS Women’s Network, and as a representative on the Harvard Alumni Association’s Leaders group, to name just a few of the many roles she has held.
Grateful for her time at Harvard, Yasmin is excited to continue creating opportunities. “I strongly believe that, when you get people together, the differences of culture and political views don’t matter in the end, as long as there’s an atmosphere that builds bridges of knowledge to impact positive change,” she says.
Photos by Martha Stewart