Q&A with Serges Himbaza ‘17, Managing Partner, POPULUS
Serges Himbaza ‘17, Managing Partner at POPULUS, shares how his Duke experience helped him prepare for his current profession, discusses the value of collaboration, and advises current Duke students to embrace the process of figuring out their ideal career.
What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?
My Duke experience helped prepare me for my current career through exposure to interdisciplinary problem solving and collaboration. As the founder of a consulting company and a film producer, the work I do is diverse. However, the through line is the ability to bring diverse people together to do meaningful work.
Duke empowered me to see problems through the lenses of various disciplines in order to find creative solutions. As the president of Duke’s Small Town Records, I learned how to create an organizational structure for sixty members and empower them to do their best work creating and distributing music.
Also, my Duke experience reinforced the principle of seeking collaboration as the path to optimal outcomes. During my freshman year, my dorm participated in a freshman film competition. While it was nice to win, what I valued most was the joy of collaborating and telling a story together. Because of that experience, I kept taking film classes every year even though they were outside my major.
How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?
Duke provided opportunities to secure my first job before graduation through its career services. During my first years out of Duke, I fully realized the benefits of being an active member of the Duke family as I connected with Dukies all over the country.
How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?
After Duke, I worked for a large technology company. It was interesting, but I knew I’d eventually want to start my own business. During this same time, I was the treasurer for the Dallas Film Alliance and was connecting with filmmakers to help them build teams and get their stories told.
The transition to where I am now was natural. For POPULUS, I had built relationships with business owners and helped them think through the technical problems they were facing. Those businesses eventually became my first clients. Similarly for producing, the filmmakers I supported eventually started working on larger projects and wanted me to help them tell their stories.
Throughout this transition, I connected with great people who challenged my thinking and had high integrity. These people eventually became members of my filmmaking or consulting team.
What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?
I enjoy collaborating with diverse groups of creators and technologists to transform the lives of others. Collaboration is messy and can sometimes feel like the least straight path. However, overcoming the challenge of collaborating well together is part of the fun because it yields meaningful relationships rooted in mutual respect.
What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?
1. Learn to properly contextualize risk. Risk in acts of omission is just as costly as in acts of commission. 2. The process is the prize. Life is not a rehearsal, be present for each step.