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Chika Umeadi: Collaboration at ‘the edge of what is imaginable’

Chika Umeadi (BA, ’10, political science) is a project manager at Google where he helps drive key strategies with a variety of teams and stakeholders. In hindsight, the political science major and informatics minor believes, in many ways, the connections he made outside of the classroom provided a unique foundation for his life and career.

Family: All of my siblings are products of the University of Illinois System. My two brothers played basketball at University of Illinois Springfield and my sister went to University of Illinois Chicago. One of my brothers transitioned his basketball career to a great career in the front office of the NBA and Chicago Bulls. My other brother went the academia route and now is a director at the Centers for Disease Control. My sister is wrapping up her PhD in Nashville. I’m married to Crystal Nwokorie. We met in Philadelphia while she was at school, and, several years later, we reconnected in Chicago. 

College of LAS alumnus Chika Umeadi speaks to the Global Leaders Program about high-functioning teams at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Describe your typical workday. Also, what is an example of the most interesting aspect of your job?
I spend most of my day engaging with engineering, user experience, sales, and leadership teams to help drive key initiatives. A lot of my time is spent clarifying documents on strategy or tactical decisions we’ve made. I spend a good amount of time trying to sell new areas to explore. Lastly, I get a lot of great opportunities to talk with users to understand their pain points. 

What was your first job out of college?
I volunteered as a corps member for City Year in Washington, DC.  As a political science major, public service and Washington, DC, were two major areas of exploration for me. I grew up in a service-oriented family. It made a lot of sense to me to give after I’d received so much from the public school system. I spent my first year working with multiple teams to improve school performance in under-performing schools in DC. I spent a lot of time co-teaching, tutoring, analyzing school data, and working with other corps members to drive tactics to help improve school outcomes. I enjoyed the work so much, I stayed another year to work at a high school and run my own team. 

In hindsight, what about college best prepared you for your life and career?
It was small non-significant (at first) moments. Things like opportunities to have informal debates at the Undergraduate Library, (RIP UGL), collaborating with other students on project deliverables, engaging in existential conversations that were irrelevant to in-class deliverables. Don’t get me wrong, the academic experience was essential for life and career, but the relationships and camaraderie reinforced an African proverb that holds true in all major life adventures. “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” 

How did your major prepare you for your career?
Political science and informatics prepared me to think in systems. Some of the largest challenges I deal with daily require systems thinking. At Google, for example, complex interconnectedness, policy analysis, and understanding institutions and power dynamics are all core skills that help me effectively navigate the organization, but were honed and developed in my political science classes. Similarly for informatics.

What do you like best about your work?
I like the fact that there’s no right or wrong answer in a lot of the work we do. I love the fact that I get the opportunity to work with brilliant colleagues building at the edge of what’s imaginable and what's possible. Most importantly, I love the impact I’m able to make at Google.

Editor's note: This LAS@Work profile is part of a series that features College of LAS alumni and their careers. Visit here to read more.
Kayleigh Rahn 2024-03-06

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