Renee Fuentes encountered Christ personally while she was an undergrad student at the University of Miami, where she earned her BS in Communications Studies. She later moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue her master’s in Latin American Studies from George Washington University. Renee currently works as the Communication Coordinador for Banyan Global, an international development consulting firm. She and her husband live in Arlington, Virginia.
Why did you become interested in International Relations? What does a day at work look like for you?
I might be dating myself with this answer, but I think I was 9 or 10 when I read the Girls of Many Lands series. I love historical fiction, especially when written from a female point of view. I wanted to learn about the history and culture of all of the places where the books took place, and travel there so I could see them in person. The desire to travel and love for languages got me interested in international affairs.
Now, I work for an international development firm with programs active across the world. We specialize in market-driven approaches with women’s economic empowerment at the forefront. My day usually starts on LinkedIn and Twitter, reading and sharing international development-related news. I write content for our website and work with country-based staff to develop communications strategies. I also help coordinate new business proposals to submit to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where we get most of our funding.
What is one piece of advice for a young woman who’s considering a career in International Relations?
In college, I had my heart set on joining the Foreign Service, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is that living out the Christian faith means surrendering your dreams to God. I discovered that God had even better plans for me to stay in the United States, go to grad school in Washington, D.C., and marry my best friend. My advice is to stay open-minded and explore avenues within international affairs that you never thought you would. For example, even though my career is in strategic communications, in grad school I took a class on monitoring and evaluation for foreign assistance programs. I incorporate this knowledge every day in my new job. Developing technical skills and a well-rounded knowledge base is useful in international relations.
What are some of your hobbies outside of your workday?
My favorite hobby is leading women’s Bible studies. I am involved with the Walking With Purpose ministry at my parish and I love meeting women who also want to grow in their spiritual lives through Scripture. I also write regularly for The SundayMonday and I recently joined a boxing gym!
How do you find purpose in your career?
First and foremost, I try to stay in the present moment each day, where God’s grace is available to us. Inviting God into my work day helps me keep things in order. I focus on opportunities in which I can serve others, whether that’s showing a co-worker how to do something new or working with staff in Latin America to tell the story of our work’s impact.
How do you integrate your faith in your career or how do you see them relating to one another?
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on God’s design for work and rest. I try to set an example in my job of someone who has healthy boundaries, who responds to emails promptly but never late at night or on weekends, unless necessary. If a co-worker brings up faith, I’m happy to share a part of my own journey. This is definitely harder when working remotely, but I make an extra effort to get to know others on a personal level. Finally, I try every morning to thank God for my job and ask how I can serve Him during my work day. On the days when I forget to do this, I notice that little things bother me more easily, but when I remember to invite God into my work, I feel much more at peace.
What is your go-to motivational quote?
I am often motivated by 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”