Greta Paa-Kerner returned to her alma mater April 27 to receive the prestigious Alumni Achievement Award 2019 from UCSD’s Graduate School of Global Policy and Strategy. The award is given to alumni for outstanding success in their careers and contributions to society. Paa-Kerner graduated from UCSD in 1996 and now lives in England. Paa-Kerner is also a Torrey Pines High School graduate and Del Mar native.
Paa-Kerner has journeyed far in her professional life – both literally and figuratively. Her career choices have been as diverse as the countries she’s visited, including Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and Asia. “I’ve always wanted to work internationally, just as when I was in school I always wanted to study abroad,” explains Paa-Kerner. “When I had the opportunity to work at Hewlett Packard in Rancho Bernardo with the printer division based in Barcelona, I thought I had died and gone to heaven because it was my ambition to work in that division.” She then went on to work with a large advertising firm in the UK before starting her own successful company, designing her own home products.
Paa-Kerner’s next professional move is sure to surprise anyone. She went from the design/arts world to international banking, working at Barclays Bank in London as a financial wealth advisor.
“I am a very creative person and if I could sit around and do arts and crafts in a studio all day, I would love it,” she admits. “But London is a financial capital and so professionals who live there inevitably end up having some sort of brush with the financial industry. I chose to go into banking because it was a great opportunity, and because it pays the bills much better than art. With three kids and private-school fees to think about, it wasn’t time to be an artist. I will definitely pick up where I left off when my husband and I don’t have as many mouths to feed.”
After banking, Paa-Kerner furthered her career in the realm of higher education. She is now the head of business engagement at Bucks New University in England, overseeing the development of innovation hubs and the enterprise function of the university. According to Leslie Bell-Friedel, who is an alumna herself and nominated Paa-Kerner for the award, “Greta oversees the growth and development of the university’s relationships with businesses and other organizations including knowledge exchange and partnership opportunities. As a GPS graduate, this is the heart of what the program does for its students -- ensuring that the business world is connected to the university so the education and experiences students have are relevant and students are equipped to hit the ground running after graduation.”
“My career has been so varied,” Paa-Kerner says, “and it’s great to see that this variety is valued. In the past, I have gone into entirely new career sectors (like private banking and higher education) and at the beginning, it can be intimidating because others seem to know so much more than me. But then my curiosity and drive kicks in, and I learn so many new and exciting things and this gives me an incredible buzz. There is so much to learn in life!”