Elizabeth (Beth) Drake has spent her entire career in international education and has worked around the globe. She’s held roles in everything from student services to marketing to recruitment and is currently the COO for UTP High Schools, an organization that provides incredible opportunities for international students to attend high schools in the States.
She has three children who are 13, 11 and 9 and lives in coastal Southern Maine, about 1 hour north of Boston. Her favorite moments are when she’s getting on a plane with her family for some new adventure.
How did you start out?
The small town I grew up in has a ‘twin-cities’ program with a small town outside of Paris. I went on an exchange through this program when I was 14 without my family and with several members of the community. I didn’t speak a word of French and stayed with a family that didn’t speak a word of English. I met one of my best friends - we still see each other at least once a year 30 years later! On this exchange, I think I set my future path unknowingly.
I did all of the ‘regular American’ student things; a study abroad in Italy, a Eurail ticket for a summer and an unpaid international internship - just so I could get abroad again. Finally, I set my sights a bit broader and traveled for a year after university throughout Asia, Africa and Australia/New Zealand. I began working for CIEE on that journey and continued with them in Manhattan. They grew tired of me saying how much I enjoyed living in Australia and transferred me back there in my mid-20’s. I stayed in Sydney for 7 years and worked with CIEE and Study Group Australia. After returning to the U.S. and a few consulting gigs later, I found my current opportunity with UTP High Schools.
What helped you get as far as you have?
Advocating for myself. I’ve always felt very capable and empowered and I let people know when I think I can handle more. In each role I’ve had, I’ve let my superiors know when I think I’m ready for a change or to take on more responsibility. I’ve had doors and opportunities open up because people know my intentions.
I’m also fastidious about organization. I think I can juggle a lot because this skill comes naturally to me.
What piece of advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Not to worry, it all does seem to work out. Sometimes it just takes more time than you’d like.
A low point in your career/life and how you overcame it?
It’s easy to say what my low point is. Sadly, I lost my mother to breast cancer when she was only 44. I was 19 and a university student. Because of her death, I’m keenly aware of just how short life can be and that you need to seize opportunities (or better yet, make them!). I’ve lived my life to the fullest and knowing how proud she’d be gets me through the sad moments.
One word to describe yourself?
What are you most proud of in your professional life?
The relationships I’ve created. In the end, work is so much more fun when you work alongside people you enjoy. I love the people I’ve worked with and maintain those friendships long after a role ends.
Your first paying job: What and when?
I worked as early as I could at a local summer club at the end of my street- I started selling snacks in the snack bar, then as a dishwasher, ‘bus girl’, waitress, lifeguard, etc. Working in the kitchen was the best because I had free apple pie every night!
What do you do to keep yourself centered?
Exercise. I get up way too early every morning to either run or go to spin class. I know that with a full time job and three children, that’s the only ‘me’ time I’ll get. It’s worth it when that alarm clock sounds.
What’s your favourite quote?
Get busy living or get busy dying
– Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption
What would your superpower be?
Time travel. Although probably overplayed, I just think it would be so cool!