FIND YOUR FREEDOM
Long Beach, CA – Life in the present often escapes us, thanks to cell phones, television, and the constant stimulus of our daily lives. I know I’m guilty of falling into the social media rabbit hole. Many of us are. But there’s so much more to life, like making real connections with people, yourself, your community–fundamentals we should all focus more on.
For Emma Ogiemwanye, this is the core of her belief, and the best way, she believes, to Find Your Freedom.
I love to learn. One of the key principles in my approach to life is pursuing experiences that encourage growth and evolution.
BEING IN THE WORLD
Those values began with her parents and grew more profound after spending time in the Nigerian village of Egba where her father grew up. Because of the limited electricity, Emma witnessed how present the people were, how much more in tune they were with the world around them.
I am Nigerian and Jewish, my parents are both public servants and the principle of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) is very important to me and helps guide my decisions.
Those decisions have guided her to travel the world, and she has seen a lot of it. Over the last nine years, she has traveled to twenty-five countries.
Traveling is transformative on many levels. In a new place, awareness is heightened and the blinders of everyday life are off. From absorbing new cultures through art, food and meeting new people to getting a sense of a place through its architecture and common spaces, travel reminds me that there are so many (great and diverse) ways to be alive. Traveling, especially solo, teaches me to smile through difficulty and always find the good because bumps and curves are just part of the ride.
Well, hold on tight. That ride is about to take a detour.
Flashback several weeks ago when motorcycles were the last thing on Emma’s mind. With summer fast approaching, the Stanford graduate had a lot to think about. After four and half years as a part of Google’s Global Communications and Public Affairs team–working in Tokyo for the last couple of years–she was ready to push her ideas for improving cyber-ethics to the next level, to bring a sense of being present to the world of technology.
By attending graduate school at Harvard this fall, I hope to develop a unique skill set and perspective that will allow me to travel the world helping to solve problems and answer big questions with the world’s top companies, governments and organizations. I am very interested in technology, governance and design.
Emma applied that love of design in creating her own graduate program, one to help achieve her big picture goals. She will continue her studies in Urban Design to get a better base in societal problem solving, but she will also get a Master’s in Divinity for a stronger foundation in ethics. With technology dominating today’s culture, she believes keeping a watchful eye on ethics is more important than ever–not just on a personal level, but on a global level. Doing the right thing, being fair and honest, is paramount to repairing the world–noble goals for sure.
But first, she had the summer ahead, a time to relax and regroup before diving back into academia. Or so she thought.
An Unexpected Turn
While scrolling through the morning news digest, Emma stumbled across an article about a Harley-Davidson internship.
Emma is the kind of girl who loves adventure and new experiences, who finds growth in doing unfamiliar things, so even though she had never been on a motorcycle, never even been on the back of one, the idea of spending the summer on an iconic Harley-Davidson, traveling the country and meeting new people, intrigued her. She thought, what the heck? What could it hurt?
The Harley-Davidson #FindYourFreedom internship is a perfect combination of my existing passion for travel and the opportunity to challenge myself through riding and storytelling
She submitted a letter and a video–shot and edited on her cell phone in Sri Lanka, a simple expression of finding your freedom as she runs, skips, and walks through various scenes–never thinking she would get called for an interview.
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But she did get called. The Harley-Davidson folks wanted to get to know her better through a Skype interview. Out of 7500 applicants from around the world…
Emma made the final cut of eight.
The process was pretty quick from interview to phone call–about a week. I anxiously awaited a response and when I get a call from a Milwaukee number during a mother-daughter road trip from Austin to Marfa, Texas I couldn’t wait to stop off and call back. I was thrilled when I got the news.
Heather Malenshek, Vice-President of Marketing for Harley-Davidson (and avid motorcycle rider), shared with me what stood out about Emma:
“When we saw Emma’s passion for travel and exploring new cultures, we knew she would be the perfect fit for Harley-Davidson’s #FindYourFreedom internship. Emma has accomplished so much in her career, including managing social media channels for one of the world’s largest tech brands, and we’re excited to be part of her next great adventure – learning to ride a motorcycle.”
So why Motorcycles?
For most of the interns, it’s fairly easy to see why they applied–like Han, who has logged over 70,000 miles on two-wheels, or Tessa, whose Dad has ridden Harley-Davidsons for years. Not so with Emma. For her, it’s about the thrill of trying something completely new.
Growing up in one of the best places for year-round riding, motorcycles have always been around me. I’ve always admired them from afar…especially on Pacific Coast Highway. But this will be my first personal experience with riding.
But her interest in riding goes deeper.
Emma is a reflective person. A thinker. A feeler. The appeal of riding links back to her desire to be present. Emma gets this concept in a way I didn’t think a non-motorcyclist would. Riding a motorcycle is one of the few experiences where everything gets tuned out except for you and the road and your thoughts.
You have no choice but to be completely present when on a motorcycle.
She’s looking forward to that connection between body and machine, to letting go of all the other noise in the world and simply experiencing the moment.
At a high level, I aim to live a life of purpose balanced by pleasure and passion. The privilege to constantly put my dreams into action supported by good health and a loving community.
The Summer Begins
Emma’s Harley-Davidson adventure has been put into action. She and the other five US interns went to Milwaukee to learn all things Harley-Davidson, including a new employee orientation, meeting the marketing staff, and a tour of the museum and archives. This video created by Harley-Davidson gives a great taste of what this internship is about.
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So what is the Motor Company’s goal in all of this? To grow the sport of motorcycling and reach new audiences by connecting through social media stories. Emma could not be a better candidate for the job, a person entirely new to the world of motorcycling.
But this isn’t about spreading some specific message. Harley-Davidson wants the interns to be themselves, to make their own authentic and individual imprint. Each intern has an itinerary, but they will also find their own opportunities to engage with riders and the community.
And now, the good part.
Learning To Ride
As Emma put it, to this point the experience has all been a great build up. Now, she will get to experience the freedom for real, thanks to the Riding Academy at Bartel’s Harley-Davidson in Marina del Rey–although the path to that goal has been bumpy.
On her way to the first day to class, right in front of Bartel’s, a police officer rear-ended her rental car (a rental since she only recently returned from Tokyo). The staff came running out to help, even offered to delay her class until the next day and give her a one-on-one lesson. But Emma kept to the schedule. She made it through the first weekend, even though the night before class, she was in the hospital with injuries from the car wreck.
Emma is strong. A fighter. I have no doubt she will be rolling on two-wheels in no time. Stay tuned to her social media for the process.
The Big Bonus
In addition to the great experience and travel, each intern will get a pretty fantastic souvenir. A new motorcycle. One they get to keep.
The Sportster family, particularly the Iron 1200, are definitely appealing aesthetically. But I think I’ll really be able to determine what I like once I start test riding bikes.
Ahhhh… such excellent taste. (Coming from a 1200 rider… ahem). Again, keep an eye on her social media stories to see what Harley-Davidson she chooses, but really, any choice will be perfect.
The Road Ahead
Emma eagerly anticipates Finding her Freedom on the open road, taking her dream rides up the California coast, out to Joshua Tree National Park, and through the Sonoma Wine country; an unforgettable summer of adventure and connecting with people before heading to Harvard and tackling the difficult issue of ethics in technology. By summer’s end, she hopes…
…to have discovered my new favorite way to travel. I know I will have found an amazing way to embrace the present moment, which is something we all need more of living in the age of the Internet.
Truer words have never been said. Go out there. Be Present. Find your Freedom.
Keeping up with Emma:
- Emma’s primary platform will be on Instagram.
- You can also find her onFacebook.
- Subscribe to her YouTube Channel.
- A couple of the events where you’ll find Emma:Huntington Beach’s US Open of Surfing and the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
- You’ll find all of the interns at Harley-Davidson’s big 115th Anniversary, coming the end of August!
- And guess what? I pitched the story to my managing editor at NBC, and he loved the idea! So we shot a feature on Emma for NBC Los Angeles.
Curious about the other #FindYourFreedom Interns?
Check out intern Brock St. Clair’s terrific videoabout his process, including an introduction to the other seven interns, with links to all of their social media platforms in the notes.
Until next time,
UPDATE: July 8, 2018
Emma passed the Riding Academy Skills Test!! Now to get her M1 from DMV, pick out her motorcycle, and hit the road!