Who are you and where are you from?
I recently retired from my position as Communications Director at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, where I worked for 12 years, to enjoy a creative sabbatical while traveling around the world. My wife and I recently left our home in Southern California and plan to chronicle our adventures on our new website: www.mojonomads.com.
Why the funny name? Where's it from? How do you pronounce it?
"Moorghen" pronounced the same way as "Morgan," but is much more exotic! My father was born on a small island in the Indian Ocean called Mauritius. It was colonized by the Moors, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French and finally the English, before it gained its independence in 1968. I believe the name has Dutch origins and means "morning" or "tomorrow." It could be Tamil, as there are many Mauritians of Indian origin on the island. You may know Mauritius because of the famous (and long-extinct) dodo bird which once thrived there.
What's your story?
I was born in South London (Croydon) and grew up in the UK, Belgium and France. One of the benefits of this nomadic childhood is that I'm bilingual English/French, and picked up some Dutch and German along the way.
In 1992, I headed back to the UK for college, attending Southampton University where I was awarded a degree in European Studies in 1997.
Shortly after graduation, I returned to Belgium for a master's in European Studies at the University of Leuven, one of the oldest schools in Europe. In the summer of 1998, I was ready for the world and was fortunate to be selected for an internship at the European Commission (the executive branch of the European Union). It provided me with an intimate look at what goes on behind the scenes in government.
After eight months at the Commission, I found employment at a private conference-organizing company, where I managed an annual defense industry conference. Seeking to enter the field of communications, I moved on to a trade association for the paper and packaging industry. My work involved daily communications tasks for the organization, including website management, publication design and external relations.
However, after traveling to Mauritius on vacation in 1999, I discovered a whole other world outside Europe. After some soul-searching, I decided that I had to see more of what the world had to offer, so I bought a plane ticket for Japan and joined one of my best friends in Gifu for the adventure of a lifetime.
From the dreary summers of northern Europe to the cultural shock of Japan; there was no other way than to dive in head-first. I soon found a job teaching English at one of the largest foreign language institutes in the nation. For six hours a day, five days a week, I taught kids as young as three and adults as old as 88, and I loved it. For the first time in my life, I was absolutely content with my work. It taught me the fundamentals of communication, in a way that my college education couldn't.
Teaching idioms and grammar provided a hard lesson in deconstructing and appreciating the English language, while also pushing me more firmly toward my current profession in communications.
For a year, I delighted in the joys of teaching, and then I was recruited to train incoming teachers to help them adapt to their new environment. I missed the classroom, but this new position gave me the opportunity to observe a Japanese corporate environment at close quarters. This time in the office taught me the value of cultural diplomacy, while my hiring and training sessions yielded invaluable lessons about human nature.
One of the benefits of my job was meeting and falling in love with a young teacher from California named Jona ("John-a"). We had a whirlwind romance and were married within a year, at the Alien Registration Desk of our local city hall. After more than a year in Japan, Jona wanted to return home to obtain her special education credential and become a full-time teacher, so we packed up and moved to California.
In those early days, Jona went back to school for her master's degree and teaching credential, while I did some freelance public relations consulting for a friend from Japan. He was trying to obtain funding and equipment to film a documentary about motorcycle gangs in Japan. This was in 2003, before established blogs and social networks existed. We created a website and a makeshift blog, interviewed people by phone and on camera, issued press releases, and created a network of supporters. I'm proud to say that the film was completed a few years ago and lived up to our expectations. With the project relocating to Japan for pre-production and shooting, I started looking for something else in California.
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
When I came across the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, it was a perfect match. The more I learned about the founder and the organization's mission, the more I wanted to join the team. Conrad Hilton founded Hilton Hotels and left most of his estate to the Foundation when he passed away in 1979. His motto, "Dream Big," appealed to my imagination and his mandate to “relieve the suffering, the distressed and destitute” without regard to race, religion, or country, won me over. I was specifically moved by the Foundation's work to end homelessness in Los Angeles.
For my first six years at the Hilton Foundation, I worked as manager, then assistant director of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize, an unrestricted annual award of $2 million given to an exemplary nonprofit organization. In this role, I was responsible for the daily operations of the department, from processing about two hundred nominations each year, to organizing site visits to see nominees in action, to preparing for the annual jury meeting, coordinating the winner announcement, and managing the award ceremony. My travels took me to San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., London, Zurich, Geneva, South Africa, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nepal and mainland China. During the course of these year-long cycles, I was privileged to meet some of the most inspiring people on the planet, working to solve some of the most intractable problems known to mankind.
The Hilton Prize was a fascinating and humbling learning experience, but I knew I had found my dream job when the opportunity arose to create a communications department for the Hilton Foundation in 2010.
I love that all the disparate threads of my life converged into one profession. Communication is a perfect balance between being a problem-solver and a creative change agent. In recent years, I was responsible for strategy development, planning outreach efforts, coordinating public relations projects, managing communications channels (website, social media, publications and events), improving staff dialogue, counseling our leadership, and channeling the voice of the organization. Over the course of seven years, the department grew from an "army of one" into a four-person team, but, in reality, our work involved the whole foundation. Behind the scenes, we worked with all other departments and with numerous external partners who all served as an extension of our team. The challenges and opportunities we faced on a daily basis prompted me to return to graduate school to earn a Master of Communication Management degree from USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. After completing the program in 2015, I felt even more passionate about my chosen profession.
That's where things stand today. I'm blessed with a beautiful wife, who has taken her own sabbatical from the public education sector. Together, we are setting off on an adventure around the world until the spring of 2018, when we will return recharged and energized for the next chapter of our respective careers.
I love what I do for a living and, what's more, I love that I've managed to find that elusive equilibrium between problem solving pragmatism and creativity. My family and friends live on all continents, which makes reunions very hard, but they are always with me in spirit.
This website is a place for me to gather my thoughts online and represents my own views only. I look forward to seeing you on the road. Be sure to say hello!