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Alex grad lands job at Facebook: She is guest speaker at Tuesday's EdTalk

Joanna Bursch Hawthorne and her husband, Jon, stop for a picture while visiting Switzerland. The Hawthornes currently reside in London. (Contributed) 1 / 4
Claudia Bursch of Alexandria (left) and her daughter, Joanna Bursch Hawthorne of London, took a trip to Portugal together. (Contributed) 2 / 4
Alexandria graduate Joanna Bursch Hawthorne and her dad, Fred Bursch of Alexandria, while they were in Tokyo. (Contributed) 3 / 4
Joanna Bursch Hawthorne4 / 4

A trip with her mom to New York is where everything changed for Joanna Bursch Hawthorne. It was there she decided where she wanted to go to school and that traveling would be a big part of her life.

Her love for adventure and seeing the world may also have had something to do with her dad owning a travel business.

Hawthorne, a 1996 Alexandria graduate, is the daughter of Fred Bursch and Claudia Bursch, both of Alexandria. She will be the guest speaker for the Alexandria Education Foundation EdTalk on Tuesday, April 23, at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center of Alexandria Area High School.

She currently lives in London with her husband, Jon, a freelance photographer, and works for Facebook as its global partnership director. She will be sharing about her career and general information about what she does, but not anything specific about the company itself.

The road to Facebook

After graduation from high school, Hawthorne move to Connecticut to attend Quinnipiac University in Hamden, where she double majored in mass communications and marketing. She then moved to New York and worked at an ad agency.

Living in Manhattan during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Hawthorne saw all the changes that took place in New York afterward, but also the changes with society. She loved living in New York City and felt that the tragedy of 9/11 really brought out the best in New Yorkers.

After a few years, she was offered a job in digital advertising for a company based in Chicago. Because she was from the Midwest, Hawthorne was told she would be a good fit for the job, which gave her a good chuckle, she said.

"I lived in Alexandria, but never lived in Chicago or another big city, and I had never even been to Chicago," she said.

She made the move to the Windy City anyway. Shortly after, Hawthorne was offered a job at Microsoft to work with MSN, where she learned even more about marketing, as well as the selling of advertisements.

"It was fun and interesting and not as different from the marketing side as I thought it would be," she said. "I really didn't think of myself as a sales person, however, I was more of a consultant."

For four years, she worked for MSN in Chicago, but entertained the thought of living abroad. While in high school, she didn't get to study abroad because she played volleyball. A job opportunity came up with MSN in the United Kingdom, so she applied. However, she didn't get the job.

"I was super bummed," she said. "But it is hard for a company to hire outside its country."

It was around Thanksgiving, about six months after getting turned down for the job out of the country, when another job opened up. Hawthorne got this one and moved to London in 2008.

Although she finally got the opportunity she was looking for, the day-to-day job she was doing wasn't all that different.

The people, the place and everything around her was different, however.

"I laugh thinking back on it. There weren't smartphones back then with navigation programs," said Hawthorne. "I had a map in my bag and that's what I used to get around. I remember trying to figure things out. The map was hard at first. It took me about six months to figure out where everything was."

Although there wasn't a language barrier for Hawthorne, she remembers going into a grocery store to buy cilantro only to find out that in London, it's not cilantro, it's coriander.

She was loving life and thought she had closed the door on traveling and working in another country. Then another opportunity popped up — in Tokyo.

From London to Tokyo

In September 2010, she got the call from Facebook.

Back then, the company employed about 800 people with only about 100 outside of the U.S. Now, the company has close to 30,000 employees all over the world.

While on a trip to South Africa with her mom, Hawthorne found out she would be part of a landing team for Facebook and that it would be in Toyko. For the majority of 2013, she lived and worked there.

"It was really, really hard," she said. "I was the only westerner in the office. I learned enough of the language to get by. It's tricky to learn."

Despite how hard it was, Hawthorne said if anyone gets the opportunity to travel to Toyko to visit and sightsee, they should do it.

Living there for those eight months was worth it and Hawthorne looks on her time there as a badge of honor.

In January 2014, she moved back to the U.K. and has been there ever since. She works for the global Facebook team.

"I like working with people and it's good to get back to selling to global clients and doing more global business," she said. "It's hard, but in a fun, challenging way."

She is excited to be able to come back to Alexandria, not only to see her parents, whom she thanked for always encouraging her and supporting her and all her crazy ideas, but also to visit with students at the high school and present at the EdTalk.

As for how long she will live in London, Hawthorne said she's been thinking about that a lot lately and doesn't have an answer.

"I keep thinking, what's the next mountain to climb?" she said. "I used to be such a planner and had my life planned out. But all that changed on 9/11. I still plan a little, but now I just try to live in the moment."

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242