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Bay Area Exec Leaves Big Business To Help People In Need

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Tom Low, executive vice president of East Meets West. (CBS)

Tom Low, executive vice president of East Meets West. (CBS)

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OAKLAND (CBS 5) — While millions of Americans look for work during these tough economic times, one East Bay man gave up his big salary to help those in need half a world away.

From launching several startups, to being a top executive at Restoration Hardware and Safeway, Tom Low has always dreamed big.

“Early on in my career, my goal was to take a company public and be a public company chief financial officer, which I achieved,” Low said.

But Low decided to walk away and start a new path, this time on the other side of the world.

“Like a lot of good things, my wife has steered me this way,” Low recalled.

It was on a medical mission in Vietnam with his wife, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Oakland, where he was inspired to make a change.

“She was providing medical care. I provided whatever services they needed from carrying the luggage to crowd control to whatever,” Low said. “And that really sparked my interest in working in Asia.”

In March of last year, Low took a six-figure pay cut and became the executive vice president of the Oakland-based nonprofit East Meets West. The group provides assistance to areas in need in Asia. East Meets West provides proper training and equipment in medicine, to assisting in educational programs.

“I see the direct benefit of what we’re doing. I am there in the countries, working in the villages or the communes, seeing the beneficiaries of our work.” Low said. “So it’s very satisfying.”

Low said he often uses his big business skills in the new chapter of his life. But he doesn’t pine for the days of coat and ties, briefcases and high-rise buildings.

“I don’t miss it at all,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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