Over the summer, I worked with Allia, a venture foundation that assisted local up-and-coming startups and small companies to develop and become more socially and environmentally sustainable. My time at Allia is something I am very grateful for, and it was characterised mostly by a period of rapid learning.
At the start of the project, I was thrust into the professional environment, given responsibilities that had a tangible effect on both my colleagues and peers, and the clients that Allia worked with. Through the six weeks, I was tasked with finding a way to revitalise Allia’s task management, project management and data storage systems while also working with my fellow Laidlaw Scholar on finding and developing a new data collection method for ESG tracking, in order to examine the progress of startups that the Foundation was working with. These two projects were important to how the organisation functioned, from finding more companies and investors to work with, to creating reports about Allia’s impact in order to secure funding from councils. This meant that our work had to be done efficiently and professionally.
In order to meet my responsibilities, I had to learn quickly. In fact, this was my goal from the beginning of my project. To enter this environment, filled with experienced and passionate individuals, was a privilege for me and so I wished to learn from them. During a team exercise on one of my first days at Allia, we were tasked with specifying and quantifying our goals - I set myself the goal of meeting one-on-one with every single person at Allia, in order to learn from their skills, their past experience and most essentially, their passion for philanthropy and sustainability in the entrepreneurship sphere. Though this summer was a busy period for the whole organisation, filled with chaotic deadlines and change, I managed to meet with every staff member, either online or over lunch in person. I was very grateful for this, not only because my supervisors were deliberately making time for me as they knew about my goals, but also because I gained more than I expected. I learned about the various backgrounds of my colleagues, from those who were relatively new to the workforce to those who had spent decades in other careers before Allia, those with backgrounds in entrepreneurship, finance and all sorts of other fields. I learned how they discovered their passion and developed their skills in order to help multiple communities effectively through their work.
Throughout these meetings, I felt supported, and they helped me act more confidently throughout the experience. My supervisors took me seriously, and offered me advice while still trusting my judgement, which allowed me to lead my project effectively, from communicating and negotiating with management platforms to actually leading a meeting where I was able to present a roadmap to adapting the chosen platform. This was one of the highlights of my Leadership in Action project, as I was able to genuinely take the lead, which felt incredibly intimidating before I first started. Another highlight was when I was given the incredible opportunity to sit in on a meeting with an investor - throughout the meeting, I was given an insight into how different industries operate, and I learned how to interpret and manage the needs of clients, and how to connect them with others.
This Leadership in Action project was a privilege for me - I have taken on the knowledge, skills and experience I learned in order to not only be more effective in academia and the workplace, but to be more passionate, interactive and creative with projects that I am interested in. I was grateful for the lessons I learned not only from Allia, but also their wide range of clients - in fact, my only regret was not keeping in contact with more of the budding entrepreneurs, as their ideas were so interesting, and their drive to help their community was inspiring, and I really wanted to see how their companies grew.
Overall, this experience is one I would really recommend, and was definitely a highlight of the academic year!