“…Who Sent You Here?”

Me and Julie Yake, my great PEF PULSE partner, at the Philadelphia School District in July.
Me and Julie Yake, my great PEF PULSE partner, at the Philadelphia School District in July.

Previous PULSE volunteers were right. The first 6 weeks of your 6 month PULSE assignment fly by!  So far, my experience with the Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF) has been refreshing and challenging. As someone who loves to study and enhance the health of organizations, being submerged into a completely different environment like this has been simply fascinating.

That said – in this, my 2nd blog post, I detail what I’m specifically doing for PEF while here – – as well share a story that will hopefully help put a skip in YOUR step today.

The Gig

In June, I arrived at PEF with the primary assignment of helping the Philadelphia Math and Science Coalition (MSC; one of the many programs within PEF) design a new business model. To do this, my initial work has included studying non-profit business models and seeking to understand the current mode of MSC’s operations, as well as its future strategic intent. Fortunately, with PEF being one of GSK’s PULSE “pillar” partners (which means PEF has 3-5 years of continuous PULSE skill-based volunteer support), I have some helpful documents from previous PULSE volunteers – reflecting the Coalition’s partners’ needs, for reference. Also to help in the diagnosis, I meet with my manager, the MSC Coordinator (Don McKinney), daily, and connect regularly with other key players in PEF, including the CEO, leaders of Funding, Finance, and overall PEF Programming. This ensures I understand their current expectations and perspectives around the present and future desired state of the MSC.

As well, with the reasonably new CEO and a new SVP of Programming on board, PEF recently began their 6 month strategic planning process.  As an HR Business Lead for GSK US Vaccines the past several years, I have solid exposure and experience in designing strong strategic plans – and helping leaders identify and develop the organizational capabilities needed to pull through those plans. Therefore, I’m happy to report that I’ve also been asked to support PEF in this process while here, as well. This work will help PEF make choices to ensure they are an impactful, sustainable organization for the next several years.  How cool is it that this just happens to be going on while I am here?!

Third, one key role the MSC is currently playing is partnering with Drexel University in facilitating the design of Philadelphia School District’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Plan. This is a big deal because this plan shapes the entire District’s (K- 12) curriculum design, teacher professional development on STEM, and community involvement – all of which are required to improve student motivation and achievement in STEM (to learn about Pennsylvania’s current – and pretty low – performance in STEM subjects and the implications of this, click HERE). Since joining PEF, I’ve been invited to contribute to this critical work, too.

A Story

Finally – one quick story to make you smile…. last week, I received an unexpected compliment from the District’s Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, who we are partnering closely with on the District STEM Plan design work. We were wrapping up a meeting where I had recommended a few things for the core team to consider… the Asst Superintendent paused and asked me…  “Who sent you here? No, really… who sent you? You’ve made me think very differently about how I’d like to approach these next steps – – and not many people are able to change my thinking these days. So… who sent you?”

Of course, this feedback just 6 weeks into my assignment had me beaming with pride, for both GSK and myself. When you’re still relatively new as a PULSE volunteer, you wonder if you are making or will be able to make a difference for the organization you’ve been assigned to. Although I still have a long way to go to make the difference I’d like to make for Philly kids, that one question was enough to feed my drive and spirit for weeks.

Many of you reading this may not currently be on or ever have the opportunity to be ‘sent’ on a PULSE assignment. My sense is – you undoubtedly also have a gift that others would benefit from. The truth is, we don’t need to wait to be ‘sent’ by someone to make a difference in our corners of the world. Opportunity is always there for us to step up and be of service. Look for these possible moments… bring YOUR magic… and make the difference happen.

THANK YOU for continuing to follow my blog. Your comments from the 1st one were so appreciated – they made me feel connected to you and supported. I’d love to hear from you again!


  1. Sarah- an informative and inspiring blog post. So glad you’ve already been able to make a positive contribution- keep up the great work!!

  2. Hi Sarah – what an exciting assignment and an inspiring story about making a difference right away! Great job and thanks for sharing!

  3. Sarah – thank you so much for sharing. I am not at all suprised that you have already recieved props for your contributions 🙂 awesome work!

  4. Hi Sarah – Thanks for sharing the details, your insights, etc. of your PULSE assignment through this blog. Its clear that you are on track to make a huge impact on PEF and the students it ultimately serves. I can see where you also are getting back, in equal measure, tremendous personal growth and fulfillment from this experience. You’re right, we should all seek to do something similar. Love hearing about your journey and look forward to hearing more. Again, thanks and be well!

  5. Hi Sarah, Sounds like an amazing experience over the 1st 6 weeks! We miss you here, but know that you are making a significant difference at PEF.. well done!

  6. Hi Sarah, It is exciting to learn more about your experiences. How wonderful that you are already making an impact and truly contributing. It must feel awesome! Keep up the good work because one person really can make a difference and yes there is much to be done. Great job!

  7. Sarah – Keep up ths great work and keep the blog posts coming. It is wonderful to see the difference you are making.

    Awesome job, Harry

  8. Fantastic and great job, Sarah. These days we need more than ever to showcase the caliber of our people at GSK and you are just doing that. We live vicariously through your posts the wonderful experience you are living, keep the blogs coming!

  9. Hi Sarah- I have really enjoyed following your PULSE experience with PEF via your blog posts. You have been so thoughtful and inspiring… keep up the excellent work!

  10. Sarah- The fact that THIS is the time frame for strategic planning- precisely when you are there, is kismet. I love that while they are getting so much from your presence, you are marveling at what you are learning as well. You go girl!- Wendy

  11. Awesome blog Sarah. Enjoyed seeing the photo of you and Julie. Great story and has me thinking about how I bringing “magic” to my work and conversations. Send all my best to Don and the Ed Fund..

  12. You should be beaming about your compliment! Thanks for sharing your progress and story. I look forward to hearing more about what you are working on to help kids in Philly. You are a great ambassador of GSK!

  13. We miss you Sarah, but I love the work you are accomplishing our there. Isn’t it wonderful to work for an organization that provides you not only opportunity to develop forward thinking skillsets, but then to use them even outside of this corporate environment? What a lasting gift to you and many. Keep up the great work.

  14. Great job Sarah. GSK and its employees do a lot of good work in communities around the world. It is really nice to hear about a local initiative too and how you are making a difference and having an impact.

  15. Sarah, it is awesome to see what a difference you are making with PEF so quickly. I will look forward to your future blogs! Miss you!

  16. Sarah! You are a hero amoung us! Your story put a big smile on my face. Keep ’em coming. So glad you are out there doing this good work. You are making a difference!

  17. WHO SENT YOU THERE?! 🙂 Sarah, I know you are a catalyst that will change Philly schools for the better. You make me proud of humanity and you make me proud of GSK.

  18. Sarah, great to hear the impact you are already having on the organization. Great example of how diverse thinking can really impact how people think and approach problems and solutions. Look forward to hearing more about your experience and impact on their organization.

  19. Wow – what an inspiring post! Amazing to see the difference you are already making. I love how you tell your story & offer your reflections directly to your reader . . . directly to me. Thanks for keeping us connected – and thanks for being a fantastic ambassador of GSK!

  20. Sarah,
    This did put a spring in my step. STEM and MSC are both near and dear to my heart. So important for the future of Philadelphia and US Economy. Smiled ear to ear hearing that you got this compliment: “You’ve made me think very differently about how I’d like to approach these next steps – – and not many people are able to change my thinking these days. So… who sent you?” God for GSK for sending you and good for you for going!

  21. Hey Sarah!! Keep the dream alive! What an amazing first few weeks and I’m not suprised at the great impact you are already making. “keep up the teamwork to make the dream work!”

  22. I’m so happy for you Sarah, and for the kids of Philadelphia that you are in the right place at the right time, in the Tao. We need people like yourself who are both visionaries and technicians in all fields of human endevour.

  23. Sarah- thank you for keeping us up to date will all the great work you are doing for the community- and thank you for your service!!

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