February 04

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Ending and New Beginnings

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

                                                                ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Transitions always bring some level of discomfort. My volunteering assignment at Save the Children Australia is now completed.  It’s sad to think that it’s over already.  The 6 months in Melbourne has flown by quickly.  It’s seems like just yesterday that I was making the rapid transition from the northern summer to the southern winter.  And now I’m living the reverse again and freezing cold, trying to keep warm.  Although I am enjoying being back at home with my wife and son, I am missing my family, friends and my “single life” in Melbourne.  Last week was a soft re-entry to work at GlaxoSmithKline where I finished up the last pieces of my Pulse assignment (eg. expense report, case study) and prepare for starting back at GSK (eg. overdue training courses).  I start back at work tomorrow in full force.

Reflecting on my time at Save the Children Australia – I am so very grateful to have this opportunity to work as a GlaxoSmithKline Pulse volunteer. The main reason for me applying for this assignment was to be able to give back to the community and serve others.  I wanted to be able to use my skills and experience to make a positive difference in the lives of others. This was also a learning and development opportunity for me, in which I was able to work, live and breathe within a highly respected, global non-government organization.  When I started at Save the Children Australia, I was nervous and worried about whether I would be “useful” or able to “provide benefit” or “add value” to the organization.  Everyone welcomed me with open arms and answered my never-ending questions about “how?” and “why?”.

The mantra for the Pulse assignment is to “Change yourself, change your community and change GSK on your return”. Six months in a very different role in a new organization provided plenty of opportunities to develop new skills, gain new experiences and gather new knowledge.  Also, I realized that I had transferable skills that were valued by my work colleagues at Save the Children Australia.  My project management and process improvement skills helped me to deliver on my SCA work objectives.  Since I worked in the Save the Children Australia head office, my community were the SCA staff members rather than the individuals and families at the local community level in Australia.  By improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the operating platform, the front-line staff members would have more time and budget available to help the children and families on the ground.

I worked on three main objectives while at Save the Children Australia:

Operational Excellence – strengthening the operational platform of Australian Programs department by identifying business process improvements through consultation with senior management team, staff member and other SCA departments

Post-implementation review for Project Midi – identifying key learnings and recommendations for future site and program setup of large tenders

Accelerating Delivery and Improvement  – training and coaching to embed principles, behaviors and tools that will enable SCA to become more efficient and effective in delivering results

The work performed at Save the Children Australia was vastly different to my role at GlaxoSmithKline, where I have a specialized technical role in the development and manufacture of respiratory drug products. Being a Pulse volunteer provided me space to strengthen existing skills and learn new skills.  One main learning I gained from my assignment was that I didn’t have to be an expert to do something new, I just needed to be willing to try it and trust that I would learn whatever I needed along the way.  And yes, there definitely were stumbles and mistakes.  These are learning opportunities.  The greatest growth occurs outside your comfort zone.

My farewell present from my work colleagues at Save the Children included a mug with photos from my Pulse assignment. It was perfect!  The photos included: Richmond Tigers winning the AFL grand final, the Yes! vote from the same-sex marriage postal survey and silly photos of the Strategy and Growth team members from the end of year holiday party.  Now, every time I drink my tea I’ll be able to remember the wonderful time I had while I was at Save the Children Australia.  Thanks guys!