It was somewhere around the 15th, 16th or 17th of May 2018. Over 50 GSK employees from 20 countries had come together for 2018 PULSE orientation.
As skill-based volunteers, we were ready to leave our coveted positions, teams and in many cases, countries to be transformed, to experience something, to be part of something, we weren’t exactly sure what that meant, but we knew we were compelled to let it happen.
You see, we had worked for an amazing company for at least 3 years, doing jobs we excelled at, yet yearned to do more. We believed in the mission of helping people do more, feel better and live longer and were honored to have the chance to do so, even if we didn’t make medicines. We found a calling to serve NGO’s, and we found something many of us (especially me) may not have anticipated, we found a bond.
We barely knew titles, and didn’t care about hierarchy or levels…but we knew names, we knew stories, we knew laugher, we knew shared passion. We started as strangers who quickly navigated the Tube to arrive at a London theater which a couple of PULSERS organized as way to bond. We nodded off due to jet lag and relished the moment that we were in the company of people who really cared about something greater than ourselves, so could clearly be trusted. We munched on shared popcorn, enjoyed an amazing theatrical experience, then wandered out onto the streets of London well past 10:00pm, careful not to lose anyone, in search of something to eat, because even on the first day we willingly went past the scheduled end time and had missed dinner. We shared a meal and even more importantly, we connected. That was just the first night of how we truly enjoyed spending time together.
The next day and the following, we arrived on time, easily ushered back from breaks, never once opened laptops, and again stayed past scheduled time, because we cared. The facilitation was excellent, we learned a great deal, former PULSE alumni informed and inspired and I actually cried when we engaged in the most authentic and honest conversation about culture I’ve experienced since joining GSK. We had psychological safety, moreover we had each other and a willingness to “be the change”, to do more.
We took silly pictures, hugged, declared our new community on every form of social media and clearly didn’t want our time together to end.
On the last night, I looked into the faces of my new friends and partners in this journey, and realized we have something special. We begged to hear an “subconscious break up” story several had already heard, at least a couple of times. The story teller was masterful, but it was really about being together. The visionary leader and creator of the PULSE program must have said goodnight at least 5 times but kept delaying going to her room. I asked her if this group was special. She said, “all PULSE teams were special”, but for me her eyes told me what my heart wanted to hear…PULSE 10 is special and we will not only change communities, and maybe even GSK, but moreover we already changed ourselves, because we have a shared purpose…to GSK, to our NGO’s and to each other. The small but exceptionally talented PULSE team, exhausted from planning and delivering seemed to hang on to that evening as well. Their sense of accomplishment had a tinge of sadness, as we all knew this moment would soon be in past, but something greater was in the future.
At a time when companies are talking about Shareholder value, productive and engaged employees, we demonstrated it. Innovation and performance happens when employees believe, connect and feel supported. I realized GSK had just made the greatest investment any company had ever made in me. I became part of the largest highest performing team I had known during my 20+ year career, one with a shared purpose, a shared calling, a shared commitment to each other and to be the change in the communities in which we would serve, to be the change in ourselves and to be the change in GSK!
The PULSE program is unparalleled and a wise investment.
I always knew it, but now I really feel it… I work for a company that cares, about patients/consumers, about communities and…about me. I’m grateful for that and can honestly say, I love GSK.
About this blog’s author
Yvonne is one of 67 PULSE 10 GSK employees. The PULSE Volunteer Partnership is GSK’s skills-based volunteering initiative. Since 2009, over 700 employees have been matched with an NGO for 3 or 6 months full-time. Through PULSE, GSK employees devote their time and skills to create positive change in our communities around the world.
Yvonne is from the US and matched with Partners in Health Sierra Leone.https://www.pih.org/country/sierra-leone