The marshmallow-balancing gene

You’d be forgiven for thinking that 3 days packed with Lego, marshmallows balanced on spaghetti, silly photo props and a whole lot of dancing (my two small boys think mummy has THE BEST JOB EVER!) couldn’t also be a tear-jerker. But I can honestly say that in all my (ahem!) ‘many’ years of attending training courses, none was as emotional as my PULSE training course last week.

In less than a week we learned how we can change, how the NGOs we’re setting out to work for on our PULSE assignments could change, and how GSK could change on our return. Everyone, from attendees, to course organisers and presenters had a moment of blinking back the tears. Some even succeeded. How could anyone not feel choked by one PULSE alum’s first-hand experience of watching the needless deaths of so many babies in Rwanda? Or not feel emotional on hearing another alum’s beautiful song inspired by her PULSE experience? (Someone please credit her; she deserves it.) And how could we not be moved by stories of the difficulties some people had faced in just getting to where they are today?

The second thing that really stood out for me from this course (I prefer to call it an ‘experience’, it was so immersive) was the honesty. From early in Day 1 I was taken aback by the openness of my fellow volunteers in describing how they didn’t think they’d be selected, how far outside their comfort zone they felt, the nerves, the wobbles, the uncertainty, but also the excitement and how determined they were to do something that meant something. Some shared quite personal stories of how they’d reached this point in their life journey. Amongst a complete mish-mash of ages, experience, seniority, nationality and background, there was no posturing, no pulling rank, no carefully-chosen politically-correct talking. Just a bunch of people in it together, being real, and being humble.

There is talk of a thing called the “PULSE gene”. I haven’t seen a definition of this and perhaps for good reason. It’s probably a bit nebulous; a mix of this and that: outlook, behaviours, motivations, beliefs. The ability to balance marshmallows on spaghetti (briefly!). I know I couldn’t define it, but I also know I had my first glimpse of it at that PULSE experience last week.

Good luck to all my fellow PULSE gene-ies! And a big thank you to the PULSE team!


  1. Love it! The PULSE gene can’t be better described than this – ability to balance marshmallows 🙂 (by the way, there is an official definition available too:)) The PULSE Song Credit goes to PULSE alum, @DonnaAccettullo – who is not on WordPress, but surely still in GSK!

  2. what a beautiful write to express what many of us (like me) also experienced but may not be so eloquent

  3. While the experience of your PULSE orientation training may now just be a distant memory, hopefully the nuggets of wisdom that your fellow PULSE Alum, colleagues and PULSE team imparted will stay with you through the course of your assignment! Your PULSE gene is alive and well and I’m sure will be well stretched over the coming months so I look forward to hearing more about your journey and the fascinating and important role you’ve been given with Save the Children. Good luck!

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