Half as much again

This week I hit my PULSE halfway mark – 18th September. I started at Save the Children on 18th June and I will finish on 18th December (although I don’t think I’ll bring all of me back from Save the Children).   The reality hit me right between the eyes as it coincided with a ‘ping’ to my inbox from the ever supportive GSK PULSE team; ‘Preparing for your Return. Wow wee – I really didn’t want to think about that just yet.

But PULSE is a journey; it is neither permanent, nor is it a destination. We are but a transient contributor to the supremely worthwhile work of our NGO partners.

One of my heroes, and an inspirational public figure, is Tim Peake; the British astronaut who had a stint as a European Space Agency crew member on the International Space Station. Back in 2015-16, I avidly followed his journey through the humorous and down-to-earth facebook updates (and stunning photos) that he regularly posted from the ISS … no network issues there then?!

So … I know I’m no Tim Peake, but being in the NGO sector can feel a bit like being on another planet at times (especially after being at GSK for sooo long). I spotted some similarities with my PULSE mission;  I hope these reflections might help set others up for success before and during their mission (be it a stint in space, an internal or external secondment, a new project or even just joining a new team).

Rocket fuelled acceleration – The beginning is scary, it will be bumpy and it requires a lot of courage. We need to trust the engineering, and have faith in the teams behind us

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Images from Expedition 46

who will make sure we are a success. What has gone before us helps us project the confidence we will need, as we buckle up, point the nose to the skies and off we go.

Just 6 months – A lot can be achieved in a short time, and we need to see ourselves as part of a bigger chain of continuing contribution. Being time bound creates a much stronger sense of urgency to make an impact. However short the mission, the memories will last forever, with unique images indelibly imprinted in the mind.

Wake up to the world – We think we know the world. But travel to a different place, take a different view and you see things differently. Be it chasing the sunrise from 400km up, or learning about children in forgotten and neglected corners of the world – we owe it to humanity to revel in the beauty of life and take extra special care of it.

The space walk –  The mission will meet obstacles, and you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone. Even when it feels like you might be in a vacuum or you fear drifting away, hold onto your anchor points. Know your tools and use them wisely, they may feel strange in a new environment.  Regardless of any struggles, make the most of the boundless, three-dimensional possibilities this new space offers.

Monkey around – Tight knit teams, small spaces, different cultures. There is no option but to get on and work together towards the shared goal. The fun times provide the fuel for the challenging times. You must watch Tim Peake and ‘the Gorilla’ if you’ve never seen it (click here). I haven’t personally achieved that level of hilarity yet, but there’s time!

Expedition 46 – Exciting missions don’t last forever, you take the baton from those before and you hand it on when it’s time to leave. It’s incredibly humbling. It puts the mission front and centre, not you personally. Let go. It’s ok not to own it. It’s ok to no longer be at the centre.

Preparing for Soyuz – Re-entry requires thoughtful mental and physical preparation. What if you aren’t ready to come back? The unknown has become the familiar. The old world beckons, but the old world will now be a new world. It may take time to emerge from the capsule – use the support on the ground to recover and check back in.

Seeds in space – Take seeds with you on the mission. Test how these grow in the new environment – is it a couple of leaves, or maybe a massive flower? It matters not.  You must bring some of those seeds back, for they may grow differently once returned from their mission. Another new journey will begin.

At my 30-day check-in I remember saying to my PULSE supervisor that ‘I have everything to gain, and nothing to lose’. This still stands true, I have a good few orbits of the STC globe still to make. I can still make a difference, continue to relish the experience as every 24h whizzes past and recognise that this is all enabling the next chapter for myself, for GSK and for the communities we endeavour to make a small difference for. Here’s to infinity (well the next 3 months at least), and beyond …..

Don’t keep your personal mission rooted at ground control, press lift off.  And even when it seems like the mission is half complete before you know it; keep looking at it as if you’ve still got just as much yet to achieve (and then add on half as much again). That’s how we can #bethechange.

#ivolunteer #PULSE10 #bethechange #changeyourself #changecommunities #changeGSK #savethechildren


  1. I love this comparison to a mission in space! Great read to hear about the similarities to being on another planet, etc. and glad that you are ‘taking off’ in your assignment! = )

  2. I dream of becoming an astronaut when I was a child, but landed in the ‘world of numbers’.

    Good thing the ‘world of numbers’ brings me to PULSE Program which mean I can ‘shoot for the moon’ and bring changes to my NGO world.

    Cheers Kathryn. This is a wonderful story. I really admire your writing style.

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