It’s a journey, not a sprint

My last post was before I finally secured a position at PATH in Seattle. Suffice to say I have been busy since my August 2010 start as a Program Assistant (“PA”) in the Vaccine Access and Delivery Global Program. I’d like to say that I make a decent amount of money to pay my huge student loan bill every month, and that I have an amazing title that screams: “Hey! I have my MBA!” But neither of those are true. What IS true is that I have definitely checked off many of the post-MBA job “must haves” on my list including:

  • Mission-based work. Check!
  • Smart people around me. Check!
  • International environment. Check!
  • A large organization. Check!
  • Not a start up company. Check!
  • Belief in the work my organization does in the world. Check!
  • A supportive mentor. Check!
  • Proud to work at my organization. Check!
  • Committed to my organization. Check!

I’m not the only one with a masters degree in this level of a job here, and it’s even worse next door at the Gates Foundation. But what I didn’t realize when I took this job was what a big deal it is to secure even a full time PA job at PATH without years of applying and/or temping. The demand to work here far outweighs the supply of jobs, and it’s just getting more and more competitive. Even with my current position, I constantly have people who want to talk to me about my work and the organization, which is a really exciting position to be in.

Getting your foot in the door is one thing, but the culture here is also one of having to pay your dues and work your way up. Sometimes it’s very tough to be patient when you feel that your drive, skill set, education and desire to do more is just not panning out in your daily duties. I try to stay positive, remember my long list above, and be grateful that I have a loving husband that supports me in all sorts of ways, including financially, enabling me to work here. I am also thankful that I happened to stumble into the world of international development by taking this job, although the universe had definitely been steering me here for some time.

And I have to say, that things are finally starting to turn a corner for me and my particular part of the organization: we have a new Program Leader, a new private industry CEO starting in a few days, a project base that went from 3 to 12, and some great new colleagues. What this means is that I am finally starting to be in a position where the program’s growth will allow me to take on more “suitable” responsibilities at first informally, and then formally with a brand spanking new title hopefully within 12 months. In just the past few weeks I have been handed substantial projects within my program that are setting me on my way, and giving me opportunities to show those around me what I can really do. With that will hopefully come chances to work in the field, on the programmatic side, and be closer to the work and in less of a support role. These is where I want to be and should be.

Now it’s just up to me to continue to go after what I want out of my career and stay committed to my work and PATH’s mission. I want to use my MBA for good in the world, and even though I could be working at a higher level and pay upstairs at Amazon, I am and will continue to be a much happier and healthier person by staying put, just where I am.

Want to see what I am up to? Follow me on Twitter and find me on Linked In.

I am an MBA….who wants to save the world (or atleast try to)

You might have seen a form of this tweet from me this past week or so:

OFFER: #MBA (expert: strategy/acct mgmt/ITstartups) seeks <6month #Africa project in #socent #microfinance or #fairtrade

I have been slowly perfecting my 140 character blurb to maximize exposure in the Twittersphere in the hopes that my message somehow comes across the desktop of someone who could use my help. I spend a lot of time tweeting and blogging about my various personal and professional interests, but my friends, I am at a crossroads and need your help.  My 6 month Taproot Foundation strategic planning project with Seattle Goodwill Industries has just ended, we are on “summer break” for my board post at Seattle Net Impact, and my big special events with Fabric of Life Fair Trade Foundation and Boutique have come and gone.

I am more than one year out from receiving my MBA from ESADE, and 8 months into my new life in the Seattle, WA area, and it’s time to make some changes and progress.  I have spent lots of time researching, networking, and just general thinking about what I want to do with my degree and my professional life.  What I have concluded is that more than anything, I want a fulfilling career where I can use business to help solve our toughest social (and environmental) issues.  I am inspired by the good work being done by Grameen Foundation, Marigold Fair Trade Clothing, Acumen Fund, Fair Factories Clearinghouse, and of course by the amazing social entrepreneurs at Ashoka.  Getting out in the field, and aligning myself with these types of organizations would be a dream come true, and a giant leap in the direction of being able to leave my positive mark on the world.

At this point, I think it’s important that I get some hands on professional experience in a developing nation (perhaps in Africa?).  Yes I have an MBA from Spain, and while that experience was invaluable, it doesn’t quite fulfull my desire and need to have a job abroad. To sum up my goals as of this moment:

<<<I am now seeking a short-term (6 months of less) project in a social enterprise, fair trade cooperative, or microfinance institute in a developing nation, preferably in Africa.  Ideally I would like a paid project, but would be OK with an opportunity that pays all my expenses.>>>

My pre-MBA background was in IT start ups, and so I feel very comfortable in technical environments.  I am an expert in account management and training, and also have experience with non-profit outreach, event planning and market research.

***If you know of any organizations who might be able to use my help, please have them contact me via email: or twitter: meganle.  Thank you everyone!!!***

Trying to navigate through the sea of eco-labels

Ecolabel Index | Who’s deciding what’s green?.

I consider myself to be fairly informed at the point of sale, but I am someone who makes it a point to stay up to date with what labels mean what.  But I know that I am in a small majority who has the time and stamina to constantly do the research.  That said, I still find myself getting confused at the grocery store when I am bombarded at the egg section with seemingly conflicting messages: USDA Organic? Cage free? Antibiotic free? Hormone free? Free range? Certified humane? AHHH!! And those are just a few of the labels I can think of off hand for ONE category in the 40,000 square foot Whole Foods.

As our world inches towards the beginnings of a healthy and  sustainable food system, companies are jumping on the wagon, but with no universal standards or labeling (and more popping up all the time!), consumers can be overwhelmed.  Enter: The Ecolabel Index.  This agency out of Vancouver, BC “is the largest global database of ecolabels, currently tracking 327 ecolabels in 207 countries, and 40 industry sectors.”

So next time you have a big purchase to make (car, appliance, machinery etc), or just want to get some clarity for your next trip to the grocery store (food, cosmetics, household cleaners etc), first go to Ecolabel Index.  Even better, get your school or business to subscribe for more detailed information, but at the very least follow them on Twitter to keep up to date: @ecolabels

Marigold Fair Trade Clothing: Facilitating the conversation between social and environmental business

Through the Fabric of Life World Fair Trade Day I helped put on last month, I had the pleasure of meeting a fantastic lady: Beth Provo.  She found her passion and followed that dream to develop her own social business: Marigold Fair Trade Clothing.  Not only is she helping to promote fair trade business practices through high fashion in North America, she is also working to bridge the gap between organic fabrics and fair trade.  Today’s media and business seems to be so focused on the environment through it’s nebulous messages of “going green,” that we all seem to be forgetting about the social component of our buying decisions. But it doesn’t have to be one way or the other….if consumers tell corporations that we want a product to be BOTH organic AND fair trade, they will deliver, but we have to demand it.

This is where businesses like Marigold are playing such a crucial role: in the education of consumers.  We must give ourselves some credit and realize that if have the courage to listen and learn, and start a conversation about who made our T-shirt, with what materials, under what conditions and where…then consumers will start to ask the tough questions and be a little more conscious of their purchases.

At World Fair Trade Day at Fabric of Life, residents of Edmonds came into the store and saw the beautiful hand-block printed dresses, skirts and blouses that Beth had on display at the boutique.  But Beth was there to tell them that not only was that hand-stitched dress gorgeous, but it was made by a woman in a slum of Mumbai, India.  But then she was also able to tell them that the woman was paid a fair wage, is a member of cooperative that helps to make her economically self-sufficient, and is not working in a sweat shop. When the customer asked about the fabric, Beth was able to tell her that yes it is cotton, but cotton that is chemical-free and therefore did not harm the farmer, the worker or the environment and community around it. Interactions like these get the average consumer to start to think twice about exactly why that tank top at Old Navy is only $5.00, and whether or not we are OK with punishing the workers down the supply chain in order to have new, cheap, expendable clothing every week.

Kudos to the good work that Beth is doing to promote the use of organic cotton in the production of fair trade clothing!  Interested in learning more about the great organizations that Marigold Fair Trade Clothing works with? Check out these links:

Fair Trade Federation

Green America

SweatFree Communities

South Sound Clean Clothes Campaign

Fair Trade Your Supermarket

This past Saturday May 8th was World Fair Trade Day, and in honor of this I helped an organization I volunteer with, Fabric of Life, put on a big celebration.  I have spent the last couple of months entering contests, securing vendors, using social media to promote my event, and over all I think it went very well! For a small boutique in downtown Edmonds, WA we did pretty darn well and had about 225 visitors….OK so the FREE Fair Trade Ben and Jerry’s ice cream didn’t hurt my cause =)

At the event, I mostly worked the oh-so-popular “education” table- I tried to win over guests with my smile and kind words and get them to “step* away * from * the * ice * cream” to talk to me.  I wanted to spread the word of Fair Trade to as many people as I could, and did my best to explain what the concept meant, how to identify products with the labels, and showed them examples of products I pulled out of my kitchen cabinet.  Not surprisingly, many times when I asked if someone if knew what Fair Trade was, and then after they said “Yes”, I followed up with “do you know how to identify Fair Trade products”, most of the time they said “NO.” And this was OK, because that’s my job to tell them!

More info:

Fair Trade Resource Network

Transfair USA

Fair Trade Federation

…..Now that everyone is an expert on Fair Trade, it’s time to make sure you can find the Fair Trade products you crave in YOUR supermarket. Click here to find out how!

“Kilowatt Crackdown” in Seattle: Property Owners Compete!

In Seattle, Property Owners Competing to be Biggest Loser in “Kilowatt Crackdown” |Triple Pundit.

I read this article and it got me thinking… what am I doing to reduce my environmental impact? It’s Monday morning and a perfect time for some reflection!  Using my friend Caroline’s term, what does it take to be an “eco-warrior?” Here are my thoughts:

1. First, you must accept that you are not perfect and can’t change the world in one day, but that small changes over time do add up and make a huge difference

PERSONAL EXAMPLE: I started with recycling and reusing items creatively…now we use cloth napkins and only buy 100% recycled paper goods… that led to unplugging appliances when not in use….which led to only 100% natural cleaners…which led to buying recycled cotton bath towels….and that led to committing to one car… which increased our purchase of fair trade products and organic produce….and now we never cook meat at home…and on the horizon: more sustainable seafood choices

2. Secondly, you must be an advocate.  Naturally you will inspire friends and family around you with your actions, but you can step that up with promoting your values with thoughtful conversation.

PERSONAL EXAMPLE: I posted something on FB about “What’s in your pancake syrup?” This sparked quite the debate among family members who had differing views…but hey maybe it got those who aren’t as savvy about industrial food production to stop and think a minute…

3. Education. This is in my opinion, the way to solve all the world’s problems, but I digress…. Take the time each day to dig in and do some research- this is the only way you will come up with new ideas and be inspired to take further action

PERSONAL EXAMPLE: I am the queen of Twitter (there really is very useful info and orgs out there who don’t tell me what they had for breakfast) and e-newsletters.  The more I read, the more I learn, which leads me to new sources of information. I love it!

4. And finally, take pride in what you are doing.  This goes for all aspects of your life of course, but if someone questions your thoughts or actions, take the time to explain your values to them and be proud of what you are accomplishing each day.  Be the catalyst for change!

PERSONAL EXAMPLE: This is a big one.  What do you say to your mother when she comments: “It makes sense that you moved to the Pacific Northwest- that’s where are all the hippies are.”…. Well you think: OK I will take that as a compliment, because I made the conscious decision to move to a place where I will find more like-minded people.  But remember to pick your battles- the ultra-conservative relative will never understand you, or you them, but you can educate your nieces and nephews little by little by giving fair trade gifts and reusable water bottles and school lunch kits.

Keep on trucking!

The Eight Biggest Myths about Sustainability in Business

The Eight Biggest Myths about Sustainability in Business |

I am definitely an advocate for sustainable lifestyle choices, and that is an easy way for me to feel like I am making a difference in the world… But while I want to professionally align myself with an organization that supports my values of a triple bottom line, I feel like that is more of an uphill battle to fight.  Corporations have the power to make huge strides in sustainability and “do well by doing good,” but convincing them, and consumers, is another thing.  This article perfectly sums up, and offers a rebuttal, for the exact arguments that naysayers will propose in defense of “business as usual.”  But as Pamela Hartigan says, the power lies within unreasonable people. Enjoy!

PS I finally figured out why I have been so silent on my blog…it’s Twitter! My “thoughts & ponderings” section is on fire, and I feel like I am on Twitter all day.  But because of all my retweets, my poor blog has been neglected.  Time to keep up with those writing skills!