Alumni Spotlight: Andrea Ruzo, 2015 cohort
Andrea was part of the LGT Impact Fellowship 2015 cohort and has just started a new role as Project Manager at the UNEP MAP Regional Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production.
The LGT Impact Fellowship offers experienced business professionals the opportunity to work full-time for one year with impactful organizations and social businesses supported by LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Lightstone.
In the Alumni Spotlight series, we dive deep into past Fellows’ experiences and learnings from the Fellowship, and their career trajectories since then.
Q: You have an impressive career path having worked in various trade and consulting roles in different countries, among others in India and Taiwan, prior to the LGT Impact Fellowship. Why did you want to become an LGT Impact Fellow? And what gave you confidence that this program was the right choice for you?
A: To put it into one sentence: I felt disconnected from reality. In the many roles and companies, I have worked for, I realized that hardly anybody was thinking of the impact they have on society and I simply felt that this wasn’t right. Through a friend I learnt about a solar energy company in India that was providing electricity to rural areas and with that I was introduced to the concept of a social enterprise. I was fascinated by the idea of having a positive impact on communities and making the world a better place. This triggered a thinking process and I realized that many companies work into the exact opposite direction. I therefore looked into possibilities to transition from the private sector into the social sector. At first, I was sceptical if my skills could be transferred, but through research I found out about programs that help you in making exactly that transition. The LGT Impact Fellowship allowed me to apply my business skills and what attracted me most was learning more about the investor perspective and gaining insights into how LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Lightstone support their portfolio organizations. Other factors that I considered in my choice to apply for the LGT Impact Fellowship were the type of organizations and companies LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Lightstone invest in, which has drawn my interest, as well as the type of careers that former Fellows have started after their Fellowships. I have realized that there are many Fellows that manage a remarkable career shift thanks to the program.
Q: Was it a difficult decision for you to join the LGT Impact Fellowship?
A: Professionally it wasn’t difficult, because was already convinced that I wanted to shift to the social sector. On a personal level it meant of course starting a new life and leaving family and friends behind. However, the support provided by the LGT Venture Philanthropy and LGT Lightstone team largely facilitated the transition.
Q: You were matched with the former LGT Venture Philanthropy portfolio organization Bive in Colombia, that provides healthcare access to mid-income people. What exactly was your LGT Impact Fellowship role at the organization and what were your main contributions?
A: In my LGT Impact Fellowship at Bive I was hired as a Business Development Director. Originally the goal of my Fellowship was to scale Bive’s model into three new geographic regions within Colombia. However, as for many social enterprises it is important to cope with the dynamic environment and as a result to that my role has also changed over the course of the Fellowship. The organization’s income forecast required an adjustment of the strategy. Instead of regional expansion we looked into new customer groups and as a result started working with coffee farmers. The result was a double-digit increase of users and the launch of a new social health program. With this achievement we ultimately were also granted additional funds. My main contribution was especially bringing the business perspective into the organization. I supported Bive in finding a balance between the purpose-driven focus of social entrepreneurs and the viability of their model to ensure sustainability of the business.
Moreover, I was able to transfer my know-how about organizational processes and structures, which allowed Bive to implement monitoring and reporting processes and hence manage the organization in a more formal way.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about some of your Fellowship highlights? What were your key learnings?
A: Professionally I have learnt a lot more than I expected. I have particularly gained key insights into team management and project management. Moreover, an important lesson learnt was to recognize that any social organization needs to focus on the community they are serving and to really understand the problem they are trying to solve in order to ultimately find a solution for the community. This is also applicable to any other business or industry. Moreover, I learnt a lot about corporate finance thanks to the interaction with LGT Venture Philanthropy throughout my Fellowship.
On a personal level I learnt resilience. Throughout my assignment at Bive we had gone through difficult times, where I saw people losing their jobs, while the organization had obligations to deliver and was under pressure to find solutions. Going through such a difficult phase I discovered that I am much stronger than I thought I could ever be.
The highlight of the Fellowship was therefore the moment where we found a solution, namely diversification to new customer groups, and managed a strategic turnaround to ensure the sustainability of the business.
Q: Just recently you have started a very exciting new role – Project Manager at UNEP MAP Regional Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production. What was your path and how has the Fellowship helped you to get there?
A: When my Fellowship ended, I felt I was not done yet. Having worked so intensively with the team to define the diversification strategy I was eager to stay on with Bive for another 6 months to also accompany the organization in the implementation phase.
I then returned to Spain in order to spend some time with my family and to accomplish a project management course meanwhile. I then worked for Fundación Xaley, an NGO in Spain, as an Impact & Sustainability Manager and thereafter I became a Relationship Manager at Devex, an American social enterprise that generates business intelligence and helps development organizations access funding.
Finally, I have recently had the fantastic opportunity to join the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production as a Project Manager. The project I work on is part of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) framework and supports green entrepreneurs in the Mediterranean region to obtain training and funding for their projects. In my role I am coordinating the activities of six countries. Among other tasks, I review the processes, establish controlling activities, ensure program sustainability, etc. What I enjoy most about this role is the fact that it literally combines all the skills and capabilities I have gained throughout all my experiences.
I truly believe that the LGT Impact Fellowship was the opportunity that allowed me to prove (to others and to myself) that working on something you love while making the world a better place is possible.
Q: If you could give one advice to future Fellows, what would it be?
A: Always give your best and apply the entire range of your skills. Be open to learn because you will be working with professionals who have been in the sector for a long time and who know the communities inside out. And finally, think out of the box: You have a lot to offer to those organizations and companies, because you have the outside perspective.
Are you an experienced business professional looking for an opportunity to use your skills to create positive impact? We’re looking for people just like you to join the LGT Impact Fellowship 2020 cohort. Learn more and apply here today!