Interview with Sylvia Warren, who pursued her LGT Impact Fellowship at salauno, a portfolio company of Lightrock. After nearly a decade working as a strategy consultant at Dalberg, Sylvia joined salauno to support the CEO with the design and implementation of various strategy projects. Throughout her Fellowship, her role evolved to focus on updating salauno’s Strategic Plan for 2022-2025 and leading the commercial area that is responsible for the attraction and retention of patients.
How is your current work with your host organization different from what you used to do before?
“One of the main factors that motivated me to join the LGT Impact Fellowship program was to gain new experiences and new perspectives. Having been in strategy consulting for almost 10 years, I had learnt a lot about social impact and health. However, in strategy consulting you are looking at a problem from a very distinct angle and are handing over solution ideas to your client. In order to keep growing professionally, I knew that I wanted to gain experience in the implementation and execution of such solutions. That was my motivation to work for salauno in the first place. So the main difference from my previous work and my work at salauno is that I used to develop strategies and good ideas for my clients, while now I work with my team to develop these ideas, but then together we also have to implement them. Another difference to highlight is that in strategy consulting you are pretty distant from the end result. Here at salauno, I have hundreds of patients coming into our office every single day to get their eyes checked and undergo a treatment or surgery. Therefore, I feel like my connection to the results is much more direct and with this comes more accountability. If we aren’t achieving our goales, we have to diagnose the situation and develop a solution to address the problem.”
What have you achieved together with your host organization?
“The main achievement was that we have established a solid post-pandemic rhythm. When I joined in 2022, salauno was at a critical inflection point after the challenging COVID years. It was hence important to get back on track with running the business sustainably, including growing the services that we are delivering, growing revenues, etc. We have made a big step forward in this regard. Together, with the Director of Operations, we have launched a campaign that we called “bailar otro ritmo” (dance to another beat) in January 2023 to get back on track and snap out of the pandemic funk. Consequently, we were able to raise the pace of the team, raise expectations for everyone, launch new initiatives and work more collaboratively to collectively achieve our results. This has been the most exciting achievement. The next challenge will now be to make systemic changes in order to maintain our performance in the long-run and achieve our mission: to give all Mexicans the possibility to see well and transform their lives.”
What was the most important skill/expertise you could bring to your organization?
“The standard strategy consulting toolkit was extremely useful, which I was able to apply in a completely different context during this Fellowship. With this skillset, I felt well-prepared and that I could contribute meaningfully to salauno. More specifically, I was able to bring in 1) problem solving skills – to identify problems, do a diagnostic with qualitative and quantitative analysis to understand the factors driving a problem, and then come up with options and prioritize a solution; 2) stakeholder management skills, including communication skills to convey ideas clearly to the team, to management and to partners; 3) module management to bring structure into our work, including project management and planning; and 4) leadership skills. Even though I didn’t have any commercial experience, I felt that my expertise gained in strategy consulting could be transferred and allowed me to get up to speed quickly.”
What’s unique about the LGT Impact Fellowship program?
“What really stood out to me was the fact that I was the only Fellow from the Global North in my cohort, which is unique given that many social impact spaces continue to be over-represented by people from the Global North. The Fellowship kick-off workshop in Switzerland was an amazing experience to gain new perspectives, and I very much appreciated learning from my co-Fellows, who are from the countries where they are working in. This exchange gave me an additional angle on the social issues we are all committed to solve for.”
To whom would you recommend to participate?
“I’d recommend the Fellowship to two groups of people: 1) The Fellowship is a great experience for people who have worked in the private sector and want to switch their career to the social sector. I think the program provides a good introduction and allows participants to get a first foot into the door; and 2) People who have my kind of experience, namely people who have worked in the social sector already, but who would like to add a different angle to their experience. I think a one-year trial period to try something new is really valuable and allowed me to test whether I could contribute effectively in this area.”
How would you describe the Fellowship in three words?
“Meaningful, challenging, energizing (with many new perspectives gained).”
The problem salauno tries to tackle:
- Needless blindness in Mexico: ~77M people in Mexico have refractive errors that have not been corrected and ~16M have ocular pathologies, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy
- In 80% of cases, blindness can be avoided or reversed
The solution salauno provides:
- Access to high-quality eyecare products and services – screenings, consultations, studies, glasses and contact lenses, pharmacy, treatments, and surgeries – via a network of 18 clinics and one surgical center in Mexico City
Sylvia’s impact during her Fellowship:
- 29k new patients reached in January – May 2023
- 12k patients treated in January – May 2023
- 101% of the revenue target from January – May 2023