How Giving Back Helped Me Pay it Forward


Little did I know when I started interacting with a new friend last winter that it would lead to my fulfilling one of my life goals; which is to give back to the community after a very rewarding professional career in IT project management.  I decided that I needed to share some of what I had learned throughout my many years in the corporate world to foster workplace performance. Not only had I never lost a project due to my well-developed PM skills, I had loyal and dedicated teams. Sure, this may sound boastful, but it’s true. Being grateful for the experience, I wanted to offer tools and techniques that I had gleaned to others as my legacy to contribute to the improvement of corporate culture.

kids

Volunteering my skills and offering workshops turned out not to be so easy. After several lengthy failed attempts involving writing proposals, offering startup funds to get my “Enlightened Leadership” concepts into my university curriculum, and then to my spiritual organization’s mindful leadership program to no avail, the successful situation actually came to me. When my friend wasn’t able to take an assignment, he suggested that I coach summer school for kids. I had co-coached with him for several months providing me with a basic understanding of how to work with the kids, but teaching multiple times per week for eight weeks was a totally different situation. After a very brief negotiation with the head mistress of the learning center, I had to design 18 classes with only 10 days’ notice. It was at this point that I decided to use the backdrop of what I had wanted to present to the older group, just on a more modified scale.

My philosophy was to start with the youth teaching the basics of interpersonal skills, time management and planning projects as a foundation for being a more informed participant in the workplace. Hopefully, these skills learned at a young age would help these students grow into adults with better emotional intelligence as well as analytical understanding of the requirements they might face later. This material was ground breaking for 6th and 7th graders. And my interactive, problem solving and team-oriented style was new to them. That said, eventually we all got used to the program; I adjusted to them and in turn, they got used to speaking to each other and thinking more analytically. By the end of the eight weeks, the kids were all writing and presenting on the elements of a project plan using a model familiar to them – the five questions: Why? Where? Who? What? When? One of my life goals is now accomplished. I did it and they did it!

As I finished the summer session, I wondered what would come next only to see a brief article in the local paper advertising for STEMS (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) volunteers to help local teachers in the school system. I applied and was quickly accepted. My training is in a few weeks. So on to the next chapter of paying it forward to give back. My experience has been both exhilarating and exhausting. I expect the next experience with coaching kids to be equally rewarding.

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