We Are All Wonder Women Co-founder Eugenie is currently studying for an Executive MBA at the University of Cambridge. This is one is a series of blogs she is writing giving insight into some of her learning from the course which she hopes will help other Wonder Women at work.
Cambridge is an international hub for nature conservation. It is home to over ten conservation organisations including the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Birdlife International, and the Tropical Biology Association - to name a few. It’s an exciting place to work as a conservationist. We are at the forefront of conservation science, we are world leaders in best practice, and we develop the international standards to which the rest of our sector benchmark against. And yet I can clearly see that what we are doing is too little, too late.
We are facing an environmental crisis and the change that needs to happen in the world to avert it is immense. Yet our skills as scientists fall short of the skill set that is need to catalyse this change. In fact, our skills as scientists fall short of being able to run efficient, impactful organisations. We write papers in Science and Nature but struggle to communicate our findings with laypeople. We organise, analyse, and model complex datasets but can’t organise and efficiently run our own organisations. We can account for birds, insects, and ecosystems but can’t account for our own finances. We are passionate about our mission to save the world and work long hours but forget that we need to have more impact rather than work more hours. We need to work smarter rather than work harder.
As I progress in my career I have realised that I can create even more impact by improving my non-technical, non-science skills. I have a first class honours degree, a PhD, am a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, and have a long, enviable publication list. I am extremely proud of my achievements as a scientist and yet I feel under-equipped for the challenges facing our organisations.
We need to focus all of our efforts on having impact. It is not about being innovative, or having the most published papers, or ownership of data - it is about impact. It is about using the money we have efficiently, about having systems in place so that we have more time for achieving impact, and working better with people. For it is people that make the decisions, people that commit to change, and people that make a difference.
I have seen non-profit organisations facing serious financial problems, having challenging staffing issues, under-delivering on projects, finding change difficult, and more. I want to change this. I want to bring the skills and experience of the business administration world to non-governmental organisations. I want to improve our systems, skills, and understanding of management, finance, technology, strategy, and business administration, in general, to create efficient, mission-led, impactful organisations.
With the world on the brink of an environmental crisis, I know that the skills and experience I will gain through completing an MBA will enhance my capabilities and effectiveness as a manager and leader. And I know that the key thing that it is doing for me is taking me out of my comfort zone. Taking me into a new world of corporate finance, financial reporting, microeconomics, and management science. A world that seems very distant from my comfortable NGO existence. But a world that is hugely important for the environment. We talk about mainstreaming biodiversity but what about mainstreaming ourselves? We want biodiversity and the environment to be considered by businesses, banks, and governments and yet we are reluctant to meet them halfway. Well, I’m taking a journey into the unknown. Yes, I’m nervous but also excited. I know that wherever this journey takes me I will come back with a new perspective. Hopefully a perspective that can help our conservation efforts become even more effective.
By the way, I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and skills with others for the benefit of their careers but also for the wider benefit of nature conservation. To that end I will share the MBA learnings with you through these blogs in the hope that it will help us all improve our own work practices and ultimately increase of impact of whatever work we are doing.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Thank you!
We Are All Wonder Women is an international movement for female conservation professionals to be inspired, connected, and empowered to create an authentic, fulfilling and happy career.