EIR Lessons in Perspective: An insight into the EIR experiences of Western Union executives Emmanuel and Terry
BACKGROUND – MEET THE PEOPLE
EIR Emmanuel Salvetti and host Ashoka Fellow Sunanda Mane
Emmanuel, Vice President of risk and credit Finance for WU Colorado partnered with Ashoka Fellow Sunanda Mane and his Company Lend-A-Hand India (LAHI) in Pune, India. Sunanda is bridging the gap between the education imparted in secondary schools and real-like skills required in rural India. By introducing trained local entrepreneurs into schools, Sunanda creates an environment where students are able to develop entrepreneurial skills. Emmanuel partnered with the LAHI team to better organize the structure of the institution, which has grown at nearly a 200% rate in the last two years and was struggling to keep up with the escalating Human Resources demands. He helped review and refine several employee roles based on the needs of the organization.
EIR Terry Lodes and host Ashoka Fellow Regina Agyare
Terry, Vice President of global compensation for WU Denver, USA, partnered with Ashoka Fellow Regina Agyare and her Company Soronko Solutions in Accra, Ghana. Regina is bringing women and girls into the ICT space by providing them with the role models and tools to change them from consumers to creators of technology. Terry assisted Soronko Solutions in establishing the right procedures to follow during the recruitment of staff for the new school for coding and human centered design. He delivered a Hiring Plan with best practices and guidelines that Regina’s team can follow as they begin interviewing candidates.
Two different projects in two different continents with one changemaker vision
BROAD LESSONS & FINDINGS
How did this experience relate to your development plans and how will you apply what you have learnt to your role at Western Union?
Terry: My development goals were to increase my learning agility, increase my perspective of WU's customers in a very unique market, and increase change-making skills. From my experience with Ashoka, I was able to work with a team from varying cultures and backgrounds to accomplish a goal; this was achieved by building relationships and trust quickly, understanding different points of view and expectations, and coming together with a sense of purpose and alignment to the cause and goal. I also learned that the development of a product or solution has to be with the end customer in mind. The solutions need to be simple and creative, and provide a level of flexibility on the approach or solution. Finally empathy, realizing what others have (or don’t have) and the realities of the world they see and live in. This provided better insight to WU's customers, and how important our service is to them, which makes it even more important that we provide simple, reliable products.
Emmanuel: My work at Lend-A-Hand India allowed me to develop an appreciation for the importance of their mission and its value to young students and the communities in which they live, as well as the potential to scale their impact. It allowed me to gain an in-depth understanding of their organization and operations, and to contribute my expertise and ideas from an outsider's perspective. I was able to apply management, organizational and operational frameworks I have developed and used in my career at Western Union managing large and complex functions, recently learned at MIT or discovered in my research for this opportunity. Aside from giving me confidence that I can have an impact on a different type of business, and the benefits of gaining an integrated view of mission, strategy and execution, the undertaking exposed me to a small company for which operating efficiently is key to survival. Those lessons can be valuable for what I contribute at WU. The experience also certainly enriched me by being exposed to a different culture, a different industry and a mission-driven enterprise. I can only benefit from that kind of experience. What LAHI does is consistent with the type of impact the WU Foundation has and the critical social value that Western Union delivers.
Most significant takeaway?
Terry: Personally, being immersed in a very different culture and getting stretched outside my comfort zone was a unique experience. However, this demonstrated to me that I was able to be fluid, adapt and change my approach to accomplish a project. It also showed me that a common purpose and belief can bring very different people together and connect them with a strong bond and drive to a successful outcome.
Emmanuel: The benefit of adopting a start-up approach to innovation through testing and iterating, building small success stories that yield positive customer experiences and credibility for the company.
THE ASHOKA EFFECT – CHANGING MINDSETS
What did you learn about the financial services or education field that you did not know before? What did you learn about emerging markets or new business models?
Terry: I learned that new ways to educate and connect with younger children are evolving and very different than the mainstream vehicles I am used to. In the emerging markets, they are catering to a population with unique and different resources/needs. They rely heavily on mobile technology and therefore to reach and effectively get to your customers you have to build ensure this vehicle is leveraged. This also means you may need to be flexible and creative and find multiple ways to connect with you end user. Being easy to do business with is paramount.
Emmanuel: Individual and collective actions and engagement will make a difference and can overcome the most complex problems our society faces. The experience was a good illustration of the primary role education plays in economic development and the astounding challenge it represents for a country as populous and diverse as India is. LAHI plays a critical role in complementing traditional education with vocational training that ultimately motivates the kids to stay in school and equips them with real-life skills they can use in the future to start a business or gain employment. LAHI recently augmented its program to teach business and financial skills, seen as essential to round out their education. To keep the students engaged, the entire program is articulated around a very successful "learning by doing" approach. LAHI evidenced for me the value of an entrepreneurial strategy, the benefits of partnering and the importance of a disciplined approach to solving customer pain points.
What implications might this new knowledge of financial services, education, or the cultural environment in which you worked have for Western Union's business now or in the future (in terms of challenges or opportunities)?
Terry: We have to continue to be flexible in our product offerings, ensuring the customer is able to do business with us in the way that works for them, not what we think works best. We have to continue to drive mobile and digital technology and be innovative in our business model and product offerings. Customers expect things will be easy for them, and our solutions will work for them 100% of the time as expected or better than expected.
Emmanuel: I see an opportunity in emulating LAHI's approach by iterating an "evaluate and experiment' process in our product development and build credibility with customers and other stakeholders through success stories and demonstrable results.
Most significant challenge?
Terry: I think assimilating to a very new and different culture, establishing relationships and working collectively to deliver a common goal in a very short time frame. I felt that I understood the culture, environment, foundation and what was being asked of us after about a week, which left the second week to accomplish a lot.
Emmanuel: Getting through LAHI's internal language and repertoire of acronyms and program designs explained by experts in their field who often lacked a strategic mindset and the ability to draw out reasoning and inferences.
How will you continue to be involved after your EIR experience?
Terry: This is something I am continuing to evaluate, and cannot say that I have it completely figured out yet. I plan to stay connected with Soronko and the 'Tech Needs Girls' program. However, I am also evaluating options in my local community to stay connected with both volunteer opportunities in young children's education and or mentoring. In addition, I am planning a few opportunities for my children to join me for a few local events.
Emmanuel: I offered to be available for follow up questions and advice as LAHI implements some of my recommendations or as they face new challenges.