SFU Beedie offers many extra-curricular activities that enhance your overall experience; one of these opportunities is to be a part of a student-led club. I was privileged to have been given the opportunity to serve the Beedie graduate student body as the President of the SFU Net Impact chapter for the past year. Along with two colleagues from the MBA program and two from MSc Finance program, we embarked on a mission of bringing sustainability to the forefront of business conversations. We did so by organizing insightful conversations around climate justice, responsible investing, and equity, diversity & inclusion, along with putting together a Global Sustainability Case Competition!
As I reflect back on my time orchestrating the efforts of the team, our accomplishments, and the hurdles of working entirely online there are five key aspects that reflect leadership in times of uncertainty:
Building Community in a Virtual Setting.
Without a doubt one of the key challenges that we, on our journey as the Net Impact leadership team, faced was figuring out how to build a community online and keep the student body engaged with our events. To overcome this challenge we did three things: first, we worked to ensure our events were valuable, interesting, and in line with the student body’s needs; second, we gave event attendees an opportunity to interact with our guest speakers; and third, we incorporated fun activities, such as the sustainability scavenger hunt, in our programming. As we advanced through the year we were able to build a community around sustainability issues in an interactive and fun manner.
Developing Trust and Accountability
The demanding nature of a graduate program can have an impact on extra-curricular performance, as with many commitments it was important for each team member to set clear expectations and goals for our leadership experience. Each team member was accountable for the work that they committed to do in a given week or for a specific event, and fulfilling such expectations helped us to develop trust in each other. In times where a team member was having a hard week, we all stepped in to provide support in completing their Net Impact-related tasks because we knew we had each other’s back, which leads me to the next point: teamwork.
The Power of Teamwork
Effective teamwork is rooted in trust and accountability and I can attest that this was fundamental in our experience leading the Net Impact club through unprecedented times. Even if one person may have been leading a specific event, as it was the case of our Sustainability Case Competition, we all stepped in to support in whatever ways needed to make sure that it ran smoothly and was a success. Leadership ensures that everyone on the team is going in the same direction and nurturing teamwork allows us to collaborate efficiently to get to our goal.
In the midst of a global pandemic, embracing change became a way of life. As part of our student leadership journey, there were a lot of unknowns. We all began our Net Impact experience from different parts of the world, waiting a long time to get our student visas approved, and navigating communicating within different time zones. For me, part of embracing change involved focusing on one day, one task,or one project at a time to avoid getting distracted by the uncertainty of the future, which had the potential to inhibit me from enjoying my time as a Net Impact Executive member.
The Importance of Planning and Remaining Flexible
One of the key areas that set our team up for success was spending significant time at the beginning of our journey listening to the student body’s interests and drafting a year long plan using this input. It allowed us to create a timeline that reflected the themes that mattered the most to our audience. It also gave us the opportunity to brainstorm different event formats to ensure we were building an interactive, meaningful and rewarding experience for all. As we all know, plans often change as we attempt to execute them and instead of getting frustrated about necessary changes, we remained flexible and recognized that leadership is also about being humble and recognizing that things may not go as planned. This does not mean that we failed; we were instead learning to prioritize and deliver quality over quantity in our programming.
The opportunity to serve as the President of SFU Beedie’s Net Impact club has been one of the most remarkable experiences of my MBA journey; one that shaped my leadership style and that allowed me to lead in turbulent and unprecedented times. As I wrap up my MBA program, I am looking forward to bringing a renewed leadership mindset to the organization that I get to work with. The best part of the experience was undoubtedly to work and have fun with my fellow leadership team members. We had to wait a whole year to take a picture together in person, and it was worth it. If I were given the opportunity to lead the team again, I would do it in a heartbeat.
About the Author
Carlos López-Sandoval is a full-time MBA candidate at Simon Fraser University’s Segal Graduate School of Business. His professional experience involves work in youth entrepreneurship, project management (both social impact and sales-related projects), marketing, sales, and business education. He looks forward to supporting Small and Medium businesses in Vancouver and BC as part of his post-grad career.