PKG Fellowships 2020: Shannon Wing, Part III
To read Part I of Shannon’s reflection, click here!
Click here to read Part II of Shannon’s experience!
by Shannon Wing
When arriving at MIT I was eager to work hard and land a job within the field of sustainability when I graduate. This goal was only to be knocked down when I was talking to someone on the topic of effective altruism. Effective altruism strives to answer the question, How can we do the most good? Perhaps a question many of us have strived to answer in our lives. I had worked myself through the idea that if I worked hard enough I could land a good paying job that I could live off of, working in the field of sustainability. However, if I didn’t take this job, someone else would because jobs in which you can feel like you are helping the world and are getting paid well are in fact very sought after. If the job had known objectives and tasks, well whether or not I had the job or someone else did, those tasks would get done. Even if that someone else completed everything in a slightly worse fashion, how much impact could I really be making within that company? I believe I have found a little more of an answer to this question through my work with Essmart this summer and I would like to share my thoughts with you.
Alright, how impactful can you be working for a nonprofit or a charitable organization? You have already heard my theory. Let me give you my friends. It’s not about the job, it is who’s in the job. Outcomes can be vastly different for a company depending on the makeup of its people, especially if you work hard enough in life to get to a position where you are making big decisions for the company. Ok well which theory is the truth. Is the answer somewhere in the middle?
8-weeks into my work with Essmart, I have tasked myself to recount how impactful I believe my work thus far has been for the community that Essmart serves and based off of this evaluation, how impactful I believe similar work could be in the future. Throughout my time at Essmart, I have worked on updating and reevaluating impact metrics, generating new, innovative solutions for collecting data, generating data to assist marketing platforms, and assisting the creation of software that allows for the management and automatic updates of Essmart’s impact metrics. The most important work that sticks out to me is the design of software and data generating code. Why? Because by building software and analysis tools, you get to contribute to a concrete and permanent increase in efficiency for a company. Not to mention you give the company access to capabilities that they otherwise would be able to access with solely man power. Further and probably most importantly, you are able to build the complexity and knowledge of the company and the people running it into a platform that will last for time. I guess in some senses, you are building and expanding the foundation a company sits upon. This concept is where I started to see how my work and the work of others could start to tip the scales for Essmart.
Essmart has impacted the lives of around 521,000 people in Southern India to date, with around 2,700 shops in their network, giving rural communities access to life improving products. They are growing and the tools that I worked on are essential to this progress. In conclusion, I really did start to see the potential of working for a nonprofit, especially one such as Essmart that is established and is looking to develop tools to aid in their expansion. If you can contribute essential tools to a project in its stages of critical development, I can see your personal potential for impact being very high. In this case each move and variation that you make will affect how the nonprofit expands and with 15 million family owned shops in India, even the smallest moves have a potential impact that is very, very high. Therefore, I think I have learned that if you find a job or volunteer position at a nonprofit at the right time in their development and bring the right skillset and motivation, yes you can be very deliberately impactful.