[IMGCAP(1)]As I left Mexico City for my home in Chicago in November 2013, I traveled with mixed emotions. I had just completed a seven-week rotation, helping a high-impact entrepreneur, free of charge, as part of EY’s Americas Corporate Responsibility (CR) Fellows program. While I was excited to return to my family and friends, I was sad to leave behind great friends and the city that had become my home for seven weeks.
The CR Fellows program was such a transformative experience—one that not only gave me the opportunity to apply my skills in an international work environment, but also gave me a deep sense of satisfaction from contributing to the entrepreneurial community in Mexico that in turn impacts the local people and economy.
The CR Fellows program is a collaboration between EY and Endeavor, a not-for-profit organization that identifies and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging economies. Since 2005, EY has helped some of the most promising entrepreneurs in Latin America succeed by devoting their experienced professionals (15 Fellows in 2013) to provide skills-based advisory services matched to the needs of the entrepreneur with no charge to the entrepreneurs. Conversely, the program provides EY professionals with the opportunity to work internationally, practice adaptability and leadership in an unfamiliar environment, and experience living in a new culture.
My experience as a CR Fellow was truly enriching. Professionally, I enjoyed the challenge of being the one-person team to understand my entrepreneur’s needs and business environment, and develop a sustainable solution to meet their objectives. The entrepreneurial company I worked with had aggressive growth goals and wanted a “balanced scorecard” (a strategy performance management framework) to help measure progress against their strategic vision.
During my seven weeks, I helped the company solidify its strategic approach and developed metrics, targets and reporting templates to track and communicate growth. I even had the opportunity to present to the board of directors on the strategic approach and balanced scorecard, and to understand how the scorecard and metrics would impact decision making at the highest levels of the organization.
Personally, the CR Fellows program allowed me to exercise one of my favorite hobbies traveling! During my seven weeks, I took every opportunity to enjoy the amazing food, culture and travel destinations that Mexico City and its surrounding towns offer. I learned about the rich history of Mexico through trips to the historical district and museums, experienced live masked-wrestling (Lucha Libre) and watched a nail-biting World Cup qualifier game at Azteca Stadium.
My co-Fellows and I also did day trips on the weekends—we visited the Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan and the colonial magical towns of Taxco, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. Through travel, food and sharing life stories and experiences, I developed lifelong friendships with not only my co-Fellows but also all of our entrepreneurs.
As I look back at the program, I realize that I had a very limited understanding of the impact of the entrepreneurial community on the economies and growth of emerging countries. The entrepreneurs work with tremendous integrity and passion, fueled by love for what they do, their people and their country. I am so honored to have been able to contribute to their vision, and even more grateful to return with some of their passion and dedication to continue to give back to my teams at work and to my community.
Karen Correa is an EY senior manager, advisory services.