Working with SIS: A Whole Lot of Gratefulness
Berit Braun, a student from the University of Aberdeen, joined us over Summer on a Saltire Internship through Entrepreneurial Scotland. Berit worked on our Social Impact Report 2019 which launched this month; cleansing and analysing the data, drawing conclusions and offering insights. A month on from finishing her internship, Berit reflects on her time at SIS.
It’s been almost a month since the end of my internship at Social Investment Scotland (SIS) and it still feels a bit unreal, so let’s recalibrate.
All the way back in January, I attended a Careers Service workshop that proved to be the single most memorable one I have been to – and I’ve attended my fair share (shout-out to SIE for delivering it). The idea behind it was to get us, a room full of undergraduates involved in on-campus volunteering and organising, to write – or at least start thinking about – our own professional mission statement. What do we want to do in life and, more importantly, why? What truly drives us? And how do we translate that motivation into a career? I’ve still got the sentence that I scribbled on the back of an envelope in that session. It says:
I want to – directly or indirectly – help driven people generate, exchange and execute ideas that make a difference and help them overcome any challenges they might face.
Looking back, I feel incredibly lucky to have found in SIS an organisation that does exactly that – helping those that make a difference overcome challenges and put their vision into practice – and in my work compiling SIS’s 2019 Social Impact Report an opportunity to engage with and help them communicate the difference they make. A visit to one of SIS’s customers (and one of my Social Impact case studies) with investment manager Theresa during my last few days really brought this home. Based in beautiful surroundings in Perthshire, Corbenic is a place that has become not just a lifelong home for adults with various learning disabilities, but a close-knit community based on mutual respect, dignity, and purpose. Walking around the grounds and listening to Deanna, who single-handedly stems everything to do with finance and accounting at Corbenic and has also started teaching yoga in the community, talk with genuine passion and enthusiasm about the organisation, their impact and even her immense (!) workload made me realise the real, tangible impact of SIS’s investments that I’d been charting and describing over the summer in a new way.
The visit really helped bring my internship full circle and gave me a better perspective on how my project fitted into the bigger picture. Those benefiting from SIS’s customers’ work – and therefore from SIS’s investments – stopped being numbers on my spreadsheet and transformed into concrete, human faces. It became clear that the ‘indirect’ part of my scribbled sentence does not mean ‘insignificant’. There is a sort of chain of support where we help those that help others help others, thus compounding our impact. Like in an assembly line, each member of the chain employs their expertise, making it possible for the next person in line to focus solely on their work and allowing the end recipient to benefit from the collective knowledge and experience of all those involved. It’s beautiful, and in my own teeny tiny way, I got to be part of the SIS assembly line this Summer.
I am also incredibly grateful for SIS in less TED-talky, metaphorical ways. For being my first at-a-desk-in-an-office job and showing that this doesn’t need to involve early morning dread. For placing trust in me to get the project done. For giving me room to make heaps of mistakes and even more room to fix them (most of the time) before anybody had even noticed. For taking a chance on a languages and politics student who didn’t have a clue about investment (or business, or finance) and patiently providing the clues. For letting me engage with the place that is now my home – Scotland – in a whole new way. And, above all, for the millions of coffees made for me and brought to my desk with a smile. Thank you (times a million)!
It seems crazy to me now that, alarmed by the words “investment” and “analyst” in the job description, I almost didn’t apply for the role. I owe it to Saltire and their open-minded recruitment process – that in turn encouraged applicants to be open-minded – that I did apply in the end and learned to have the courage to be “full-on me” in my application and interview. This confidence, like my little ‘mission statement’, is something that I can take into my professional future, whatever it may hold. Now, guess my plan around my future career: To be open-minded.
So, what’s next? (Finally) in my final year at uni, I am determined to fully indulge in and appreciate the luxury that is having the opportunity to be a full-time friend, volunteer, reader of articles and learner of things. With the most valuable currency of all – time – more or less freely available to me, I’m determined to make it count and enjoy every second of it.
To feed my love of spreadsheets and for a daily dose of purpose, I’m glad to re-join the assembly line at Bookends, Aberdeen University’s student-run charity bookshop that let’s students to sell their old books whilst raising money for charitable causes and helping volunteers gain confidence and learn valuable skills. Responsible for the database, I get to manage a truly MASSIVE spreadsheet (we’re currently at more than 25,000 entries) and do some more “helping people that help people help people”. And with all the tools right at my fingertips, I might just have to compile a mini Bookends impact report at the end of the year.