Experteer Spotlight: How This Data Analyst Volunteered Her Way Into a Purpose-Driven Career

Alexandra

Program manager at MovingWorlds.org

You’re probably familiar with the difference between the brief feeling of fulfillment that comes from a task well-done (inbox zero? score!), and the deeply rooted feeling of fulfillment that comes from contributing to a purpose larger than yourself. Agnes Tolescu, an experienced data analyst from Romania, joined MovingWorlds in search of the latter. With nearly a decade of professional data analytics experience, Agnes had a wealth of technical skills to offer. She also had a growing passion for sustainable development, and previous experience volunteering with a small community group in the Czech Republic which promoted sustainable living practices.

MovingWorlds helped Agnes connect the dots between her skills and her passion by connecting her with a project at the intersection of data and sustainability. Through the MovingWorlds guided matching process, Agnes partnered with the WindAid Institute, a non-profit educational institute in Peru on a mission to empower people to create a more sustainable world.

Agnes & the Team in the Community of Yahuarmarca
Agnes & the Team in the Community of Yahuarmarca

WindAid Institute provides electricity to developing communities using wind energy, providing clean and reliable electricity to locations where traditional electricity is not available. Students and professionals from all over the world come together to design, build, and install these wind generators in partnership with local communities, and the WindAid team was looking to improve the measurement and analysis of its impact data. Agnes joined the WindAid team as a Community Impact Assessment Experteer, using her data analytics background to develop an impartial impact report, as well as provide recommendations for best practices moving forward.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Agnes after her trip, and are excited to share the meaningful results that she and WindAid were able to achieve together. Read on to hear more from Agnes about her experience!

What inspired you to “take the leap” and go Experteering?

There were several factors that led me to ‘take the leap’ into Experteering: I wanted to enrich my travels with meaning, to give something back to the communities welcoming me, and to gain hands-on experience related to sustainable change. I was searching for a different kind of fulfillment than what I was getting from my job, which at that time was centered around a commercial purpose rather than aligned with my personal values. Another motivating factor was that I wanted to meet other like-minded people on this same journey- the CARE-ers and DO-ers who are motivated by something bigger than themselves. I wanted to surround myself with people who could inspire me and to plug into a different kind of professional support network.

What were you doing before going Experteering?

I had accumulated 7 years of professional experience working in Data Analysis, focusing on pricing strategies for multinational companies in both the IT and Medical Devices sectors. On the side, I volunteered as a member of an informal group focused on raising awareness on the topic of sustainable living habits in the Czech Republic.

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What did you do on your Experteering trip?

While I was on location in Peru, I worked with WindAid as their Community Impact Officer. I was responsible for coordinating all community activities and performing impact research as per the needs of the organization, which at the time was to create a Needs Assessment Survey and Impact Report. The main projects I worked on included:

  1. Building & implementing a system to manage community data, which would provide structure and streamline processes across all stages of the rural electrification projects.
  2. Building & running community needs assessment research, and coordinating all community interactions to complete the final impact report.
  3. Actively participating in building & installing wind energy systems in rural communities (despite my previous lack of technical knowledge- this was a great stretch project for me!)
Agnes Building Wind Turbines in Peru
Truly Hands-On Experience: Agnes Building Wind Turbines in Peru

What was the highlight of your Experteering trip?

The one-on-one time I was able to spend getting to know actual members of the community as part of my data collection for the Needs Assessment Survey was my highlight. I had the opportunity to meet with a large number of community members – of all ages and backgrounds – asking for details about the way they are currently living and estimating the impact that the wind systems would bring to their lives. Aside from the fulfillment of running a project I developed from scratch, I felt connected with the people who would benefit from the project and had the privilege of receiving some insights from them that helped me understand the community deeper than I could have ever understood it as a tourist.

Agnes & the WindAid Team Engaging in the Community
Agnes & the WindAid Team doing Community Outreach

What was one thing you wish you had known before volunteering overseas?

I wish I would have done more research before going overseas so that I would have had a better knowledge base to start from. [Editor’s note: This is very common feedback – make sure to plan, plan, and plan some more!] I picked things up quickly once I was there, but extra context would have been helpful given the shorter duration of the project and the ambitions I had in terms of results and impact.

What advice do you have for anyone reading this who is thinking about going Experteering themselves?

My advice would be to go with an open mind and heart, and to be ready to absorb all of the learnings free of judgment or expectations. I found that it’s important to respect the culture of the local people, even if some customs are very different than what you’re used to, and to keep this respect at the core of all work you do towards driving positive change. As mentioned before, I wish I would have arrived in the field with a deeper knowledge of the culture, politics, and socioeconomic aspects of the country/communities I was supporting and interacting with. Preparation is key, so do your research!

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How did your Experteering trip expand your network and build your resume?

Going Experteering gave me an amazing opportunity to meet one-of-a-kind people who believe in a vision for a sustainable world, and who are doing the hard work to bring that vision to life. During my Experteering trip, I was especially impressed by the strong values, sharp intelligence, and positive outlook of the people I worked with, and I admired that they were focused on something bigger than themselves and willing to do their best to make a positive impact.

On a personal note, Experteering also added great value to my resume as I gained the hands-on research & sustainability experience that I didn’t have before, but was always interested in. Experteering is a great way not only to use your expertise for a greater purpose, but also to make pivotal moves in your career trajectory which are otherwise hard to make by following conventional career paths.

What were the biggest takeaways from your trip, and how will you translate this into your plans after Experteering?

The biggest takeaway was the sense of possibility that WindAid inspired in me. The personal impact was so significant, that after my Experteering trip I decided to switch my career path from the corporate sector to the social sector, and also relocated back to my home country. I’d been away from my home country for years, but after this experience, I am confident and inspired that I can really make a difference in building a more equitable and sustainable society.

What was the most rewarding part of your trip?

There were two components which stand out to me most. The first was the time I spent in the remote communities we served, and their care, attention and welcoming attitude, along with the deep trust they put in us. Second would be all of the amazing people I got to do this with, who maintained a human-centered design approach and always kept the beneficiaries of the project in mind, and who focused on skills-transfer and teaching to leave these communities with a sustainable blueprint to continue their work.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I had great support from the MovingWorlds team every step of the way, which helped a lot! [Editor’s note: Thanks, Agnes – you’re the model of a standout Experteer and we’re honored to have had the chance to be a part of your story!]

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