By Max Bangen –
Emzingo, a startup for global leadership development and social impact consulting, operating in Lima, Johannesburg, New York, and Madrid, was home to my internship last year. At Emzingo we worked as a virtual team which placed me, a freshman just finishing my undergraduate studies, in a unique internship environment. Partaking in this team enabled me to experience personally and professionally challenging learning journeys and inspiring developments.
How it all started
The opportunity for this internship arose unexpectedly after being introduced to Ramon Marmolejos, one of the co-founders, by an Emzingo advisor. In the course of an introductory call we found that there were mutual interests and potential benefits in collaborating. What really stayed with me after this and following conversations, was the importance that was placed on mapping out expectations and responsibilities in a collaborative and shared manner, integrating personal passions and interests in the work flow.
Being able to engage in projects that allow for the use and development of passions and interests in synchronization with effective business development enabled me to experience the Emzingo culture first outside-in and, after immersion in the team, inside-out. Reflecting on the experience, two major themes will remain with me after the internship:
1- It was intriguingly inspiring because of the diverse set of people collaborating across geographical borders and across cultural diversity. In collaborative processes for project development with all team members I was fascinated by the passion, motivation and purpose each member dedicates to her/his work. Left unsaid and unconsciously embedded in the Emzingo culture I experienced faith to set the tone. In my opinion faith as a value really shapes the nature and tune of the Emzingo team. Coming in as freshman, I was promptly given faith in nature of responsibilities to push projects, take decisions myself, and give guiding recommendations for decision making. For example, Emzingo encouraged me to take on the lead for the design and implementation of an impact assessment methodology that would substantiate the approach taken in the NexGen fellowship. Finding Emzingo to be such an intrinsically faith-based entity amazed me!
2- It was a challenging learning journey, because I learnt what the whole of a virtual team demands from its parts. In the course of the journey, I discovered the extensive need for self-management and responsibility that led me to explore my personal limits and leave my established comfort zones. For instance, in a meeting early on during my internship, Pablo Esteves challenged me to take a clear decision driving concrete further steps for a project after presenting him with my analysis. One of the most intriguing “aha” experiences took place: I realized the great extent of unexpected authority I was allowed. Having to work self-determined and disciplined while being relatively borderless brought me to a point where I realized that I needed a transformed approach to my personal working culture because of the little structural guidance of my work. Also, facing the opportunity and demand to make decisions that are pointing the way, allowed for responsibility that I had not experienced before. My personal Emzingo journey therefore really shaped my personal definition in the workplace. A definition that shifted from needing hierarchical structures to fully embracing a culture of equality through collaboration and inclusion.
As previously mentioned my Emzingo experience led me to develop on a personal and professional level. It brought together two seemingly opposing values, (1) faith, in terms of the loose structure in a virtual team, relying on trust between individuals to foster a collaborative environment, and (2) rationality in the processes of pushing business development through analytical and effective decision making and action taking. Integrating both values in a culture of shared leadership which embraces faith and rationality equally, my Emzingo experience transformed my perception of the responsibility I am able and capable of taking on in an organization and beyond. Now I know about myself, that I can and I should take the responsibility to drive educated decision regardless of supposed hierarchical structures.
The time of my internship in the Emzingo team enabled me to take on a variety of hard and soft skills for future journeys. Having experienced the way of working in a virtual team has equipped me to engage in new challenges on a global scale and allowed me to develop my abilities of structuring and planning my work. Identifying with the reconciliation of faith and rationality in developing a deep sense for taking on responsibility, my goal is to live this reconciliation process myself in the future and lead it in projects and processes.
At this point, I would like to dedicate a great “THANK YOU!” to the whole group at Emzingo for enabling an awesome experiential opportunity through support, integrity and passion.