Written by: Keerthana Karunakaran - India
The first time I read about the Raleigh program in the Leadership exChange website, one line stood out to me which said "Be inspired for 730.484 consecutive hours" and I wondered if that was even possible. But now after the program if I have to choose one word to describe the whole experience it would be none other than INSPIRING.
As an (over)ambitious girl from India I was more than excited to start my leadership program in Raleigh. From the minute I reached Raleigh (with the most luggage among the gang) I could not help but be mesmerized. Not just with the greenery adorned highways but more importantly stunned by the people in Raleigh.
The people in Raleigh, especially the HQ community are all so driven and motivated. The keen spirit of community that Raleigh holds is contagious. A genuine respect for every individual and their dreams fills the air and there is always a helping hand everywhere. I understood what it meant to chase one's dreams. Every story that we heard, saw, and witnessed broadened our perspective and outlook towards life. We understood the importance of a trusted network in each person's journey. If you did not believe that the dots connect backwards, visit Raleigh, grab any HQ member and listen to their story and all your faith will be reinforced. I learned that one of the most important lesson in life is to not be afraid of failure for it is the biggest teacher on your path to success. Another beautiful coincidence in all these great stories was finding the balance while defining one's success. We were able to witness how happiness is not one dimensional rather a person needs to find a balance in order to feel truly successful. The beauty about being surrounded by such great individuals is that unconsciously this spirit of self motivation creeps in you as well.
As 10 individuals meeting from around the world for the first time, we were all a little nervous. We came from such different cultures and backgrounds. The only thing we all had in common was that we all had AN IDEA each, about which we were all insecure, unsure and unclear yet had a hopeful dream around it. As we started our brainstorming sessions, we motivated and pushed each other every single day. It still amuses me looking back at how 10 individuals working on their 10 different ideas can be such a great team. I knew that I had made friends for a lifetime. My friends from Mexico taught me how to have a free spirit and enjoy every moment in life. My favourite Czech girl taught me how culture doesn't stop two people from being the best of friends! The Americans taught me how to be completely passionate about one's community and Nation. The Armenian whizz kid taught me how to be completely devoted to your work. I learned so much from each and every one of them. It is amazing how much you learn about yourself while surrounded by such diverse people. Towards the end we were proud of each of our work, our journey and each other's growth. They gave me wings to fly! The Think house rubbed off its magic on us as well!
Moving on to the actual syllabus of the program, GLP Raleigh offered a New venture planning course and an Internship for each of us. In the New venture planning, we all worked on our own idea. We went through a rigorous course on how to build a business from scratch. Liz Tracy helped us through each step helping us understand the importance of Customer analysis, Market analysis, Product/Service design and a clear road to creating and testing out the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This along with Ricky Hopper's Design Thinking workshop gave us a clear idea of the science behind building a product/service. This changed my life. Once I returned back to India, I got an offer to work as a Director of Operations with an Organization completely because of my knowledge on Design thinking, Lean Startup and HCD all of which I learned for the first time in GLP Raleigh. Today as I lay down the foundations for my Organization, I still go back to the blueprint and resources that we used during the course. They are the best designed efficient course models that one could ask for while building up on an idea.
For my Internship, I worked with Jessica Porta on building a new non profit organization called S2O- Survive 2 Own which focuses on empowering the victims of Human Trafficking through micro-entrepreneurship. This was unlike any other internship since I got to work hands on and got a complete experience of building a non profit organization. From building a website to framing the by-laws to setting up an operationsstructure, I had the privilege to learn and do it all. I could not have asked for a better mentor! Jess is also the Director of Operations at HQ Raleigh and she taught me that age doesn't matter and that onecould be as established as one sets out to be even at a young age. Her passion for her project pushed me throughout and still inspires me every day to be a little better.
The main reason that we all had such an amazing experience was because of two women. Ryan Finch, who was not just our Program Director, but a friend, a mentor, a guide, a sounding board... I could go on! She helped each of us draw the best out of this program and made us believe in ourselves even in the toughest times. Without her, none of this would be possible. She is an ambassador for networking! There was a phrase that we always used for Ryan which is, "Ryan knows everybody" and it is true. So no matter what your idea is Ryan always guides you to the right connections to take yourself and your idea one step further. The next is the woman behind it all, Heather Mcdougall who is the founder of LE. She is the most humble and modest person you can ever meet. She made sure that all the students not just in Raleigh but Rome and Prague as well got the best out of their journey with LE. We could not thank them both enough.
The biggest asset would be the network that I was able to build while I was in Raleigh. I was able to sit down with incredible people including Christopher Gergen-Autor of Life Entrepreneurs, Erin Worshen-Head of CASE-Duke, Keith Strombotne- Kidznotes who helped me plan out my idea and figure out the possibilities and opportunities in my area of interest. I was also able to visit places such as the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) which equipped me with strategies and resources to start my Organization. As mentioned before, I am an example of how Leadership exChangecan change your life overnight. I got to learn and grow each day of the program and it was one of the best days of my life so far. None of this would have been possible without Leadership exChange. Do not miss out on an opportunity to be a part of this wonderful community for it will definitely change your life and leave you inspired for long long time.
So Are you ready to be inspired ???
Keerthana Karunakaran - India
GLP Raleigh July 2016