HiConversion, Hi Social Impact
I joined HiConversion’s Product and Marketing Team as an Intern earlier this month. The opportunity arose after meeting the CEO, Zee Aganovic, at an event we both attended a few months ago.
When the team offered me the role, I excitedly thought, for the next three months, I will be supporting the team’s sales and marketing efforts. We would continue to position the company as a leader in our space, while growing revenues from product sales. As a technology company, the formula reads much like that, I thought. Coming from a social entrepreneurial background, I was not 100% sure how much value I could add to the company’s work.
Nevertheless, I thought deeply about how I could bring my skills and experiences to this new role.
Why am I doing this?
I was excited to land my first internship or job with a technology firm. Earlier this year, I made a commitment to acquire some new skills and enhance my understanding in areas I feel will be crucial in the coming years. As technology, and specifically the advent of Artificial Intelligence become common daily activities, I cannot be more excited about learning about the specifics of machine learning, deep learning, data intelligence, digital optimization, and how I can generally leverage technology as a tool for social change across my country, Liberia. My goal is to diversify my skill set and knowledge to efficiently run and adequately scale my venture in the coming years.
Last year, I launched active programming with my education social enterprise, TRIBE. We are working to improve learning outcomes across Liberia and beyond. Our model leverages research, data and technological tools to create innovative programs and solutions to equip high school students with cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioral skills for the future of work.
Work is important, to everyone. Studies have shown that nations with large cohorts of unemployed working population have the potential to descend into violence or unproductive activities. But what’s even more important is the quality of work. The future of work, thanks to the rapid acceleration of technology, is uncertain. Everything we’re teaching our students now may be wrong or irrelevant. We need to teach students the fundamental life skills and develop them to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, creatives, innovators, entrepreneurs, so that they can thrive in whatever the uncertainties are.
My first day at work (a new perspective)
I rode in with my bike on my first day of work and was escorted in by Ben Virdee-Chapman, the VP for Product and Marketing. I will be working with Ben during the next three months. In my onboarding meeting, Ben presented to me the entire overview of HiConversion and its products, services, and operations. His presentation was succinct and clear. During my previous reading and while in the presentation, I kept wondering what the company’s social impact footprint looked like.
My study of social entrepreneurship and my work with past social ventures have made me further develop my intrinsic desire to always explore the question of purpose and profit for businesses. Ben’s presentation allowed me to understand that the company is purpose-driven and is already doing a lot of work around sustainability practices (to add examples of these, employee’s well-being, contribution to community/environment, commitment, etc.) However, even more intriguing, Ben offered to allow me design my own work experience and decide what I would love for both me and the company to achieve by the end of my program.
In my imagination, I can design an entirely new framework that HiConversion and other tech companies can adopt for social impact, but a healthy dose of realism is vital. Therefore, looking back retroactively upon the completion of my internship, I would be proud to see the company taking on additional social and responsible practices while serve the local community.
Furthermore, embracing and executing the idea of becoming a certified B-Corp. I would love to see the company joining the efforts of over 3,000 companies that dedicated themselves to doing good, and ensure society enjoys a shared prosperity. More importantly, ascribing to the highest social and environmental standards that would make the company attractive to productive business activities and investment.
Where do we begin, and what’s next?
During the next few weeks, I will be exploring what social impact means for e-commerce and tech companies. I intend to create an internal conversation around what technology for social good could look like by 2030: AI, Data Management, Ethics, Social and Responsible Operations. More importantly, aligning all of these conversations to HiConversion and designing a social impact strategy that the company could adopt.
Ben’s proposition eliminated my fear that joining an already established company, there was nothing much I could add, and reassured me that the world is full of inherently good people who only need a chance to unleash that good will. And just maybe, this is a chance for all of us at the company. We discussed further about social impact and sustainability and how I can explore these areas further for the company. The humility of my boss to openly express his limited knowledge of social impact and afford me an opportunity to explore and launch an effort that may potentially lead the company in a new direction is an opportunity I cannot be more grateful for.
In one of her remarks, Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated that she “often wonders to what extent business can help society in its goals to alleviate poverty, preserve ecosystems, and build strong communities and institutions.” As I continue my work in the coming months, this statement remains a key variable for me to consider in my research and design.
I believe using businesses as a force for good is a new kind of sexy that major stakeholders need to embrace. It is essential that while Executives think strategically about growing revenues and scaling, they also need to consider and care about how their business decisions may impact the people directly and indirectly associated with their activities, as well as the environment.