I have been in AIESEC for almost 7 years. I have had the fortune of taking friends for life and better yet, a bunch of “homes” spread around countries and territories.
But the biggest thing I owe to AIESEC is knowing myself and my non-negotiables: Integrity, passion, and responsibility. I joined a bit too old for normal AIESECers, I was already graduated and working full-time in law firms. AIESEC started as a hobby to which I happily gave all my weekends and most of my nights. I learned how to prepare financial statements, control budgets, organize massive events and coach & track performance of a team. These years also helped me discover that I enjoy finance and management and that I could be so much more than a corporate-serving lawyer.
So as the years passed by, I had the privilege to serve on bigger roles and move away from the hobby and into the Job. I went from being a CFO of a university chapter in Bogota to doing an internship in financial controlling, to now: being the CFO of AIESEC International for 28 months (or as I feel it, managing the resources that +50,000 volunteers worldwide work every day to make). It has never been because of the money though, it has always been about enabling the dreams of so many before, now and after us.
And it has definitively not been easy. There have been countless failures and sleepless nights, either having intellectual conversations, dancing with friends, working until 6am in the office because there is simply too much work and we are understaffed or just simply being unable to sleep no matter how hard you try because your mind and soul keep trying to figure this one issue that has been driving you crazy the whole day.
How do you ensure that a not-for-profit also becomes a not-for-loss? I will tell you something, complaining about it is not the way. There must be a lot of self-preparation and discipline instead of motivation. It is about doing what needs to be done; having the difficult conversations and learning when to say “yes” and “no” and accept all its consequences. Most importantly, it is needed to learn that you are working for the next five years, so wake up for the 2:00 a.m. meeting because time-difference is inevitable in our global context.
To change the world, I learned to look at my peers as value-driven social-business CEOs and work with them to get there. Is it by providing financial literacy and business acumen? Then so be it. If you don’t like something, then go and change it.
Above all, I have learned that leadership is serving not one, but many bigger purposes: youth leadership, peace and justice, gender equality, LGBTQ inclusion, world hunger and climate change. When you are the one on the spotlight, you can either choose to flatter/self-promote yourself or be the voice of what you truly believe in. Have the courage to speak up even if your point of view is not the popular one, majorities have never needed to justify themselves so don’t let that oppress the inner fire in you and know that there are many others you are role-modeling to. Have that one-to-one conversation, group conversation or public conversation until it is heard.
My leadership lesson after 7 wonderful, challenging, painful and magical years in AIESEC can be summarized in this. Today more than ever.
SILENCE IS BEING COMPLACENT. STAND UP, SPEAK UP, ACT UPON.8