Executives share stories about how they ‘made it’ in speaker series at City College

Camilla Anderson, Staff Writer, Camilla Anderson, Staff Writer, and Camilla Anderson, Staff Writer

As the speaker series “How I Made It” kicked off at City College on Oct. 20, the audience learned that capitalizing on opportunities and being prepared to make sacrifices is the first step towards a dream job.

Andy Lower, executive director of The Eleos Foundation, and Lindsey Pollaczek, program officer for Africa at Direct Relief, gave a speech on non-profit work in a series of three, in which people with a job they love tell the story of how they got there.

“One thing I find frustrating is that some people don’t want to work for their opportunities,” Lower said, remembering his struggles to get college life, work and volunteering to fit on the same schedule. “You have to make sacrifices if you want it to work out.”

Both of the non-profit organizations are locally based and want to make a change for those living in the developing world as well as for those in the U.S. experiencing a hard time. Direct Relief brings medication to those in need, and The Eleos Foundation strives to end world poverty.

“As long as you keep moving, and as long as you keep doing things, you will keep gaining experiences all the time,” Lower said as he shared one of many childhood memories with the audience.

Lower’s interest in volunteering begun in his early years. He said that as a 7-year-old he wondered why he, in the U.K., could eat as much as he wanted while people in Ethiopia were starving.

When he was 18 years old, Lower went to Costa Rica as a first time volunteer, helping children get an education. As a college student, he balanced his studies with work to be able to volunteer during the summer breaks, he said.

Pollaczek said her journey to Direct Relief started when she wanted to volunteer in Zambia, but her trip was postponed. In frustration of not being able to go, she said she started to look around for things she could do from home.

“That’s when I found Direct Relief,” she said. “The best way to see what was going on out there was volunteering.”

Pollaczek entered the path of volunteering when studying, and she has experienced both non-profit and profit organizations. Comparing them both, she said she finds that non-profit organizations have more freedom.

“The money is not as much as if the government would supply it,” she said. “But it provides more freedom to choose where the money should go.”

Even though working in a company that brings change to countries overseas, Pollaczek said she only spends six to eight weeks out “in the fields.”

“The balancing is challenging,” she said, when a member of the audience asked about the possibility to volunteer overseas. “Direct Relief has a limited travelling budget.”

But there’s plenty of administrative work as well.

“I spend much time behind the computer keeping balls in the air,” Lower said, adding that he spends the rest of his time interacting with people, and in those situations anything can come up.

“A typical workday is not at all typical,” he said. “That’s why I don’t get bored.”