“FMS is by far the most valuable thing I did during my entire time at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS). In many ways, it’s like a highly-condensed specialized MBA degree.”
FMS Fellow Jeanette Pelizzon talks to us about breaking into the impact space, starting with her career-changing fellowship at the Calvert Foundation. FMS partners with hundreds of organizations around the globe and offers scouts competitive placements that launch sustainable careers in impact.
Tell us about where you are today
In July, I finished my FMS Fellowship with Calvert Foundations, an Impact Investing Fund doing amazing work around the world. I worked with their International Diaspora Engagement Alliance, a recent public-private partnership between USAID and the State Department. At Calvert, I focused on their communications activities with the priority of fostering and maintaining connections with diaspora groups around the world while gathering information in preparation for Global Diaspora Week, a highlighting avenue for different diaspora groups. The experience really enlightened me and gave me a unique view of how public-private partnerships work as well as the ins and outs of government funding and grants.
Calvert was a great placement for me because it offered me experience and gave me a better idea of where I fit. In the future, I plan to work on the program and management side of a social enterprise. My ideal position would be to help implement projects in emerging markets. For example, I’d like to focus on the international projects that companies create and fund with the profits from a product that they are offering here in the U.S. Working at an incubator or accelerator where a lot of social enterprises are coming and trying to find their way in the startup phase would be a great position for me as well.
These days I am living in D.C. looking for my next opportunity. I’m working to connect here by attending startup weekends and networking events. The FMS experience solidified my view on where I want to be and with these skills, I feel confident in future prospects because I know that I am well-trained and have a lot to offer the impact space.
How would you describe the FMS experience to a stranger?
Awesome. FMS is simply awesome. It is definitely worth taking the time off of work or relocating for the two weeks of training. You finish each module with real life skills and get to apply them in a semi realistic setting right away; that then flows over to a fellowship with a chance to apply the skills in a very concrete and realistic setting. You’re constantly learning and no time is wasted because every instructor is a practitioner coming from a different background and expertise. These different perspectives on the topic provide a true 360° view. While in FMS, you create a great network of supporters and you have an opportunity for a fellowship to launch your career. You leave feeling skilled and capable because FMS offers a really powerful introduction to each side of the impact space. Even if you don’t have experience with financial models or investments, you will with those new skills and the confidence to use them.
During the training, you will spend one week addressing issues from an entrepreneur perspective and the next week you will shift to addressing issues from the investor prospective. Getting both sides of the spectrum speaks again to the 360° view. No matter which side you choose to work on moving forward, it will be critical to understand both the investor and entrepreneur perspective. As an entrepreneur, you must know the ins and outs of what you’re going up against and what goes into deciding to invest in your company; similarly, when you’re an investor it is important to know what you’re investing in and what goes into building that company. By understanding how a social enterprise is set up and how it is functioning, you can pinpoint areas where a company is innovative and areas where they have pitfalls relative to what is feasible. There is an empathy factor as well, you start to realize things do not happen as fast in emerging markets as they do here, so understanding the time required for the return on an investment or better connecting with what challenges a social entrepreneur can face will help you judge them in an informed way. In FMS, you also learn about the legal side of investment which is honestly so interesting and you wouldn’t be able to get that somewhere else in such a short and informative way. In many ways, it’s like a highly-condensed specialized MBA degree. I still keep the notes and look back at them often.
How has FMS helped launch your current path?
FMS is by far the most valuable thing I did during my entire time at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS). You’re not working with academics, you’re working with practitioners. With FMS, you gain real world experience and also the benefits of a stellar network. It is particularly cool to hear about projects practitioners are working on while they are instructing you in class and then later see the stories pop up on your news feed. FMS also gave me behind the scenes information about the way start-ups can fail and the struggle behind the scenes to get back on track; we often see the success stories in the mainstream, but there is so much to be learned from failure as well.
What were some of the most meaningful connections you made during FMS?
The practitioners themselves become mentors and it is clear that they honestly want to see you succeed and become a part of this sector. To this day, I am still in touch with Paul Breloff and Amit Sharma who have been great supporters well after my FMS training. Connections are about give and take, and I’m always looking for ways that I can give to others in the impact space. In return for these mentors’ advice and direction, I can flag new enterprises that I’m learning about and share them as potential investment opportunities. As for the other young professionals in my cohort, we still keep in touch and often share articles of interest with each other. The community is really supportive, positive and encouraging, instead of cutthroat or competitive in negative ways.
Moving forward, what are you most excited to learn more about?
I’m most excited to learn more about what it really takes to make a social enterprise functional and funded, especially using lean startup models. This is why working in an accelerator or impact hub would be a particularly rewarding position; I know I would be learning new things every day and I would have the ability to apply some of the methods and models we learned in FMS.
What are your top three recommendations for someone looking to start a purpose-driven career?
- Find what you are passionate about. If you don’t feel inspired going to work everyday then you are doing something wrong.
- Keep educating yourself. There are tons of free online classes and resources for you to continue building your skill set to help you get the career you want.
- Find your tribe/pack/crew. I can’t emphasis enough how important it is to surround yourself with likeminded people. It is so important to be able to bounce ideas off of people who understand the socent sphere.
If you are looking for a way to launch into the field of social enterprise and impact management, be sure to apply to FMS before October 2nd at go.miis.edu/fms and start your purpose-driven career.