“The only thing better than joining groups is starting your own. Start your own mafia.” – Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn Co-founder and Chairman
When I got my job at LinkedIn, I wasn’t necessarily looking for a breakout opportunity. After a successful career in the localization industry, I started a nonprofit in Florida called Iduka to help students pursue post-secondary education through small loans that they pay back by doing community work. Two years in the making and a few hiccups along the way, we were still an all-volunteer organization without prospects of hiring staff in the foreseeable future. It was time for me to secure stable employment and to push aside my “selfish” dream of starting a mafia that would transform the world one student at a time.
LinkedIn not only gave me a dynamite job as a Portuguese Customer Advocate, but also encouraged me to invest my time and talents in special causes like Iduka. The company gives employees a day each month to invest in themselves, their community or the world. I even have a flexible schedule so I can continue my nonprofit work on Thursdays and Fridays. In 2013, I championed my nonprofit for a LinkedIn Nonprofit Innovation Grant to develop a crowdfunding platform exclusively dedicated to microfinancing post-secondary education. Hard work and passion paid off as we were awarded a $10k USD grant. I hustled to engage my network and it has paid dividends, helping me to:
- Recruit new board members.
- Obtain office space for our pilot project donated by Spark Agency.
- Implement our crowdfunding platform through a pro bono partnership with FacesIn and BNG.
- Create the web design/branding for our platform through a pro bono partnership with BindTuning.com.
Our luck didn’t stop here. This past May, Iduka was selected as one of the most Innovative Ideas of Portuguese Origin by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. This honor led us to Portugal where we pitched our project to the President of the Portuguese Republic, a visit that left me with a feeling of accomplishment and a higher sense of responsibility to the cause that brought us all together.
With the generous support of LinkedIn and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, we are looking forward to hiring the staff needed to launch this project in the CPLP – Community of Portuguese Language Speaking Countries.
My early concerns of hitting road blocks have now been replaced with a feeling of empowerment fueled by golden opportunities. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman’s timeless advice to build a high-quality network and start a mafia —one that will make a significant difference in the lives of students like Martha Chidiso, one of Iduka’s first scholarship recipients, rings true to me. A small loan from Iduka paid for Martha’s medical internship program at the Malamulo College of Health Sciences in Malawi. As part of the pay back program, she volunteers in her local community providing medical care to patients at the Zomba Central Hospital.
With passion, persistence and the right relationships, I’ve found my breakout opportunity and am now able to embrace my dream again of transforming the world, one student at a time!