Vita sine proposito vaga est. (Lucio Anneo Seneca)
The last milestone of the Master in Sustainability Leadership was just three days ago. A couple of days busy catching up with family duties and planning, and the idea that I am at the end of this incredible experience is starting to sink in. This blog wants to share some personal reflections on my experience at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability. When Shoba, a friend and colleague of the Master’s, told me that she was thinking about writing a final reflection on her journey, I thought it was a fantastic idea as we share far too little about our inner feelings, dreams and objectives in life. I will start by going back in time…
It seems yesterday that I was considering applying to the Master in Sustainability Leadership at the University of Cambridge. It was September 2015, and the plan was – soon after – disrupted by the discovery that I was expecting a baby and that the due date coincided with the days of the first workshop (imagine me rushing to the hospital in the middle of a session!). The path became longer but not less fulfilling. I started the Postgraduate Certificate that my little one was ten months old, and then I decided to apply to the Master’s programme and joined Cohort 9 in September 2017.
What did lead me on the path of sustainability? Discomfort. One that I had for a long time and that I tried to neglect. I had excellent professional experiences and spent many years in fantastic roles. Still, a couple of not-so-good experiences made me decide to stop and assess myself, my life and what I wanted my contribution at work and in society to be. The right occasion came when my partner was moved to London. Instead of asking for a local role, I decided to leave the company I was working for. At first, I questioned my misfit in specific contexts and doubted of myself and my abilities. It took me a year to understand that I did not need to fit in a setting that was not fit for me. Imagine you see your friend with a lovely pencil skirt. You ask her to try it on, and it does not look good on you. It is not you that has anything wrong. You look fabulous with a midi pleated skirt, but not in a pencil skirt. It is simply like this! I needed to find my place in the world…literally.
Some people asked me why I decided to go back and study at my age (yep, I am not in my thirties!). I have a few reasons for my decision:
- Learning is a life-long companion. I have always been inner motivated to learn more. Academic knowledge is something that I would recommend to anyone half-way through their career (actually even further down!). It provides space for your brain to think deeply and rigorously, which is something that does not often happen in our daily jobs. It fosters critical thinking and in the case of sustainability, also systems thinking – a way of using the brain that has several advantages in our personal and professional lives.
- I wanted a job that could align my values and worldviews with my career.
- I wanted to find a community of like-minded professionals with the same ambition to change the world for the better.
Three years down the line and I can say that point 1 and 3 are more than fabulously covered. The learning experience has been fantastic: demanding, challenging but also incredibly stimulating and thought-provoking. The CISL alumni community and Leadership team have been of great inspiration and support, and I now can count many of them as friends and colleagues. The fact that the alumni community is so varied and comes from different disciplines and parts of the world only enhances the peer-learning experience and exchange of perspectives on sustainability issues.
Point 2 will be the next one to approach. While studying, I continued my role of freelance consultant in Brand Strategy and Innovation and added Sustainability projects to it. I feel it is now time for me to get to a full-sustainability position where my background is an essential asset, but that has sustainability at its core.
I feel blessed and grateful for the journey I had so far, and I am excited to see what the future will hold.
With Love and Gratitude,