Today is my last day at Planned Parenthood. Really.
It turns out clichés are true for a reason—time really does fly when you’re having fun. It flies even faster when you’re truly, deeply engaged with your work, with the mission of your organization, and the people with whom you get to work.
In honor of my last day, these are five things, in no particular order, I’ve learned this summer…
1. Cecile Richards: even cooler than I thought she was back in the fall, when she came to talk in my HBS class. The same woman who strode in and owned the classroom is engaging, funny, smart and…incredibly warm.
2. …actually, all of Planned Parenthood’s staff falls into those same categories. They’re feminists after my own heart: progressive, hard-working AND pragmatic women and men (who aren’t afraid to wear loud, bright pink).
3. You have to take your “Ws” where you can get them, and celebrate appropriately. This summer (and this whole year) saw unprecedented levels of attacks on women’s health, on women’s choices and on women’s rights. HHS adopting the IOM recommendations regarding making birth control a completely covered benefit is a HUGE gain for women. And even as PPFA keeps its eyes looking forward, we still take the time to boogie down, too.
4. It is pretty amazing (and different!) to work for a nonprofit with a very strong strategic plan and vision. Early on in the summer, we were introduced to PPFA’s five-year plan. Consensus building around goal-setting? Check. Balanced scorecard? Check. Measurable objectives? Check. Linda Bilmes would be proud. It really does make a difference when you know exactly where you fit in and how you contribute to the organization’s overall success.
5. Advocacy + Varina = happy heart. Over the course of my two years at Kennedy, I was privileged to learn from some of the best teachers (and I don’t mean just instructors, although they were good, too) in the world. I spent the summer working in NYC, learning what consulting is all about. I got to write a Master’s Thesis that examined what advocacy is in the context of multi-service organizations. I examined online advocacy tools and best practices. I ran the Women and Gender Caucus, and got a crash course in event planning. But there is absolutely nothing in the world that compares to spending your day working on a cause you believe in with all your heart. I have come to realize over the past two years how central being an advocate is to my very identity, and it feels oh-so-good to be back!
Bonus: I’m a better bowler than I thought. (Pictures will be posted, I promise.)
I have loved, loved, loved coming to work each and every day. Thank you so much to Chloe, for being an amazing boss, and to the international team for being so supportive and for taking the time to show me the ropes. And finally—thank you so much to WAPPP for making this fellowship, and really, my entire experience at HKS, possible and wonderful!