Editor's Note: This blog was originally published by Beauty, brains, and a blog with Yvonne EricksonYvonne Erickson.
There are people that we meet that never know the impact they have on us. Frank is one of those people. He was the general manager in the Sidewalk group that I worked in. He ultimately took a job in our European headquarters. Frank and many of the people working in the headquarters office became aware of and involved with the Kosovo refugee crisis. The subsequent work that they did became part of a company video on giving. That video was an ignition point for me. It made me aware of the impact one person can have via giving and involvement.
I followed Franks career as he ultimately went to work at NetHope. His passion for "improving the human condition" is something I greatly admire and try to emulate in my own small way.
Frank and NetHope received a well-deserved award for their work. "On November 18, 2010, at the Microsoft Alumni Foundation 2010 Celebration, Bill and Melinda Gates recognized the nominees, finalists, and three award-winning alumni as the 2010 Integral Fellows. This is the second annual Foundation celebration honoring Microsoft alumni who have used their talents, time, and resources to make a meaningful difference in the daily lives of others. The Integral Fellows Awards Program awarded three Microsoft alumni with an unrestricted $25,000 grant for their nonprofit organizations and access to the talents and skills of alumni to help support their ongoing efforts. Frank and NetHope were well-deserved award winners." (Full article here.)
I believe we all have an impact on each other much like the ripple effect of a stone hitting the water. Frank was fueled by the examples his parents provided. (I loved seeing the wonderful relationship he had with his mother as he shared bits and pieces of her life with us via Facebook.) His choices have been an inspiration to me and have brought me to a place of growth and understanding of a world beyond my own. I am blessed by my chance encounter to work with Frank, and I know he will continue to give back to the world while silently inspiring others. We need more people like Frank. Be like Frank.
I began my career with Microsoft in1997 as the Training Manager for Sidewalk. You were the General Manager, Consumer Division, for Sidewalk, which was the internet's first advertising-driven city entertainment guide. You worked both in Redmond , Washington, and ultimately relocated to Paris to work at EMEA HQ (Europe, Middle East and Africa headquarters) as Chief of Staff for Michel Lacombe who ran the region. After a two year stint, you returned to Redmond to join bCentral. Please share a few highlights of your career spanning this time period (1992-2001).
I was somewhat older than most when I got to Microsoft. I had done four software startups, and the opportunity to work at Microsoft in the Consumer Division came along at just the right time. For me, the "uber highlight" if that's a thing, was working with super smart, super-engaged talents. I had the very good fortune of having some GREAT bosses at Microsoft, including Patty, Melinda, Michel, and Kathleen. And I was very lucky in those early days to work with talent and hire talent that was way smarter than me including Richard, Tom, Bruce, Charlotte, Ruthann, Jim, John, Peggy, Joan, Jabe, Rico, Kevin, Cella, Hugh, Tim and so many more. And then, when I got to EMEA HQ, I met and worked with even more talented colleagues. That, for me, was the highlight of my time at Microsoft.
One of the major reasons I joined Microsoft was due to its community involvement and give back. During my first years at Microsoft, your impact on global giving made a significant and lasting imprint on myself and countless others. In 1999 it became known to you and several dozen fellow employees based in Microsoft's Paris office that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office was in need of help with a new refugee registration system they were developing. The need for this was in response to the Kosovo conflict in which hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians refugees were fleeing violent conflicts with Serbian troops. You and your team worked with UNHCR to develop a solution that would help refugees get identity cards that would pave the way for them to receive humanitarian services. Please describe the amazing work you and your team, along with a host of partners who stepped up to the plate to assist with completion and the impact this had on the refugees and your team. All employees learned of these efforts at our company meeting via a heartwarming and extremely moving video depicting your work and the conditions of those fleeing Kosovo. For myself and many others seeing this involvement became a defining moment in our community involvement.
Living in Paris and working at MSFT with many multinationals, everyone knew about the Kosovo refugee crisis. Michel Lacombe, my boss, asked me to meet with the UN and offer Microsoft's support. One thing led to another and before you knew it, we had funding from Microsoft and nearly 100 volunteers from Microsoft Germany, Microsoft France and other subs around the region. I recall a teleconference with Bill Gates where we were pitching him for Microsoft funding and Bill said "OK, but be sure that whatever tools you develop can still be used after this emergency". I am super proud of the fact that UNHCR has evolved our solution and 20 years later they are on Version 8 or 9 of what we built back then. Today, the solution that we incubated back in 1999 is now central to how UNHCR engages with the 20MM+ refugees around the world.
The work you and the team did appeared to touch many people's hearts and lives including your own. You left a very lucrative career with Microsoft in 2001 and spent the next several years working with public and private sector clients to develop programs and solutions using technology in the developing world. In 2005, you transitioned into a role with NetHope serving as the Managing Director of Global Programs for 12 years. In 2016, you took on the role of Vice President of Global Programs. What have been the most impactful implementations you have been part of since your departure from Microsoft? What are the most important things you've learned as a result of your work?
Well, I think most everyone wants to use their craft to improve the human condition. When I left Microsoft in 2002 it was a different world. Connectivity was hard to come by in most of the global south. Cell phones didn't really exist and when they did, they were anything but "smart". But I remember thinking "we may not see a day when there is a computer on every desktop and in every home" but there will be a computing device of some form. And it's happened and we are all the better for it.
In terms of "lessons learned", I think most IT people would say that technology, by itself, is not a silver bullet. It's about new approaches that will often include technology but also people, processes, culture, regulatory and more. Change management is a huge consideration in what we do. If we learned one thing over the years is that you rarely want to deploy new technologies in the places we work. We call them "shiny new objects" and we try to reduce the technology risk as much as possible by using proven solutions so that we can focus on all the other pieces that need to go right for a solution to work.
Today more than ever, it appears we all must look beyond our own comforts and needs and address the greater good of our world. What advice do you have for business leaders as well as employees to become more empowered to respond to these needs?
That's a good question. I would say that you should follow your passion and seek to use your unique talents to improve the human condition. The problem that you choose to address really doesn't matter. Just follow what is most meaningful to you and where you can make a difference at scale.
When you began your career, did you ever envision this would become your life's passion? What changed things for you? What is the best message your work could provide others?
I knew from a very early age that I would do something in the nonprofit world. My mom was a huge influence on me and I vividly recall all of the service work she did. My dad was part of the Dutch resistance during WWII in Holland. What is the best message for those that want to do this kind of work? I already said, "follow your passion" and "identify audiences that you want to support." But I would also say that you should make sure to bring others along. Your peers, your kids, your colleagues … it's great to be a sole contributor but look to energize others, especially the next generation.
You have worked at NetHope for 15+ years. Why NetHope?
NetHope is a consortium of all of the large humanitarian organizations. Our members are organizations like CARE, Save the Children, the Red Cross, World Vision, Mercy Corps … altogether 56 humanitarian organizations that account for 65% of all international development spend. Our work is getting so much harder, so we have to work together (hence the consortium), and we have to find new tools (such as ICTs) to enable change that would not happen otherwise. NetHope's sole reason for being is to improve the human condition with committed organizations (our members and leading tech companies). We get to work closely with the leading international development organizations and the leading tech companies. That's a whole lot of talent and a whole lot of fun.
NetHope Hurricane Maria Response Leadership Team in Puerto Rico
What major technology changes have you seen implemented in the past 18 years that positively impact developing nations? What is the most critical thing that needs to happen to continue assistance and is implemented in a timely and repeatable manner?
The two most significant advancements when it comes to technology are connectivity and devices. Connectivity of all types is much more available and affordable in the global south. And devices are much cheaper and much more powerful.
We have a long way to go though. While the global south advances, we see new technologies being introduced in the developed world. We have to be super mindful of the fact that many are getting left behind in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Haiti with NetHope Academy Grads
What three key pieces of advice do you have for today's job seekers? What defining question would you encourage new college graduates to consider as they begin their careers?
The very easy answer is "find a place where you can work with super smart people." Your development as a professional and your happiness will be directly correlated to the talent you work with. Sorry, I could try to come up with three pieces of advice but that would take away from my ONE piece of advice. Everyone has to find their own way.
Kids in Kenya
Having good role models is very important to people today. What do you feel we can offer each other to ensure that we are a good role model for others? Who has been your most significant role model, and why?
When I think back on the bosses and peers that had the most influence on my life, I think it worked because it was part of their inner being to support others. Patty, Melinda, Charlotte, Richard, John, Lauren, and many more were supportive and taught me so much. And they still do. So be a teacher. Be a listener. Be super picky when you hire and then work hard to support that person's development.
Think ahead to five years from now. Where do you envision yourself?
I would like to be lining up a three-foot putt at Pebble Beach for a round of 72. OK, that might not be realistic, but maybe watching the Seahawks win another Super Bowl and the Huskies winning the National Championship.
I am pretty sure I will be working in some capacity but more likely finding ways to work with local nonprofits. The Seattle area has its own set of challenges, and one of the things that interests me is applying "the NetHope effect" to Seattle area nonprofits working on a particular issue and see if we can't do more by working together.
What are the top 1-5 things that you are looking forward to in 2019?
That's an easy one. I am getting married around Christmas time. And our combined families will all be there. Hard to come up with 2-5 after that.
Please include any sources that people can use to connect with you.