Don’t be afraid of failure, push through the barriers and be bold in the pursuit of your dreams.

-Akshay Vishwanath

In my full-time role, I am a Portfolio Manager at Maliasili (www.maliasili.org). I essentially provide organizational development support to local conservation organizations to help them to become even better at what they do and to deliver impact at scale. This support includes strategic planning, governance and leadership strengthening, operational systems development, communications and fundraising support, etc. I am also starting up a new NGO in Kenya, that is dedicated to public interest litigation and advocacy on environmental matters on behalf of Kenyans. The aim is to have this NGO be locally funded/supported.

I think the most important lesson I learnt is what it means to be entrepreneurial. I had always understood entrepreneurship as just being about starting and running one’s own business. But what I realized was that being entrepreneurial is actually about solving problems. One can be entrepreneurial even when employed. This realization was transformational – a lot of my life goals are now centered around solving society’s environmental problems, and I am very comfortable using an entrepreneurial lens in achieving those goals.

The big conservation challenge I am hoping to change in my lifetime is assisting Kenyans to effectively mobilize themselves and addressing our environmental challenges. This must be done at the institutional level by creating strong local organizations that can deliver impactful solutions, but also at the individual level by creating a movement of people who have the capacity to advocate for better environmental management. We can no longer rely on foreign-run and international organizations to do these things for us.

ALU helped me to understand my leadership potential and chart a course to realizing it. It also allowed me to understand the entrepreneurial journey, and built my confidence to take bold, calculated risks in service of one’s mission. ALU also introduced me to a peer network of leaders (both in my cohort, and across the institution and the broader ALG) who now serve as my confidants, advisors and support network.

I tremendously enjoyed my experience at ALU. Naturally, a young institution like ALU will have its ups and downs and growing pains, but overall I think ALU provided me with a valuable and life-changing educational experience.

The best part of the experience was my cohort. As an environmentalist enrolling in business school, I naturally had some anxiety and apprehension about what I had signed up for, but this was dispelled in my very first intensive. My cohort developed strong bonds from day 1. We went on to learn from each other, support each other and cheer each other on. I’d say we are family.