Ursi works at Swisscom. She participated in our 5th program to Cambodia and helped to set up micro learning centers in the rural region of Angtasom. During the program, Ursi learnt what lean management means in reality and that it doesn´t always need a 100% to create something great. In this interview she talks about her learnings and how the program has impacted her professional career and life.
Ursi, share with us 3 important facts that people should know about you.
I live in Switzerland, one of the world’s richest countries. Growing up in a place like this you already get a sense of responsibility for others not as privileged as you.
I´m a very purpose-driven person. Especially in my job life I need to know the purpose of what I´m doing.
I love to travel, I love to meet people from different cultures, I love to try foods from all over the world. If I could I would quit my job and just go travelling!
Why was your motivation to participate in the Capability Program?
I had met Carsten from BOOKBRIDGE to talk about our corporate responsibility program at Swisscom. Hearing him telling about BOOKBRIDGE I immediately thought this was a great program to develop my leadership and entrepreneurial skills. But I didn´t really think I would be one of the people being selected at Swisscom. When I heard I was selected I was so happy I didn´t even think a minute to confirm my participation.
My motivation was to have a real-life project to work on. And that´s what the program was: a practical training of your skills, not only theoretical ones but very practical, physical ones. In Cambodia, we had to paint the walls of the learning center, set up the tablets...everything was very hands-on. During the program, we did not only developed a business plan but we also had to implement a real social enterprise with all its physical aspects.
Ursi in front of the "Book-Tuk", a mobile library serving the communities in the rural area of Angtasom. It is the library version of the traditional Cambodian mini transporter called tuk-tuk.
Which highlight in the program do you remember?
The biggest highlight was finding our purpose after module 1 of the program: finding out what we wanted to achieve. Though coming from so many different (business) backgrounds we all decided for the same goal in the end. It was amazing to see how all these people with these different ideas turned in the same direction.
This team spirit continued across the entire program: we always found someone who took care of what needed to be done. If there was something to do, someone stepped in and did it. We always helped each other. I hadn´t experienced this in my job so far.
Of course, being in Cambodia was another highlight. Meeting the local community members, working together with our Cambodian counterparts was a big learning. When we arrived we had practically nothing, no learning center, no team members. 48 hours after our arrival, we were quite frustrated – but with everyone's effort in the end it all worked out.
Here, I learnt a lot: it doesn´t always need perfection to make things work out. To create something great it doesn´t need to be a 100% perfect.
Which impact did BOOKBRIDGE have on your professional life?
In my professional life, it was the change of mindset that had the biggest impact of me. Trying to think what is positive about an idea, approach or a project makes it helpful to realize things. I learnt that it is not useful to only see what I don´t have, which resources are missing.
What counts is: what can we do? How can we achieve it? And to appreciate the great resources we have here in the West.
Today, I try more than before to find purpose in what I´m doing. Even if I don´t see a sense in an idea or a task I try to discover it. Before the program this was very hard for me so I had to learn that it depends on your perspective: when you have a lot of time, it will take you a lot of time to do something. When you are under time constraints, you will find out that you can do it as well!
Just start doing it and then see how it´s going to turn out. I learnt a lot about lean management: try something out and if it doesn´t work, get feedback and try something different.
On the private side, it was a huge, great experience for me. I had been in Cambodia before but being with locals and setting up a social enterprise with them was totally different. Cambodians are very dedicated to their work and want to change society. This was very inspiring for me. And seeing many people living off so little money still being able to realize their dreams made me grateful and humble for what I have.
This was one of the reasons why I founded the association Friends of BOOKBRIDGE together with Raphael and other program alumni to give scholarships to students from poor families. Friends of BOOKBRIDGE is a Swiss association that collects donations to fund scholarships for poor students. Read more how you can help
Thank you Ursi for sharing your experience and your learnings with us. We are proud that you are part of our BOOKBRIDGE Family!