"So you are from Whiskas?"
This was the question I was asked many times on the first day of my assignment with WWF Tigers Alive. Earlier this year Whiskas, a member of the Mars family, launched a global partnership with WWF by pledging to help save cats big and small. Because of this new partnership, I was able to contribute to WWF through the Mars Ambassador Program (MAP).
What is the Mars Ambassador Program all about?
The Mars Ambassador Program is a global initiative that allows us to put our 5 Principles: Quality, Mutuality, Responsibility, Efficiency, Freedom, into action by making a difference to People and the Planet. From day one, I could see a strong connection between big cats (WWF’s tiger team) and small cats (Mars’ Whiskas brand). My key deliverable on this assignment was to design and implement a financial model to ensure sufficient funds for projects across the WWF tiger landscapes and assist with integrated fundraising.
Why did I do it?
I intentionally chose this assignment to challenge myself, in terms of how quickly I could fit in with a new team and create a collaborative relationship, and also how I’d handle ambiguity and complexity. After six years with Mars, having started as a graduate, I was keen to see if could transpose my learnings & skills into a new environment. The challenge and complexity of this assignment provided me a real world test of my learning agility, creating collaborative relationship and other Mars Leadership Competencies. Another key reason was related to tigers – Siberian/Amur tigers are one of the treasures in my home town in Northeast China). Being involved in a tiger recovery program means a lot to me personally.
An unexpected but rewarding task
During a 5 day workshop in Nepal, I was asked if I could help facilitate small group discussions for 3 days. This was really pulling me out of my comfort zone -facilitating a group of 10 people with strong conservation / technical backgrounds while I didn’t have any. Towards the end of the first session I started enjoying it and those 6 sessions turned out to be the best way to understand their structure and operation and laid a solid foundation for my key deliverables afterwards.
Some great memories
The elephant ride and jeep safari were among my favourite memories. With biologists and wildlife experts on board, it felt like someone showing you their backyard. Amazing that they can name every single creature we saw, their habitat, behaviour, etc. Many have escaped my mind but one sticks – the Jesus’ birds – which are able to walk on water!. We were from various organisations: NGOs, the private sector, universities, and from different parts of the world, but our passion for the planet brought us together.
© WWF TAI
What I gave vs. what I took
Giving back to community was what was in my mind when I started the journey. Upon the completion of the assignment I realised that I took more than what I gave. I helped the WWF tiger team to pull together a finance strategy and design a planning model for up until 2022. What I took away was a lot more – an eye opening & engaging experience, pride, confidence, satisfaction as well as a big tick on my leadership quadrant (Community – giving back). Finally there’s the friendships and cultural experience of those 4 weeks, which I will never forget.
Many thanks to the hospitality of the WWF tiger team and the great support from MAP team. Without them this journey wouldn’t have been so great!
"My four weeks on MAP were amazing"