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Reflections from a YLAI Fellow

By Agustina Tierno, Fellow from Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, Uruguay

Editor’s Note: Agustina worked with Great Ecology for several weeks in the 4th quarter of 2016. This was part of an initiative launched by Barack Obama, called the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), a program designed to empower entrepreneurs and innovative civil society leaders to strengthen their capacity to advance their entrepreneurial ideas and effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities.  In early October 2016, 250 fellows (of 4,800 potential fellows) from Central and Latin America traveled to the United States for 40 days, where they developed their projects, were mentored by companies related to their fields, and participated in work and training. The program culminated in Washington D.C. where they had the opportunity to share their work with the whole group of entrepreneurs, from multiple countries, and authorities in the US. Agustina was one of the five Uruguayans who participated in YLAI. She was mentored by Great Ecology. Read about her experience below.

Agustina presenting at the State Department

Agustina presenting at the State Department

October the 11th, 2016, I arrived in Great Ecology. I was received by Jessa Spainhower and we talked about our backgrounds, expectations, and possibilities of cooperation.

I must say this first day was a bit strange. I came to the USA after 40 days in Finland developing another project regarding education and arrived to work in a very important firm because of a new program (YLAI) launched by Barack Obama, with no time in between to process the experience; therefore, I felt a bit lost, not knowing what was it all going to be about.

It didn’t take me long to feel absolutely grateful to have been matched with this amazing firm.

My friend and colleague, Fiorella Bellora, and I are the co-founders of Bio-Observatories, an interdisciplinary design office specializing in sustainable architectural design solutions for natural landscapes. Working in Great Ecology for a month provided a unique opportunity to get to know, from the inside, how one of the most recognized firms specializing in habitat restoration works.

The first week, I had the chance to meet everyone at the office, not only the San Diego team, but also the New York and Denver teams. I was also invited to participate in the weekly meeting in which everyone shares the advances of the projects they are involved with. All this allowed me to confirm the professionalism of the office, as well as the competence of each one of the professionals working there, regardless their specific field of expertise.

In the following weeks, I was invited to different internal presentations, and to monitoring in-situ some ongoing projects. All those instances were formative for me. I got to learn a lot about different techniques, procedures, and aspects to consider when operating in natural areas. I also got to learn about American norms in this field and possible responses on regulations. I got to see how professionally, efficiently, and well an ecosystem restoration could occur.

I was surprised when visiting a wetland restoration, a project Great Ecology started some months before my visit; it seemed work started at least a year earlier considering the significant restoration work that had been performed.

In my last days, I had to make a presentation about Bio-Observatories for a pitch competition involving the YLAI fellows. For this presentation I was inspired and supported by Great Ecology’s team. They were all willing to share their knowledge and followed the development of my work until the final day; I even had the opportunity to present to them and received useful feedback.

I couldn’t be more happy to have had the opportunity to work in such an extraordinary company, with experienced and competent professionals, led by an inspiring entrepreneur, Mark Laska, PhD, committed to such an important cause, and with a pleasant atmosphere in which everyone helps each other and evolves together.

 

YLAI Fellows in DC

YLAI Fellows in DC

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