Why I Needed the Career Pathways Program

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - 1:55 pm
Pooja Joshi O’Hanlon

Editorial Note: Pooja Joshi O’Hanlon is one of 24 members of the 2017 cohort of Career Pathways. Over the next week, she and other Pathways participants are sharing their experiences in the Council on Foundations blog. Applications for the Career Pathways program are currently being accepted until October 20.

I work in a small three-person office/private foundation in Queens, New York City. When my boss forwarded me the Career Pathways application last fall, my intent behind my application was to expand my network, reflect on my skills and experience in the sector over the past decade, and connect with colleagues who shared my commitment to the values of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Nine months into this program, I can say with ease that my intent has been fulfilled beyond my expectations. While I expected there to be a focus on personal assessment and professional reflection, the thoughtfulness of the Pathways team in designing sessions that spoke to the diversity and motivations of 24 unique cohort members is remarkable. I also appreciate the thoroughness of the Pathways team to create a well rounded experience for the participants by including one-on-one coaching, and other high touch opportunities that aren’t typically part of other leadership programs I am familiar with.

As I reflect on my experience, I have come to believe that from a research based perspective the program is a positive contributor to the advancement of people of color in philanthropy. For example, one of our required readings so far was a report related to the career pathways of people of color in philanthropy including the barriers and challenges for entry into the field and advancement to senior level positions. The report makes recommendations across three areas as positive contributors to advancement – organizational, field-level and individual. I can attest that the Career Pathways program is (knowingly or unknowingly!) designed to impact the factors at the field and individual levels.

But what I will treasure the most are the “aha” moments that came from the candor of group conversations, guest speakers and my coach that will serve as valuable wisdom throughout my life and career. These are:

  • As a leader, get comfortable saying I don't know everything but I am capable of figuring things out.
  • Believe in yourself and your journey so far, work from a place of “you belong here.”
  • Always remember to prepare, trust in yourself, and do your best.
  • The best way to change organizational culture is through consistent action and behavior.
  • To truly evaluate a program, remember to question whether something (data, information etc.) is meaningful even if it might be significant.
  • Change happens incrementally.

Speaking of change, I am looking forward to sharing my home institution case study examining its trajectory especially when it comes to organizational culture and decision making. Once again the support of the Pathways staff was invaluable in helping me rethink/reframe my project from being focused on a tangible, finite goal to expanding the lens and looking at/examining change from the arc of personal and field leadership. I look forward to sharing more in person with my Pathways colleagues at the end of October.

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