Staff Spotlight: Tess Langan

Alumni Ambassador
Tess often meets full-fledged grown-ups who tell her they wish they knew about Global Citizen Year when they were in high school. She loves spreading the word about this amazing opportunity and feels lucky to be riding the wave of a turning tide within college admissions; to be at the forefront a movement to encourage students to participate in international service work and to take meaningful time "on" before college.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Volunteering in Senegal

When I was in Senegal during my bridge year with Global Citizen Year during the cooler months - to my host family's chagrin - I started taking showers once every other day. One week I took a shower two days in a row and my host mom, Madeleine, laughed at me, "You're starting to become Senegalese, Tess!" she said.

It was this beautiful zoom-out moment for me - where I could see where I'd come from (a small town in New Jersey) and also where I was - at home in the world, in Mbour, Senegal.

When Madeleine laughed at me and teased me, I felt this power-surge of belonging in this place and love for her. I was Senegalese now! Immersion was working on me.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I've learned how to be more solution-oriented-- to look at "problems" with an eye towards the solutions imbedded within. I've learned how to just DO things instead of flipping them over in my head like veggie-burgers.

I've learned a lot from Global Citizen Year staff about maintaining a healthy-work life balance - about how to to retain my human-ness even during stressful times - starting cupcake (gifting) wars with teammates, finding the funny and knowing when I need to take time off to be with family, nature and friends.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Recently, I loved hearing about the full-circle experience of one Ecuador '16 Fellow who volunteered with the Red Cross for her apprenticeship. As a new volunteer she was a bewildered attendee of an intensive wilderness training. Eight-months later, at the tail-end of her experience, she was one of the leaders of the very same training.

Working for the Red Cross was such a powerful experience for her, that when the earthquake hit Ecuador this past spring, she busied herself with earthquake reliefs efforts stateside and was "this close" to hopping on a plane to Ecuador to help out.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Well, I'm a Senegal alumni so answering this question feels a little like cheating. I would have to say Ecuador. I've been practicing my Spanish recently - and reconnecting to a language makes me want to connect with the people who speak that language.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Here are a few of the uncountables that make us unique and that have kept me free of boredom and quite happy since starting with the company in October 2016:

Our culture of innovation. I love how big and bold we think and how quickly these big, bold ideas bloom into reality. It's even more exciting to think big when you know how swiftly and unstoppably your team moves to make ideas materialize.

Lack of organizational hierarchy: I've been struck again and again but how everyone's ideas count and everyone is invited to the table. Our senior leadership team (SLT) listens to our alumni and summer interns as if they were all baby buddhas. Our SLT puts people at ease to be themselves and the end result is spontaneous games of bananagrams.

Here for the right reasons: Everyone who works here is deeply connected to our why - our mission - and this keeps the work joyful and grounded. During a recent global training, not only did we talk about how to retain our commitment to access, we dug deeper into our organization's commitment to equity. We looked at how we can apply an equity lens to our hiring processes, our apprenticeship placements - everything!

Dogs, babies, and cheese. And food-sharing and copious hugs. (Are all deeply ingrained aspects of our workplace culture.)

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think strong leadership is key to our success. In particular, I've been struck by how much I've learned from our iconoclastic, wise, warm, and funny lady-bosses. Abby, our CEO, challenges us to keep doing work not only "at work" - but on ourselves and the world.

She went to business school so that she might create a "nonprofit" that runs more like the well-oiled machine of a "for-profit" and continually has her anticipatory antenna tuned to the ideas and innovation of the future. She's a busy person, but I promise, every sentence or two thrown your way will change your day. Recently, she's got me thinking about how I can prioritize presence over productivity.