This is a brand new series- interviews with people in The Influence Expert community. I will explain more soon, but here’s the first interview with Felicity McLeister. Thanks, Felicity!
1- Please could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
I’ve been lucky in my career so far. Since completing a psychology degree, I’ve had an interesting time working across a number of sectors from insurance, H.R. and project management to a secondary school and a charity. For the last 3 years, I’ve been at the Operational Research Society, an organisation the supports professional analysts.
Outside of work, I have a fairly international family: I’m half Greek Cypriot and half English and my husband is a mixture of Scots and Irish, but for all this my two boys would say they’re English. We keep ourselves busy with school runs, after school clubs, camping and exploring!
One way of looking at my home and work ‘lives’ is that they’re both about building relationships and investing in them.
In my current job, I manage The Operational Research Society’s Pro Bono O.R. scheme, which connects volunteer professional analysts with third sector organisations to work on short term projects to assist them in making evidence-based decisions for operational improvements. In a phrase, Operational Research (O.R.) is the ‘science of better decision-making’ and over the years I’ve seen how extensively it is applied across industries and used to improve a wide range of organisations.
The Pro Bono O.R. programme creates a win-win situation. Third Sector Organisations get access to analytics experts who identify and clarify problems, find real solutions and improve what they do (all for free!), and volunteer analysts get the chance to tackle different kinds of problems in their entirety, use a range of O.R. and analytics techniques, gain consultancy experience, use skills to help good causes and build their CV.
And the best part of my job is getting the feedback from both the organisations and the volunteers at the end of a project. We have completed 58 projects and are currently working on 31 projects, all making the charities better at doing what they do. To find out more about the scheme please connect with me on twitter or LinkedIn or visit the Pro Bono O.R. webpage or blog.
2- How is influence important to what you do and what examples do you have about using influence in your life and work?
Influence is a crucial part of connecting the right analyst to the right organisation, and the biggest influence comes from the network of people you build around you who speak on your behalf and make recommendations – often without you knowing anything about it!
In my current role, influence has been key to spreading the word about Pro Bono O.R. Initially I started to grow my network on social media and targeted specific individuals and umbrella organisations that had good connections with the third sector. I built on these relationships and then used these connections to promote the scheme.
Now the scheme is established, we’re able to use our success stories to influence more volunteers and organisations to join in. Earlier this year we made two videos where we asked volunteers and organisations to speak about their experiences with Pro Bono O.R.:
- Analysts: volunteers your skills for good causes with Pro Bono O.R.
- Charities: get more from your data with Pro Bono O.R.
Because of the goodwill built up with our volunteers and organisations, we were overwhelmed with people coming forward to speak about how the programme had benefitted them. These ‘goodwill stories’ then turned into the tools I’m now using to widen my network again, in the hope of helping yet more good causes with Pro Bono O.R.
Outside of work the most important area of influence to me is my children. I have two boys aged 5 and 7 and my experience as a parent so far has taught me that the influence you have on your children is vital and ultimately life shaping. As a parent you have the privilege of raising your children and the influence you have guides them into the person they grow to be and the choices they make.
3- What message would you like to share with the other members of The Influence Expert community?
Building your network isn’t about pressing ‘connect’ on LinkedIn; it is about investing in the relationships you have. These become the people who will make that crucial introduction or opening the next door that helps you to get to where you want to be. And of course you can do the same for them.