Congratulations to Erandhi Mendis, the 2022 ACCP Rising Star Purpose Award recipient. This award is given each year to a junior or mid-level professional in corporate social impact whose work has created outsized influence inside and/or outside the company without the advantage of positional authority.
As this year’s recipient, we wanted to learn more about Erandhi – who is based in Australia – both personally and professionally.
Tell us a little bit about your path to corporate social impact and your current position at Kyndryl.
My journey into the field was very appropriately paved by volunteering in a CSR program. While working in technology I discovered a strong interest in education. I was tutoring on the weekends, volunteering at schools, and began studying educational neuroscience part-time in the evenings. It was while mentoring in a workforce development program called P-TECH, (Pathways into Technology) at IBM that I discovered how CSR combined everything I loved about business and technology with social impact. It’s not a particularly simple field to enter but I spoke to anyone and everyone who would listen about my interest.
Around the same time, I arrived at a tricky career juncture where my postgraduate studies had taken off; I had been awarded a full scholarship which prompted some reasonably concrete plans to leave my job and pursue full-time study. As fate would have it, while I worked out the logistics of that decision, I received a call offering me a job coordinating the very CSR program I had been volunteering with. I jumped at the chance and I’ve not looked back. I’ll forever be grateful for that opportunity and hopefully, I can pay it forward to someone starting in the industry one day. Today, I get to build private-public partnerships that help improve our communities and our planet at Kyndryl where I manage the CSR portfolio for Australia and New Zealand.
What do you wish those outside the field knew about CSR?
- CSR and ESG are two different things, and the terms are not interchangeable.
- It’s not as simple as just giving out grants. You can’t donate to everything or support every program (and you shouldn’t – building and sticking to a strategy is important).
- Employee and community engagement is priceless; without it, any program lacks authenticity.
What is a strategy you use that has contributed to your ability to create outsized impact within your position?
Listen well, be kind and be confident. Good listening is so important. I’ve never been a natural “networker” but I genuinely like building rapport with people I work with and hearing why they believe in social impact. That attitude has always felt more natural than handing out business cards at events and has allowed me to meet and work with some really interesting, capable people. Learning what other people are passionate about, having empathy for their goals, and being confident in my ability to marry up a partnership that benefits the community is the foundation of any project I’ll work on.
What piece of advice would you give someone new to CSR or considering entering the field?
The word “corporate” in front of social responsibility is important. Understand the persona of who you work for. It’s not about you – it’s about the relationship between the corporate and the community. Your job is to find alignment and sustainable benefit.
A few “fun” questions:
What’s a favorite quote or saying?
One day this pain will help you. It’s a bit dark but it provides incredible perspective.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Thoughtful, creative, and gritty – or at least that’s how I aspire to be.
Share one person you admire and why.
Mackenzie Scott. Philanthropy is an incredibly interesting world and anyone who is disrupting spaces will always have my attention. Disbursing large cash grants with unrestricted terms enables charities to use that funding where it will make the most impact – 100% of the time a non-profit knows their industry better than anyone else and the way Scott has expedited funding streams is commendable and refreshing in a world where others in her circumstance may not be so active in providing autonomy to non-profits. It’s also very clear that Scott and her team are considered and clear on their funding strategy – what they’ve achieved so far (and will continue to achieve) is admirable and I would like to see more billionaires follow suit.