This Young Millennial is Heading Partnership Strategy at Global Non-Profit, Pencils of Promise
We all have the power to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Humanitarian Susie Harrison is living proof that millenials have the power to use their voice for positive change. Pencils of Promise is a non-profit organization that builds schools where illiteracy is unfortunately all too common. In an effort to help, Susie became the Head of Strategic Relationships at the age of 27. She moved from Denver, Colorado to the Big Apple to fulfill her passion of positively impacting the world.
Find Your Grind spoke to Susie about making a difference, learning a second language, and finding your purpose.
This article has been edited for clarity and length.
What does your role as Head of Strategic Relationships entail?
I’m headquartered in our NYC office and spend most of my time there, but my job also requires a significant amount of international travel. I manage key relationships for Pencils of Promise, including our Advisory Board and strategic partners. I also oversee our digital fundraising efforts and impact trips strategy. I’m committed to deepening relationships and building partnerships across the for-profit and non-profit sectors to create impact for Pencils of Promise students around the world.
How did you first learn this job existed?
I’ve known since a very young age that I wanted to work in social good and international development. I knew I wanted to find a purposeful career in which I was able to see the impact I helped create firsthand, so I looked for organizations that were making a tangible difference. I met PoP’s founder when I was 21 and have been dedicated to our mission ever since.
What kind of training or experience lead to working for a non-profit?
I studied international development and journalism in school, both of which I use daily in my current role. I also spent the first years of my career learning the art of fundraising and event planning. But like any role, much of it was trial by fire – when I first began working for Pencils of Promise, we were very much a start-up organization in which everyone was going above and beyond to ensure PoP could grow exponentially to reach as many students as we could, as quickly as possible.
What should a high school student know before pursuing a career in social change?
Spend as much time as possible learning more about the inner-workings of organizations and companies in the social good sector. This could mean volunteering for a local non-profit, but it could also mean interning at a company that has philanthropic priorities and understanding more about how business growth and giving back truly can go hand-in-hand. If you can, travel- but traveling can also mean going beyond your comfort zone in your hometown to meet and learn from people with different backgrounds from your own.
What was the most valuable class you’ve ever taken?
The most valuable classes were always those that forced me to utilize my skills through a real-world experience or project. For example, one class I took partnered students with local non-profits and challenged students to design a marketing campaign to create awareness and raise funds for their non-profit’s upcoming initiatives. Classes that allow students to take a hands-on approach to learning ensures the students come away with real-world examples of how they can apply their skills to make a difference.
What do you wish you could tell your teenage self?
Focus more in Spanish class! Learning a second language is incredibly valuable regardless of what career path you choose, but especially if your job involves international travel or international partnerships like mine. Through hard work, tenacity, and creativity, young people can prove our ideas are just as valuable and our voices just as important – no matter who else is in the room!
Who did you look up to most growing up, and why?
It might be cliche to say this, but truly, I looked up to my mom. My mom was a professional career woman throughout my childhood (she was the breadwinner in our family and extremely successful) and yet I never felt like our family time was de-prioritized. She mastered the art of being both a mom and a professional woman, something I hope to be able to emulate in the future.
What does it mean to you to Find Your Grind?
To me, “finding your grind” means discovering a career that is more than just your day-to-day responsibilities, it is a life mission. Ultimately, your career should be something that supports the beliefs you have for the rest of your life: it should be a place in which you find purpose, value, and passion. If your career means more to you than a paycheck, then working toward a larger mission each and every day should remind you that we’re all working to make the world a better place using our own unique skill sets and talents.