Maria Giulia Pace is a manager within EY Malta’s Climate Change and Sustainability sub-service line.
In a society, which is arguably increasingly labelled as individualistic and obsessed with the ‘self’, thinking of ‘the other’ might not necessarily come as second nature. Think about it. We are constantly fuelled by self-development, self-growth and ‘selfies.’ We easily get caught up in our own lives, trials and tribulations while chasing some dream degree, career, car or house.
Finding the time
From a young age, I was always fascinated by the notion that although we are all equally human, we do not share the same equal opportunities. I think the easy option for me back then was to do nothing. Thankfully, I was spurred on by supportive parents and started involving myself in all sorts of volunteering events when I was a teenager and continued to seek opportunities both locally and abroad.
The act of volunteering quickly became second nature and I never viewed it as ‘extra’ curricular. Experience after experience I found myself helping ‘the other’ but quite surprisingly each act of giving was having an effect to better my ‘self’. Simply put, to give is to receive.
Whoever has at any point experienced volunteering, can vouch that it is somewhat addictive. Once you start you are always on the lookout for new opportunities. It opens the door to genuine relationships amongst volunteers and service users. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, enhances your inter-personal skills and equips you with soft skills such as time management and organisational skills, which you can apply in other areas of your life, including your career. Moreover, it provides you with an opportunity to give back to society and get out of the small individualistic bubble we often find ourselves in.
Don’t fear juggling
When I graduated in Economics I began work as an economic consultant at EY Malta. I started to help very large, often affluent corporations as well as the government itself. At the same time, I found a way to continue volunteering in my free time in the evenings or through trips planned over the summer. I attempted to juggle both and while it can be challenging and tiring, the satisfaction and energy-boosting effect is truly invigorating.
You also shouldn’t forget that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is adopted by many local and global companies. I participated in various CSR initiatives at work, supported by like-minded colleagues building a network amongst the people I share an office with.
I strongly believe that even from one’s workplace we can achieve great things. Just one example is when I led a team in a CSR competition, generated funds and successfully created a home gym for a residential care home that housed youths at Appogg.
Reaching beyond our shores and having a wider impact
My wish to leave a positive social impact drove me to the Netherlands, to read for a Masters in International Development Studies, at the University of Amsterdam. We dove deep into issues such as poverty, inequality, injustice as well as how to make a change with more sustainable practices. I wanted to ensure that any projects I embarked on, were no long ad hoc, but ones that empowered the people I was assisting and left a long-term lasting effect.
Everything in its right place
I can’t tell you where you will end up and that’s a path only you can decide upon. But I’d like to share some insights a few years since I graduated, in the hope that my experience might guide yours in a meaningful way.
In my quest to expand my ability to create a lasting impact with the work I do, I found myself at EY. Our company’s purpose is to Build a Better Working World. You’re probably thinking that sounded perfect for someone like me who loves volunteering, but initially, it was quite daunting. It’s an extremely ambitious goal and I wondered if it was realistic.
Quickly I realised, at EY, I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills and most importantly mindset. I realised I was learning how to become influential in society and I was adamant we start pushing for sustainable change in our line of work. It started to feel as if the two separate worlds of volunteering and my career had started to blend together. The causes I believed in and was fighting for had now reached the boardroom and all my years volunteering felt like the training for the marathon I currently find myself in.
Over the last few years, our little Mediterranean Island has slowly but surely started embracing sustainability – we’ve come a long way but there is still so much more to do. I am confident we will get there in time.
By speaking the language businessmen understand and assisting policymakers in creating adequate measures for the future, I believe my post at EY allows me to influence the business community, which in turn is the bloodline of any economy. By pushing for more sustainable practices, ones that seek to go beyond financial gains, but keep in mind the well-being of the societies in which they operate, I believe that we are still giving the necessary nudge in the right direction to ensure a better future for all.
So, what about your passion for volunteering? Do you think it will be a waste of time or that you’ll have to leave it behind once you start working? Think of it this way, your passions can and should become your job and then – as they say – you’ll never have to work a day in your life… Good luck!