A Q&A with KLI’s Team Leads
Listed below are several questions answered by the 2016-2017 KLI Team Leads: Mitchell Gaiser ’18, Pema Donyo ’17, and Jessica Azerad ’17. It is easy to say these accomplished leaders are energetic, but read more to get to know our Team Leads!
Question: How are you involved with KLI?
Jessica Azerad (JA): I am the Team Lead for the Programs Team, which means that I help put on programs for CMC students wanting to enhance their leadership and social innovation skills. But as a Team Lead in general, I work with Pema and Mitch to put on community building events for the KLI staff.
Pema Donyo (PD): As a Team Lead, I am responsible for planning programs for KLI student employees and building KLI’s community. I’m also the Lead Research Assistant, which involves guiding the research team on different studies of undergraduate leadership development.
Mitchell Gaiser (MG): I am the Team Lead for the Institute Assistant team which includes Journalist and Social Media Assistants. I help to represent the functional area of KLI Institute Assistants and work to build community among KLI student employees and staff.
Question: How has KLI helped you develop your leadership?
JA: When I started working at KLI, I knew close to nothing about anything. I remember going to team meetings and being too afraid to give my opinion. I remember looking at all the tasks that needed to be done for every program and not imagining how it would all get done. But now I’m the head of the Programs Team, I set the agenda and lead the meetings. It’s my responsibility to make sure that everyone is staying on top of their work, getting help when they need it, and that they’re having fun in the process. Working at KLI has made me more accountable, taught me a lot about project management, and overall made me comfortable in any work environment.
PD: It made me realize the importance of listening to others. Everyone should feel like what they want in their experience at KLI is addressed. For example, I’ve worked with Courtney Chan ’17 on the Research Team since we were both freshmen. Our roles and responsibilities have increased since then, but that was through communicating to senior Research Assistants or the Research Coordinators about what work we were interested in. Now that I’m on the other side, I want to make sure I’m also being receptive to what KLI employees would like from the Institute and from us as Team Leads.
MG: I’ve attended so many KLI events that put me face to face with some great leaders. These events include the Kravis-de Roulet Conference (KDR), the Women and Leadership Alliance Workshop (WLA), Board Meetings, and Unscripted: My CMC Narrative, just to name a few. Hearing the speakers at KDR and hearing about the experiences from alumni at WLA have inspired me in so many ways, including developing my leadership. Additionally, facilitating Unscripted and meeting many of the presenters at these events have helped with my public speaking and networking skills. KLI is an amazing institute with an incredible staff and I am so grateful for the opportunities KLI has given me.
Question: What are you looking forward to this semester working as a Team Lead?
PD: Meeting the new hires! And picking out food for the student lunches. I loved the student coordinators last year, Bridget Moran ’16 and Ted Hall ’16, and want to help continue the awesome legacy they left behind.
MG: I am excited to plan some fun events with Pema and Jessica! We are thinking of possibly having a beach day, a trip to Dave and Busters, doing a KLI March Madness competition, and tons of other things that will foster a strong KLI community.
Question: How do you define leadership?
JA: I would define leadership as the ability to motivate others (or yourself) toward completing a certain goal.
PD: Leadership is understanding what others need and being in a position to make it happen. One leadership skill I’ve learned is delegating tasks while still being respectful of others’ time (in school projects especially). I once assigned too much work to a group member and this person wasn’t able to complete it on time. It was on me, and I’ve learned now to be aware of others’ time limitations.
MG: I define leadership as the ability for one to navigate his or her own life. In accomplishing this, others are affected as well: people typically look up to those who seem as though they have everything together and can serve as a role model for their life. Being able to do this is incredibly difficult and I hope to one day have a complete set of leadership skills that enable me to serve as a leader.
Question: How have your leadership skills help you overcome an obstacle?
JA: Leadership skills come in many varieties: problem solving, critical thinking, accountability, decision making, and others would all contribute to helping someone overcome an obstacle. All of the KLI Programs require a lot of logistical planning and over the years I’ve gotten better at predicting the setbacks before they happen, and being prepared to face them head on. I’ve learned how to roll with the punches, when food delivery is late, when someone is absent and I need to fill in to give a presentation, just when something goes not so according to plan, that’s where real leadership skills have to come out to the forefront. This past SLE, the logistic coordinator and I were supposed to arrive to the site three hours before the students, but heavy traffic made it so that we were only there 45 minutes beforehand. With a hundred things to set up and only two people to do it, it was a mad dash everywhere. But we kept a level head, prioritized our tasks, trusted that we each were doing what was needed without constantly monitoring each other, and when the students arrived everything went smoothly.
MG: I have used my leadership skills such as presenting, networking, and public speaking that I have developed to overcome one of my own personal obstacles which was a fear of talking in front of people. I volunteered to facilitate a KLI event called Unscripted: My CMC Narrative and found out that I’d have to give a short speech. I was really nervous but I did well and this gave me the confidence to speak in front of others. This past summer, I was put on the spot by my boss’s boss at my internship and had to give an improvised speech in front of about 40 employees who I didn’t know at all, and I did great! I wasn’t nervous because of the skills I have learned here at KLI and I delivered a speech that was both informative of what I had been learning, and also pretty funny evident by how many chuckles I got out of the audience.
To learn more about the KLI Team Leads, you can check out their biographies here. We look forward to a successful year ahead!