Linda Lazor worked for more than 30 years in the tech industry. In 2014, she became an Encore Fellow at Partners in School Innovation. At the end of her fellowship, she accepted an offer to work there full time. In 2018, she became CEO of the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund.
I had been working for over 30 years in the tech industry when I started volunteering with middle school students in the low-income community of East Palo Alto. As part of that volunteer experience, I got to know the students and the families and discovered that this was something that I had a passion for. So, I decided this was my chance to pursue a new chapter focused on giving back.
My Encore Fellowship was with Partners in School Innovation. The organization attracted me because I had already been volunteering in schools. Their mission is to build educators’ capacity to transform schools and districts so that every student -regardless of background – thrives.. They wanted somebody to come in and assist with the design thinking process to understand how to expand their impact. That project sounded like a perfect fit for me — and really exciting.
In my fellowship, I led the creation of three workshops that helped Partners in School Innovation expand their offering. The first workshop focused on emerging trends in the broader ecosystem of education. In the second session, we developed new ideas for making a bigger impact. In the third session, we had teams come in and present how the organization could implement some of the new program ideas. Moving out of those workshops, we did a set of pilots next, and they became integrated into the Partners School Transformation program.
Being able to see the impact in real schools motivated me. My Encore Fellowship reinforced my interest in transformation and change initiatives, not only in education but in broader communities. It just really made me want to double down on this kind of work, and it helped me become more thoughtful in continuing my personal journey.
At the end of the Encore Fellowship, I accepted an offer to stay on with Partners in School Innovation as their Chief of Staff. In that role, I facilitated a business plan to scale their work. Throughout this time I was also at Partner at Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund and joined the SV2 Board around the time I transitioned from Partners. I became very actively engaged there and co-led a grant round called Pathways to Opportunity. The goal was to understand the top levers that help move families and children from poverty into new areas of opportunity.
After leading that grant round, I was offered the position of CEO at the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund. I’ve been doing that for more than a year, and working in a nonprofit was a valuable experience for my current role.
Having worked in a nonprofit and now leading one, I’ve developed a tremendous sense of empathy for other nonprofits. It’s helped me engage much more thoughtfully in work that engages our hearts and our minds together.
Advice to Encore Seekers
There is so much need for capacity right now. It’s really difficult for nonprofits to get the kind of resources and expertise they need. If you’re considering an Encore Fellowship, you’ll not only get a personal benefit out of it, but you will really be helping nonprofits in a way that you might not even imagine.
And I’d advise anyone searching for an encore to do something that you’re passionate about. Nonprofits have a mission and they’re guided by their mission. So your passion for what an organization does is really important. When you look at the job or fellowship, ask yourself if you’re really interested in the nonprofit’s work and if it fits your talents and experiences.
Advice to Nonprofits
Encore Fellowships are a chance to bring in somebody with a lot of experience and increase capacity in areas that are often really difficult on a nonprofit budget. When I became the CEO of a nonprofit, I actually brought on my own Encore Fellow. It was a highly effective engagement for both the Encore Fellow and for us as an organization.
Interested in becoming an Encore Fellow – or hosting one?
Go to encore.org/fellowships today!
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