My background is in engineering and I worked at Intel for 21 years in project management and process improvement. Nearing retirement, I heard about the Encore Fellowship program which Intel offers eligible employees.
I thought the program would be a perfect transition for me, easing away from a full-time job and paycheck to something new that was still paid, but also part-time. On top of that, I believed I had skills that could be useful for a nonprofit in need of capacity-building expertise.
I did my fellowship at Barrett House in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Run by the Barrett Foundation, it offers shelter for women and their children struggling with homelessness, and finds them permanent housing.
In my fellowship, I served as a project manager for an expansion of our community garden that produces vegetables for the kitchen all year round. We added a greenhouse and eight more raised beds and I developed the plan to do that. I also managed a group of 18 to 24-year old Americorps volunteers who came in to help for six weeks, figuring out projects for them, like adding a cistern to collect water off the roof.
It was also great to feel connected to the mission of Barrett House. The women and their kids were excited to see the garden being built, worked in it, and learned a lot about the idea of good healthy food. Personally, I learned that women who lose their homes are not the “cookie cutter” stories we always hear and I’ve come to appreciate their hardships.
“The Encore Fellowship brought a skilled, experienced professional to our staff who utilized her talents to benefit our organization. We completed a major project without requiring additional employees or taking staff away from the operations of our shelter.”
— Connie Chavez, Executive Director, Barrett House
I definitely put my longtime project management skills to good use, but I also learned so much, especially about team management. I feel that Barrett House has benefited from my help. Their top priority is helping these women and children figure out how to make progress in their lives and they didn’t have the manpower available for a big project.
I’m also trying to partner some of the homeless women at the shelters with outside mentors, so they have an extra person to talk to, get ideas from and learn from. Someone to give them advice on juggling jobs and kids and daily life.
The Encore Fellowship is such a cool deal. It’s definitely been worth doing.