In the Field: My Summer at CESO

Written by Natalie Isber for CESO:
November 5, 2015

Four months ago I joined CESO as a summer MBA intern, which included a one week assignment with the Department of Trade and Industry in the Philippines. I accompanied CESO Lead Volunteer Advisor, Bruce McPherson, and the Country Representative in the Philippines, Matt Navalta, with the objective of creating a five-year strategic plan with a specific focus on capacity building for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

This assignment’s focus on SMEs was of particular interest to me as a Ryerson student because my MBA program consistently emphasized the importance of building entrepreneurship skills and supporting innovative thinkers. The opportunity to visit the SMEs in Tuguegarao, a city in northern Philippines, allowed me to learn from the entrepreneurs I met first-hand, while appreciating the magnitude of the impact CESO Volunteer Advisors have in strengthening businesses, communities and nations around the world.

One of the first SMEs we visited was Barako Boy Coffee, an outdoor coffee shop / restaurant owned by Kiwee, a dynamic woman with a plan to expand. The way Kiwee spoke of Barako Boy Coffee and her plans for the future showed her passion and determination for the business she had built. Working in partnership with CESO, she would be able to gain the additional skills and expertise required to ensure her expansion was successful.

This lesson may have been magnified by the fact that I was reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In while I was on assignment in the Philippines, but I could not help but see the parallels. One of CESO’s key focus areas includes promoting gender equality in each of our partnerships and conveniently Lean In discussed how “more women in power” is the best way to support women around the world to promote equality around the world.

Based on my experience, CESO is a great vehicle to promote women in leadership positions, travelling the world to volunteer their expertise while acting as a great example for the partners we work with. If you are a woman and you are considering volunteering with CESO, I urge you to take the next step, find out more and join the team.

Please reach out and connect! I would be happy to hear from you to share my experiences or hear about yours.

Natalie Isber is a graduate of the MBA-MTI (Management in Technology and Innovation) program, class of 2015.