Skills4Good’s mission is to help companies win the war for talent by matching talent with purpose. In this Spotlight Interview series, we direct a spotlight on selected employees of our corporate partners that we’ve matched with nonprofits across the country. As recognized leaders of their companies, these employees generously give their time, talent and treasure as nonprofit board directors to create significant impacts in the communities in which they live and work.
Alexander (Alex) Markos
Operations Manager, Shell Canada
Shell Canada is a Skills4Good Client. It is a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell and one of Canada's largest integrated oil companies. It’s been continuously recognized as one of Canada’s Best Employers and Best Diversity Employers.
Skills4Good matched Alex with the board of London Youth Advisory Council (LYAC), a nonprofit that ensures that youth voices are heard and integrated into local public policy decisions. It promotes equity in community spaces by facilitating opportunities for youth to co-create solutions and bring perspectives for meaningful impact in London and the surrounding regions.
Q: Why did your company engage Skills4Good?
A: Shell partnered with Skills4Good to provide a development opportunity for high potential talent by exposing them to an external leadership experience which helps build their commercial acumen and external focus. The goal of this opportunity is to enable our employees to see the broad challenges and issues of a large corporation, which at times can be a challenge depending on the business/function they come from. Equally important is the opportunity for Shell to help nonprofits, who then in turn provide benefit to those who receive their services.
Q: Why did you participate in the Skills4Good Board Program?
A: Due to my busy personal and professional life, together with my lack of experience in the nonprofit sector, I had never considered serving on a nonprofit board until I was given the opportunity to participate in the Skills4Good board matching program. The Leaders on Board training, which helped prepare me to serve on a nonprofit board, and the support provided by Skills4Good to match me with a suitable nonprofit were instrumental in getting me started on my board service journey. I am driven to serve on a nonprofit board by the incredible sense of purpose it provides through giving back to the community while contributing to positive social change.
Q: Why did you choose to serve on the LYAC board?
A: I chose to serve on the LYAC board because I am passionate about youth engagement and supporting youth to get involved in solving social issues. I have two young children and it is important to me to give back to my community in a way that creates opportunities for young people to thrive and develop into leaders who will continue to drive societal improvement for years to come. I joined the LYAC board at a time when they were looking to add new members with diverse skills and experience and, although I had no previous nonprofit board experience, I was able to add a corporate perspective to a board which was predominately comprised of youth and others who were early in their career.
Q: What is the positive impact of your board service on your personal and professional goals?
A: From a professional standpoint, serving on a nonprofit board provides me with the opportunity to engage in a variety of experiences that help develop innovation and creativity in my thought processes. It also allows me to practice collaboration and influencing skills while expanding and diversifying my professional network. Working with the board also broadens my experience with governance, which is a necessary component of senior corporate leadership roles. From a personal standpoint, serving on the board provides me with the opportunity for tremendous personal growth by exposing me to diverse perspectives and thought, and it does so within the context of contributing to a cause that I am passionate about.
Q: What do you enjoy about serving on the LYAC board?
A: I enjoy serving on the LYAC board for a couple of reasons. First, it is a small nonprofit with a challenging external funding landscape. This drives the board to focus heavily on strategy, direction setting and financial planning, which are all areas of interest for me. Second, there are several new board members (myself included) that started at the same time. This has allowed us to learn about the organization together and grow and develop as a team from our first day on the board.
Q: What invaluable contributions do you bring to the LYAC board?
A: My background in industry has equipped me with strong strategic planning, governance, and leadership skills. These strengths align well with the needs of the LYAC board and compliment the expertise of my fellow board members. Also, my relative inexperience in the nonprofit sector offers a fresh perspective to a board with a wide range of nonprofit experience. Through my learning I tend to ask basic, yet strategic, questions which can often be overlooked or taken for granted as a result of high familiarity with an organization.
Q: Would you recommend other professionals to serve on a nonprofit board?
A: For any professional looking for an experience that will substantially propel their personal and professional growth forward, I definitely recommend serving on a nonprofit board. It is a forum for both practicing and learning skills essential for corporate leadership roles, and it provides an environment rich with opportunities that encourage personal growth and offers an unparalleled chance to achieve a sense of fulfillment by giving back to the community in a meaningful way.
Q: Could you share some insights from your board service at LYAC?
A: Serving on the board has led to two significant insights for me. The first relates to the concept of equity. My work on the LYAC board has deepened my understanding of the concept of equity, and its power for supporting positive community growth. Prior to my time on the board, my definition of equity was linked to my corporate background which offers a slightly different understanding of this concept. Now that I have gained new insight in this area, I can bring a more informed understanding of equity back to my work environment to support growth, productivity, and positive leadership.
The second insight I have gained relates to the relentless struggle that many nonprofit organizations face to secure stable funding. My work on the board has enlightened me to the fact that the same entities whose aims are to improve the health of our communities, protect the most vulnerable amongst us, and create a safe environment conducive to nurturing our children are also those who struggle the most for the financial resources to make these goals a reality. In the corporate world we take for granted having the resources we need to do a job right and serving on a nonprofit board has opened my eyes to the financial struggles inherent in the fight for social justice.
Samantha Fox, Board Chair, LYAC said:
“Alex has brought a whole new perspective to the governance of the LYAC that has been incredibly valuable to us over the past year. He has brought the corporate, for-profit business perspective that we had been missing. This has allowed us to explore our funding options, our strategic planning and long-term goals with new ideas.
Previously our board had been comprised of nonprofit sector workers, which was useful for knowledge of the sector, but limiting when attempting to problem solve in new creative directions. This new angle has greatly helped to broaden our discussions on everything from policy creation to funding development. Because of this we are a stronger organization with a clearer direction and plan for the future.
We are very grateful to Skills4Good for their help in finding Alex Markos to join our board of directors. Without their assistance we would not have found someone with his skills and background that has been integral to the continued functioning of our nonprofit.”
Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.