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Morgan Dickerson

Morgan Dickerson

Community Engagement Manager, buildOn

Building a brighter future through service and education around the world

During a recent conversation, Morgan Dickerson discussed her experience at PwC, her passion for social impact work, and why she doesn’t believe in making plans.

Why did you decide to focus your career on social impact work?
I think it was a natural evolution. Giving back to my community has been a huge theme throughout my personal life. And then at PwC, I had some incredible opportunities to do volunteer work. Initially, when I joined the firm, I volunteered for an hour each week with nonprofits, those that PwC has relationships with. Then, as I gained more responsibility, I managed relationships between PwC and nonprofits. And finally, I worked full time on the corporate social responsibility team. Through those experiences, I was able to see how my personal and professional work could align and I could make a career out of social impact work. And while I recently started working with buildOn as an employee, I was previously involved with the organization as a volunteer, so I think the transition to buildOn, specifically, was coming for a long time.

It sounds like this is something you’ve been passionate about for a long time.
Yes! Some of my earliest memories are of volunteering and community service. I remember making flag pins at school, which we would pass out to veterans at retirement homes. I remember doing a bake sale with my family to raise money to build a house in Guatemala. And I remember devoting more than 80 hours of volunteer work to founding and leading a youth group at my church focusing on faith and service, earning me my Girl Scout Gold Award.

Tell us more about what you’re doing now at the nonprofit organization.
buildOn’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. One way we do that is by building schools in remote and economically poor communities. And as the community engagement manager, I’m in charge of supporting our teams that are working to fundraise and build schools around the world.

How do the teams come together?
There are so many different ways. But our teams are often made up of passionate high school students or college students, which is so inspiring — I love to see young people out there advocating for education globally and putting in lots of hard work. We also have incredibly strong teams that are made up of families and friends. And we have many teams of working professionals, who are even sometimes sponsored by their corporations, which is great.

Wow, that sounds incredible. Have you built schools yourself?
Through my previous volunteer work with buildOn, before becoming an employee, I built schools in Burkina Faso, Malawi, Nepal, and Nicaragua. (And I look forward to building more as an employee now, working with those teams I support!) I took that last trip to Nicaragua while I was working at PwC, actually. I formed a team with ten colleagues and, together, we raised more than $40,000. Then we traveled from San Francisco to Nicaragua, where we worked alongside local community members for about a week. That experience of building a school from the ground up with my colleagues was really a defining moment in my career. It helped me connect on a deeper level with other people at PwC, and it definitely solidified my determination to focus my career on social impact work.

How does community engagement play a role in social impact?
I believe that passion and excitement for a mission can really bond people together in unique ways. And I think any organization can make a stronger impact on their work by harnessing their community’s sense of purpose. Just as one example, when I was a college student from University of Delaware volunteering in Burkina Faso, I worked with people who were quite different from me—including a retired man from Italy and a professional woman from DC. Without our shared passion for supporting education globally, we may not have otherwise met, or been friends, but we did and we ended up having a very powerful bond that led to us building two more schools together.

What passion initially drew you to PwC?
Initially, it was my passion for math, which is what I majored in at college. But I honestly wasn’t sure what I was going to do with that major. Then I came across PwC at a networking event on campus, and the firm seemed to value my academic background as well as my volunteer experiences. I was fortunate to get hired as an intern and then I developed my career at the firm from there.

What stands out most from your time at PwC?
Working hard and working smart. Building genuine relationships. The high level of professionalism. The accountability and ownership. And the breadth of opportunities. I really learned so much at PwC that still applies in what I do now. Honestly, by the time I left PwC, after almost five years, I had held four different titles in three office locations on two teams. That sums up the incredibly diverse experiences I gained. I started working in data assurance out of our New York office, where I used data to support the audit, and I also had the opportunity to apply creative data solutions in a consulting type of role when it wasn't audit season. Then I did a rotation in PwC’s India Acceleration Center for three months serving as a technical specialist and helping to manage the team. After that, I moved to San Francisco, where I worked with our corporate social responsibility team supporting our volunteers and giving initiatives.

Before buildOn, you worked at another nonprofit. What was that like?
Well, I started my new job on the first day of lockdowns here in San Francisco. So it felt strange to leave PwC, which was so familiar, at a time of such grave uncertainty. But it also felt meaningful to help others, because I was working for a nonprofit that supported small businesses in their greatest time of need. I managed the business advising program, which connected small business owners to volunteer advisors in a variety of different areas. 

What’s the best advice you can offer to others?
Just take things one step at a time. You don’t have to know everything when you start out. And you don’t have to be a planner, at least, I’m not. But if you keep taking that one next step that feels genuine and meaningful to you, I believe you’ll get to the right place. And for me, that’s where I feel like I am now. I recently said to my boyfriend that I feel like I have my dream job now, which is so fortunate, and I love talking about what we do with others. So, if anyone reading this has questions or wants to learn more, they can email me. Maybe we can even go on a Trek together to build a school in 2022!

This interview was conducted, edited, and condensed by Jen Swetzoff, founder and creative director of Closeup. Jen was formerly the deputy managing editor at strategy+business magazine.

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