Danielle Bicknell, BA’08

Danielle (Dani) Bicknell, BA’08 currently resides in Oakland, California. Dani works as a Program Manager at SecondMuse, a social impact consulting firm. Dani shares how she is driven by her passion and how to navigate these current times.

Tell us about your role

I work as a Program Manager for SecondMuse, a global social impact consulting firm that works with clients to create social impact accelerators. I work with entrepreneurs from around the world to scale their impact and grow their businesses in a sustainable way.

What attracted you to this organization?

I have always been an odd duck with many different passions and this job caters to my ability to be a jack of many trades and an educator. Over the past decade, I have worked in the tech/startup world, for the United Nations, and for non-profits and government organizations. I was drawn to SecondMuse because they also believe in building inclusive economies through cross-sector collaboration and bring diverse stakeholders to the decision-making table.

What excites you about this role/organization?

I am passionate about using education as a force for social good. I have a background in financial technology, gender equality, social impact, and cross-sector collaboration. This role allows me to utilize my diverse background to help others scale their impact. At a very basic level, I love helping other people, so this role allows me to meet people where they are and help get them to where they want to be.

What was your first role after graduation?

As an international student, I was lucky to take advantage of a visa that allowed me to stay in Canada for two years after I graduated. I worked as an online program coordinator for the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC (CLEBC). At the time, online programming was just starting to gain traction so they took a chance on me and allowed me to help create their first set of online legal education courses. I am forever grateful for that incredible learning experience.

What skill did you learn in your very first job after graduation that you are still using to this day?

I was so lucky to get a job that respected me as a human, understood work-life balance, and was committed to helping me succeed beyond my role at CLEBC. Only later in my career did I realize that not all organizations value you like that, so when I manage others, I still reflect on how I was managed at CLEBC and try to emulate what they instilled in me.

What techniques did you use to address career ambiguity?

In my twenties, I pursued whatever seemed to be the most interesting to me. I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to pursue but I’m so glad I experimented with many jobs before going back to graduate school six years after UBC. I often felt like an imposter in many jobs. For instance, when I saw my equal male counterparts acting more confident than me, I just said, “ok, if they can do that, so can I.” It ended up working for me.

What have you learned about yourself over the past few months?

I learned that I need to take better care of myself. Over the past few months, I finally had the extra time I always dreamed of, and so it allowed me to invest in myself and my well-being like I never had before. 2020 might have been canceled for some, but it has been a great year for me to grow as an individual, figure out how to better help my community, and focus on what really matters (like listening to medical professionals during a pandemic and wearing a mask!).

What is your best career advice?

Be clear and be kind. I think in our professional lives we make a lot of assumptions about what people know. Being clear about your expectations, thoughts, and motives is always the best way to align yourself with others on your team.

In addition, be nice! When you lead with kindness and treat others the way you want to be treated, it makes people value you and the work you are doing. I have found that when I treat my co-workers well, we end up working harder because we feel respected and it motivates us to do good work.

What memories do you have of graduation?

Graduating from UBC was a really magical time in my life. I was the first person in my family to graduate from university and my whole family came up. I got to meet Douglas Coupland, and Michael J. Fox was the honorary graduate during my ceremony. I remember being so happy and proud when I walked off the stage and then going outside to Main Mall with my family and seeing the beautiful mountains and ocean behind me.

What advice do you have for the class of 2020?

Listen to your intuition! If you are passionate about something, do not let someone else tell you not to do it because it “will not look good for your career.” Many people, with good intentions told me not to go into social impact work because I would never make any money and it wouldn’t be a respected field. I knew they meant well, but doing social impact work is what I was most passionate about — so although it was hard to get started and be taken seriously, my persistence paid off.

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