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Why I Left Tech in the Middle of an IPO to Help Architect Impact At Scale

The Influencers 78 Add to collection

After recently joining 72andSunny's purpose and impact consultancy Brand Citizens, Lauryn Nwankpa shares her thoughts on leaving the tech industry

Why I Left Tech in the Middle of an IPO to Help Architect Impact At Scale

I am a statistic. As I scrolled through my feed one night in late December, I realised that I am one of 38 million workers who quit their job in 2021. I was the head of social impact at a mission oriented fintech start up that eventually went public weeks after I resigned. I loved my team, my role and the vision leadership had for the company’s market debut and beyond.

The beauty of tech is that there are brands that are unapologetically purpose oriented and that are building inherently impactful products for communities of people who had traditionally been considered an afterthought. This is what drew me to the sector. (That and the possibility of experiencing a financial windfall that might actually allow me to pay off my student loan debt.) So why leave?

Tech, with its promises to democratise access and solve our biggest problems with software and SAAS solutions, suffers from the same deficiencies of any other sector grappling with new pressures to subvert business as usual: it has an extraordinary organisational readiness problem. It suffers from a poor understanding of the use of impact as a strategic, value driving lever, it holds a pervasive belief in an inherent tension between profit and purpose and is often unable to overcome organisational inertia to move beyond traditional conceptions of corporate social responsibility. More than ever, the 'do good' rhetoric is front and centre and impassioned, but the work and action to back it up? Not so much. While I do believe tech remains ripe for transformation, I was missing the forest for the trees. I needed a bigger sandbox.

What does it mean for brands to deliver sustained value through impact? How is purpose operationalised? In what ways should brands deeply interrogate what their strategic impact levers are and will be? What legacies will leaders leave behind? I grappled with these questions and wondered if I could answer them within the narrow purview of a sector within a sector. What I ultimately realised is that I needed more data. I needed to work with a myriad of brands and stakeholders to help architect an impact ecosystem that finally tilted the scales in favour of purpose and organisational and systemic transformation.

What I do know for certain is this: Brand citizenship is the unlock. It’s the connective tissue between an expressed intent to centre purpose and actually operationalising it.

Gone are the days of rhetorical intentions to “do well by doing good” while doing business as usual behind the scenes. 2020 was unprecedented: the pandemic, our woefully insufficient response to Covid-19, the fight for racial equality, the election, all exposed the ways in which our social contracts and fabric are uncomfortably fragile. We collectively see how the private sector, and brands specifically - with their consumer facing affinity - have a much bigger responsibility to mitigate harm and usher in a new way of doing business. Corporate social responsibility is a cute moniker - but one that will no longer serve us. Siloed, non-strategic initiatives will not push the needle on the larger, system shifts required of us and in service of future generations. 

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72andSunny LA, Fri, 21 Jan 2022 08:50:25 GMT