Undergraduate students Abbey Cerciello, class of 2019, and Florina Lam, class of 2022, interviewed Ana Mittal '06 as part of their 2019 Impact Ambassador experience with the Center for Social Value Creation at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Tell us a little bit about yourself; what was the path that brought you to where you are today?
I am a manager with PwC’s Responsible Business Leadership Team where my work is primarily focused on furthering the mission of the PwC Charitable Foundation. The PwC Foundation is a 501c3 public charity that makes innovative investments in education and humanitarianism, to support underserved populations. All of my educational and work experiences have helped me to get where I am now. I graduated from the Smith School of Business with a degree in Information Systems, and I worked for several years as a consultant focusing on change management and stakeholder engagement in PwC’s Advisory line of service. A few years into my career I earned an MBA at The Wharton School, with majors in Strategic Management and Organizational Effectiveness. It was there that I honed in on my personal purpose -- to scale social impact by inspiring others to give back in ways that are meaningful to them. Once I aligned with my purpose, I took part in a corporate responsibility rotational program at PwC, and that was a launching pad into my career in CSR. But my learning hasn’t stopped. I just recently completed a graduate certificate in Corporate Sustainability and Innovation at Harvard, and I am constantly seeking opportunities to learn and grow.
How are you using your education and professional experience to advance social change?
As part of Responsible Business Leadership at PwC, every aspect of my job is connected to advancing social change. My team and I are committed to creating business and social value. We’re doing this by focusing on a problem that is important to business and society alike -- income inequality and the growing opportunity gap in America. We’ve designed initiatives that are helping to close the opportunity gap, by equipping young people from underserved communities with skills to help change the trajectory of their lives. Through volunteering and pro-bono opportunities and by creating new curriculum resources, our firm is sharing its capabilities in finance and technology to help students learn these crucial skills so that they are prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
How can businesses integrate social impact with traditional profit-centered business functions?
Responsibility should be embedded in every aspect of an organization. Companies can no longer look at each of their business functions as stand-alone units. Instead, they need to look at their organization as one entity, unified by a common purpose to create value for its stakeholders – which include not only investors and customers, but also communities and society as a whole.
So, to me, the question isn’t about how to integrate social responsibility into specific business functions, but rather how to make social responsibility a part of the company’s DNA. The key is to develop a purpose-driven CSR strategy that aligns with business objectives, where CSR goals contribute to business objectives. And, by establishing specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) performance metrics, an organization can clearly show how CSR advances business objectives.
How is PwC aligned to creating positive social impact, and what types of opportunities exist at the organization?
At PwC, we’re driven by our purpose and our values, and we’re working to help create a more equitable society. Through our $320 million commitment called Access Your Potential, we connect our staff to opportunities, tools and community organizations to help students build the finance and technology skills that they need for lifelong success. We make it easy for employees to give back. Employees have an unprescribed number of paid hours each year for volunteering. They can also earn rewards in the form of charitable donations, up to $1,500 each year, to the nonprofit organizations of their choice. Beyond volunteering, PwC also encourages nonprofit board service and engages staff in pro bono engagements where they use their professional skills towards social good. It’s through these kinds of opportunities that our staff has put their skills, and PwC’s solutions, to work in communities across the country to address issues related to health, sustainability, education, and economic development.
What advice do you have for students interested in social impact?
First, you don’t need to be in a CSR role to affect social change. We all have a responsibility to ourselves to hone in on and live in a way that fulfills our sense of purpose. I think inherently, we want to be part of something greater than ourselves. It’s important to recognize that this can look different to each person, and it doesn’t require pursuing a job in CSR. Rather, the key is to work for an organization whose purpose and values align with yours and where you have an opportunity to do work that you find meaningful. As you’re exploring prospective employers and opportunities, get to know what the organization stands for, what its mission is and what it’s doing not only to generate revenue but also to generate social value.
Second, I recommend that students seek out skill-based volunteering opportunities. There are many non-profits in the DC area that need help and are eager to work with students. Think about how you can maximize impact by sharing your skills. Every student at UMD has unique skills to offer, whether it be communication, social media, graphic design, photography, data management, etc., and these are skills that can help build capacity for a nonprofit organization. And, for those who are looking to take their impact to the next level, consider seeking a leadership role at a nonprofit that you enjoy volunteering with. Many nonprofits have a junior advisory board or an emerging leaders council comprised of young professionals wanting to further the mission of the organization.
How do you remain connected to the Smith School of Business, and what is your role at the Center for Social Value Creation (CSVC)?
PwC is a founding member of the Coalition for Better Business, alongside Unilever and Tata. I am the PwC representative on the Coalition board. The Coalition itself is a partnership model whereby industry practitioners help bring to life CSVC’s Principles for Better Business framework by co-creating student engagements – both inside and outside the classroom. I have been a guest speaker for undergraduate classes, helped to facilitate a two-semester MBA live case engagement, and took part in the CSVC Annual Convening alongside many inspiring social value creators.
What’s something surprising that many people don’t know about you?
I was a volunteer EMT for several years after graduating from the University of Maryland. I was part of an ambulance crew, assisting people on what was often their worst day. It was a challenging role and it pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed developing new skills and helping my community.