Rick Walleigh: From EY to Swaziland

This story originally posted on<http://www.ey.com> .When former partner Rick Walleigh and his wife, Wendy, retired after successful high-tech careers in Silicon Valley, they found themselves wanting to do something big ? something that would reduce poverty throughout the world, something that could lead to world peace.The goal was Herculean, of course, but the Walleighs, even years before leaving the corporate world, had begun feeling the tug to do something more meaningful. This would eventually take them to Africa, to mentor students and help poor-but-determined entrepreneurs start and sustain their own businesses.Time for an encoreRick had spent 14 years in EY?s San Jose office as a consultant to high-tech companies; one of his major projects was working to re-engineer Samsung?s global supply chain. Later, he moved on to a start-up and then to a small software company. Wendy had worked in high-tech marketing for most of her career and later became VP of Marketing and Development for the local chapter of Junior Achievement <http://bit.ly/16WRgfR> , a not-for-profit that inspires and prepares young people to succeed in a global economy.They both retired at age 57, but when you?re accustomed to working hard, it?s difficult "just to stop," Rick noted. Despite having a cornucopia of hobbies (30-mile bike rides, backpacking, skiing), the Walleighs felt they had encore careers in them. And so, receiving housing and small stipends through an organization called TechnoServe, the couple moved to Africa in 2006.[Rick and Wendy]Rick and Wendy demonstrate how hand-carved wooden frogs sound like real frogs from Swaziland. Over the next year and a half, Rick worked in Mbabane, Swaziland, and Nairobi, Kenya ? providing advice to businesses as diverse as a bakery and a company that makes pressure-treated telephone poles ? and even a piggery. Wendy used her marketing expertise to help launch Junior Achievement of Swaziland.TechnoServe?s <http://www.technoserve.org/> mission is to work with enterprising people in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries. The idea is to help people help themselves ? through mentoring, advice and access to knowledge. The organization?s aim is to take the small business owner?s passion and make it work. You could say, Rick remarked, that TechnoServe focuses on building a better working world for poor people in developing countries. "In that way, the organization has a lot in common with EY," he said.In the book the couple penned after their adventures, From Silicon Valley to Swaziland: How One Couple Found Purpose and Adventure in an Encore Career, Rick explains his philosophy: "The way to reduce poverty is to promote private enterprise, which generates economic activity, and then sustainable economic growth and opportunity." Ultimately, people who are prosperous begin working together, regardless of religion or different ethnic backgrounds, and that leads to peace, he says: "The economic incentives tend to overpower the incentives in other directions.""Thank God you came"[The Walleighs with !San! Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert of Namibia]The Walleighs with !San! Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert of Namibia. The group (including Rick and Wendy) had just returned from hunting with the tribesmen for African porcupine and springbok. The projects were surprisingly similar to what he?d done in the States. At EY, Rick consulted with fast-growing high-tech companies on improving management performance in a growth environment ? focusing on re-engineering processes, implementing systems and motivating people to support change to become more productive.In Swaziland, those same basic principles applied. In addition, he put in place better financial reporting, better financial control and more structured project management for TechnoServe?s field offices.But there, it felt different. One day, a young man approached Rick and introduced himself. He said, "You probably don?t remember me, but I remember you. I was in the (TechnoServe) business plan competition, and you were teaching one of the classes."The man had been thinking about starting a mobile hair salon, where he?d go to customers? homes and cut hair in off-hours ? an untapped market. "He didn?t have the confidence before, but now that he?d gotten some of the training, he was going to do it," Rick said. "The man told me, ?I thank God that you came here.? And I was just overwhelmed."Wendy and Rick talked of the drive and determination they witnessed. Many people lived in slums with no electricity or running water, and yet they would emerge from their homes every morning, well-groomed and well-dressed. They would jump into buses and away they would go, off to work. "It was amazing to see ? people coming out of those conditions and productively working in a business environment," Rick said.It pays to stay for the second act"Here in Silicon Valley, you can kind of get wrapped up in, ?What?s the newest iPhone app? Who just became a billionaire through the latest IPO??" Rick said. "And then you go out into the wider world and learn there are a billion people who get by on 2 dollars or less a day ? it just gives you a better perspective on what?s important in life, and how fortunate we are here."Since returning home from their 18-month stay in Africa, Rick has gone back six times, and Wendy five, to provide consultation and advice. These days, Rick works part-time for TechnoServe as an advisor to the COO, earning minimum wage and focusing on internal projects ? again, very similar projects to those he did when he was consulting in Silicon Valley all those years.Wendy is on the Advisory Council for JA in Silicon Valley <http://bit.ly/1LAoEzi> and does marketing projects, including working long-distance for several months with Junior Achievement of Swaziland <http://bit.ly/1NKZujj> , in addition to co-writing the couple?s book. Much of the book is about urging other retirees to embark on meaningful encore careers."I think so many of us here who are very active and very successful in business have a lot to offer," Rick declares. "It doesn?t have to be across the world in Africa. It can be in the low-income areas in your own city. There are many not-for-profits out there that could really use your skill and expertise, not just at the board level, but if you really roll up your sleeves and dig into the details of their daily work, you can have an immense impact and a lot of fun."Rick also has advice for his fellow EY alumni: "Never forget what you learned at EY, both the technical skills and the principles, and use those learnings to the best of your ability to make the world a better place."

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