Making a difference with a Career’s Worth of Skills

An interview with Skilled Volunteer Lalit Kalra

Blog by Skilled Volunteer Anca Stef | Jun 2023

Lalit Kalra, known as Kal, started thinking about volunteering and trying to find ways he could give something back after he retired almost two years ago. With an extensive background in various sectors, from training as a doctor to working in academia and then in corporate management, Kal felt that his work and life experience could be useful to others, including charities.  

“When I support charities through Link UP London, I can actually use the skills I’ve learned throughout my career to help other people” Kal explained as his motivation to dedicate his time to Skilled Volunteering projects.  

Link UP’s Skilled Volunteering model was a perfect match for him. He feels that sharing his knowledge with a charitable organisation, working to make positive change in its community, is an incredibly valuable way of using of his time and skills.  “An important way that Link UP works is to focus their volunteer projects on helping to build the capacity of an organisation, so that it is actually able to do its work better”, Kal explains.  

Through Link UP, Kal began to volunteer with SoundSkool to support them with a new overall long-term strategy.  SoundSkool, a tenacious music school led by founder and CEO Simon Gordon for 15 years, reached out to Link UP London for help with their sustainability planning. Founded by Simon in 2008, SoundSkool has been offering young musicians ages 16 to 19 years old fully funded, full-time Level 2 and Level 3 Music Performance & Business and Music Production & Business music courses. It is an accredited Rock School London (RSL) centre. 

After supporting Simon through the Link UP project and with a plan in place to develop their strategy, Kal has become a member of the board. For Simon, his help has been very important. Kal’s contribution ranged from mentoring on sustainability, planning, governance, and the overall structure of the music school, towards a new stage of its development, with a secured headquarters and a higher number of students.  

The Link UP project was perfect for Kal who felt it was his role to pass on what he has learnt in his career. “Founders see these organisations as their babies – they are very enthusiastic about them and very close to them, but sometimes you are so close that it is hard to see what is going on. So sometimes I am like a grandparent, going in and saying it will be alright, you are doing fine, do not worry. If you think you are not doing as well as you should be, everyone does, you are not unique. This comes after having learned from experience, and a degree of expertise. Things are better than you think most of the time”, Kal explains. This type of mentoring can be crucial for an organisation, and it is very rewarding for the volunteer as well. “That is your role – you are not there to do hands-on work, doing the work for them does not teach anyone anything”, Kal believes. 

Kal felt happy to be able to help SoundSkool and Simon. “I actually felt that I was supporting Simon. I felt that I was his friend and guide. It was challenging, but it was also quite rewarding to see him succeed. It’s like mentoring. When you mentor somebody and they do well, you feel happy for them, proud of them, and feel that you’ve contributed something useful to the world in general. That’s the best way of describing it” 

For Kal, the results are to be seen in Simon’s developing leadership skills. “These are skills of patience, the skills of being proactive rather than reactive, the skills of holding back rather than jumping in. At the end of the day, he did it. I didn’t do anything. And for me, the learning was that sometimes standing back and letting it be, teaching someone the skills is much more valuable than trying to fix things yourself.” 

Apart from the management and strategy skills passed on in this project, Kal happily reflects on the relationship that he’s formed with Simon, a leader who has fought for the existence of SoundSkool for more than 15 years. “So, all I have been doing is standing back, helping him get his priorities right, and then helping him stay focused without getting distracted. The rest is already there”, Kal explains. 

In the future, Kal is hoping to be part of other Skilled Volunteer projects. “It has been a fantastic and very exciting journey with Link UP London; the people are wonderful, the work is wonderful, it is like a family, a fantastic and very supportive organisation” 

Kal believes that his volunteering career has just begun. “What I have discovered is that as long as people are enthusiastic and committed and you support them, they will succeed. And I think this is what Link UP London does – people who come to us believe in their mission and are willing to work hard but sometimes they need a little guidance; they need someone to show them the way.” 

About our Guest Blogger Anca Stef

Anca is a Communication Specialist with experience in mass media, PR and digital marketing.

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