It took 73 unicorns – Louise’s Journey with the Danish Red Cross

Disclaimer: These ramblings are my attempt at shining a light on how much my colleagues went above and beyond. It is NOT to sell you anything… I myself hate that with a passion! It’s a simple thank you note, and if I manage to keep you with me to the end of this saga (hang in there), showing you that there are an infinite number of ways that you are already having a positive impact on the world, probably without you even noticing it.  

I am lucky enough to have a job that aligns with my personal values and actually grants me the freedom to live by them. Thus, on March 6th, I boarded a plane to go work with the Danish Red Cross for 5 weeks, working as part of the Logistics Emergency Response Unit, supporting the relief efforts in Ukraine. This is the short version of what it actually took to make that happen.

Who am I? My fancy title says ‘Head of Operations’.. that doesn’t really tell you anything about who I am or what I do, so allow me to explain. I ensure that the ‘engine room’ of 24Slides runs as smoothly as possible, the leading role of the engine played by just shy of 200 people. I am a people and process nerd(!) and nothing makes me happier than helping people grow into their potential. Since I joined the company a bit more than 2 years ago, we’ve more than doubled in size. Thus, my days are spent in the trenches with my team, conquering the day-to-day challenges, while trying to manage the strategic direction of our Operations, to enable us to continue to grow sustainably. Hopefully, making it possible for us to empower even more people around the world.

Until the call for deployment came, my involvement with the Danish Red Cross had been an abstract thing, for me and the company. Of course we had discussed the ‘what’s and if’s’ of a potential deployment, but it’s impossible to know what it will require until it happens.

Due to national holidays, time differences and working hours, I had 2 days to coordinate with our Danish team and around 3 hours of face time to handover to my management team in Operations. Not to mention, all the chaos of figuring out how to put my life ‘on pause’ for the duration. The pressure was on.

At no point was I met by anything other than ‘how can we help’ and ‘I’ll manage that until your back’. I’m the happy winner of a CEO who didn’t bat an eye at different strategic projects that would be at a standstill until my return, not to mention that he answered yes, point blank, when asked if I could go. My fellow executives who just reviewed my plans and said sure, anything else we can do for you. Nobody, from work or my private life, met the news with anything but support and solutions.

The people who took this to the next level were (and are still) my 3 musketeers Mira, Angger and Rizal. The amount of tasks and responsibilities I had to drop on them, with only a few pages of hastily written descriptions and a video call handover left me feeling like the worst boss ever! Not due to any doubt about their ability to overcome anything that would come their way (they always surpass my expectations), but because I was increasing their workload substantially and asking them to assume a level of responsibility none of them have signed up for. Same as everybody else in this tale, there were no objections or complaints. Only a strong drive to make it as easy as possible for me to get my butt out the door and not have to worry about what I was leaving behind me.

Off I went and luckily it only took a few days to let go of the guilt of leaving and I was able to focus fully on the job I was there to do. As this tale aint about me and what I got up to, we’ll leave that story time for another day 😉

Insert joke about how many people (and a dog apparently) it takes to do a simple task… Ensuring you have received everything in good order is quite a bit more complex than checking your shopping list when working on this scale. 

Coming back home, I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of thanks and admiration, a lot of ‘I couldn’t do that’ and similar sentiments. The truth is, neither could I if it wasn’t for the 73 people who all had a direct hand in making it possible for me to go… And that’s only the ones I can name. I’m certain there’s a lot of unsung heroes I haven’t even noticed yet.

So, when you see someone doing something extraordinary, know that you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, it probably took a literal village for that person to be able to do what they did. I certainly couldn’t do the things I do without my army of unicorns making it possible.

Did anything bad happen while I was gone? No.Did everyone manage just fine without me?  Yes. Did unforeseen things happen? Certainly! But they managed them, and deserve just as much admiration and thanks.

Now, how to wrap up this epic tale? I’m still sorting through all the things this experience has taught me. And it’s proving insanely difficult for me to wrap it up without sounding nauseatingly cliche 🙈  

We all live different lives, have different responsibilities and priorities. Not all of us can drop everything at a moment’s notice and put our life on pause. But all of us can do something, whatever that looks like. So if you take anything from my ramblings, let it be this: just do something! Try and leave the world a better place than you found it. It doesn’t have to be big – enabling others to act counts just as much, if not more, as there’s rarely any recognition given for your efforts in making it possible.

To everyone who made it possible for me to do something, thank you!

My buddy Teddy and I enjoying the sun a few days before returning home. He’s since then moved out of my vest pocket and won’t shut up about when we can go again 🙂

P.S. This article was written by Louise, Head of Operations, Denmark, as part of 24Slides’ Storyteller’s Program.