Shortly before National Congress 2013, Margaret Kim, AIESEC UBC’s Local Committee President 2012, took the time do an interview with our Communications (COMM) portfolio. She talked about her AIESEC experience and what she’s learned from attending conferences and taking on a leadership role.
Basic Information: Tell us about yourself!
Name: Margaret Kim
How long have you been in AIESEC?: 2.5 years
Positions held: Corporate Relations Specialist, Vice President Corporate Relations, Local Committee President
Conferences attended: Western Regional Conference (WRC) 2010-2012, National Congress (NC) 2011-2013, Coastal Conference 2011-2012, National Leadership Development Conference (NLDC) 2011-2012, Asia Pacific Exchange and Leadership Development Seminar (APXLDS) 2012, International Congress (IC) 2012
Food: Italian food
Travel spot: Spain (Haven’t been there yet, but I just know it will be!)
Movie: If Only, Step Up
AIESEC dance: Xi Shua Shua, because AIESEC Canada called it the Margaret dance. Apparently my face lights up when I dance this one.
COMM: Right off the bat, tell us about conferences. How long are they usually?
Margaret: It depends on conferences. International ones vary, but are usually more than five days long. National ones are five days long, and regional ones are three days long. Depending on the conferences you go to, what you do varies. As for me, the closest conference that I have been to was in Vancouver and the furthest one was in Japan.
COMM: What are your favourite/least favourite parts of conferences?
Margaret: My favourite part of conferences is when I get to meet and network with new people. It’s amazing to see how people from all over the world click instantly. My least favourite part is when I am sleep deprived. Since conferences consist of many sessions during the day and socials at night, it is hard to just go to sleep when you want to talk and connect with people that you meet, or your colleagues that you have not seen in awhile.
COMM: Which was your favourite conference you attended?
Margaret: APXLDS was my favourite conference to attend, not only because it was my first international conference, but also because it was a breakthrough moment for me. Having been in AIESEC for two years and having attended every conference since I joined, I did not have very high expectations. Most of the sessions gave me a better insight and understanding as AIESEC as a global organization and it was certainly amazing to see how different countries have their own best case practices that could be easily adopted in Canada as well. Hence it was my first hands on experience where I truly felt that the world is indeed globalized.
COMM: You’ve been to conferences at the regional, national, and international level. How do they differ from each other?
Margaret: The biggest difference is the content of the conferences, because each conference has different roles and the content varies. Regional conferences are more for new members, so there is more introductory material, whereas international conferences have more comprehensive content. However, there are many different international conferences so they can’t be generalized. For example, I had the chance to go to International Congress, which is the biggest AIESEC conference of the year. The content there was different from APX in Japan, which was more for the Asia-Pacific region.
Also, the people attending each conference are different as well. For most conferences, any members can go. However, for International Congress, all delegates must be at least the President of their Local Committee to attend.
COMM: What is the most valuable thing (be it a skill, a lesson learned, a memory, etc.) you will be taking from your experience in AIESEC?
Margaret: It’s definitely the people. The skills can be obtained anywhere, but it’s the people you take away. It’s not even just about the network; the connections you make are lifelong. I’ve had alumni tell me that they still keep in touch with the AIESECers they met before. From my experience, I truly believe that too. Even the people I met at international conferences—you think that you will never see them again for a lot of reasons, but somehow, you end up meeting them again. For example, when I attended APX, I didn’t think I would meet up with any of them after the conference was over. Still, we kept in touch, and I actually met a lot of them at International Congress later that year. I think it’s just the beginning though; somehow, there will be a chance that we will get to meet again
But as I was telling Gwendolyn (VP Communications 2012), I would never have gotten to know her if it hadn’t been for AIESEC and the leadership roles we both took. If I had to choose one thing that I’m grateful for, it would be getting to know my team on both a personal and professional level. We had ups and downs, but we’re just like family. You go through problems together, and at the end of the day, you learn a lot from each other and you appreciate each other after what you have been through together. A lot of us VPs didn’t really know each other until we started working together. I’m thankful for that. I’ve learned a lot from my team, not just about AIESEC work, but personal skills as well.
COMM: What was the most rewarding part of being in AIESEC?
Margaret: I think the most rewarding part of being in AIESEC is that the organization has allowed me to realize my life motto: to inspire and be inspired. From my experience in AIESEC, I have been both inspired by many and I have inspired others too. I don’t want to sound self-absorbed by saying that I inspired others, but that’s what I’ve been told. I think when I say I’ve been inspired by many, a lot of people think that they are all great leaders in leadership roles. But that’s not usually who I get inspired by; it’s the members that I see every day. It’s coming into the office at nine in the morning and seeing one of the members in Corporate Relations already cold calling companies. It’s the videos or the posters that the Communications members have made, because frankly speaking, I’ll never have the talent to make things like that. It’s the little things: little things that may seem normal and ordinary, but they really work their magic. I get inspired by that and the people who make that work. I feel like I’m everywhere.
COMM: What challenged you the most during your time in AIESEC, and as LCP?
Margaret: This is actually a funny question to me, because there have been a lot of crises that I had to solve in AIESEC. But now that the term is almost ending, it’s hard to pinpoint it out. I think it was realizing that people are different and that you can’t do everything.
No matter how dedicated and ambitious they are, people all have different standards and expectations about how to approach work and what they appreciate. For me, because I have high standards for myself, I tend to have high standards for others too. When the process or outcome did not happen the way I thought it should, it was quite disappointing at first. Then I saw that people really enjoyed what they do and appreciated the exact same thing I got disappointed by. It’s not about lowering the expectation or standard, but through that, I learned to be more appreciative.
You also can’t do everything, in a sense that you literally cannot do everything by yourself. In any position you are in, learn to share and learn to help each other because it’s better having it done together. Yes, sometimes it can be more time consuming and often more stressful than doing it yourself. But through that, you create memories with other people.
COMM: When were you most proud of the yourself and/or the Local Committee?
Margaret: It was at Western Regional Conference 2012. I think it was bits and pieces of everything, but there was one moment where I realised how our Local Committee (LC) transformed so drastically from last year. Having the AIESEC Canada’s President tell the members how much he appreciates the LC as well as what the LCP has done to be where we are; having your Executive Board members look at each other and knowing what they were going to say before they said it; having the new members be inspired and excited about what they could do; having old members who didn’t really want to come to the conference in the first place actually love it and have their passion ignited like never before. From then on, and for a while, everyone was in sync: members knew what they wanted to do and were excited about everything.
COMM: What do you mean by old members who didn’t want come to the conference?
Margaret: A lot of members, especially the older ones, were hesitant about going to WRC. They thought that it was too much money, that they already knew everything about AIESEC, that they didn’t want to spend Thanksgiving doing AIESEC work. Then a lot (if not all, I can’t remember for sure) of old members later came to me to thank me for pushing them. I think that most obvious one was Michael Shao (VP Outgoing Exchange 2013). He’s an old member but he had never really found the passion for AIESEC before. Then WRC turned everything around for him. He’s the VP of Outgoing Exchange now so I guess it was worth the investment in the end. (He also hated recruitment before, and now he’s in our Recruitment Organizing Committee.)
COMM: You are magical.
Margaret: I don’t think it was solely me, and that’s why it’s amazing. Everything worked out—the people made it work. I can’t take all the credit for what happened in my year, but it really was a legendary year that I dreamed of—members being passionate about what they do. In the beginning of my term, I sincerely wished that there would be more people inspired to do more at the end of my term. Then five people applied to be LCP 2013, and more than ten applied for VP. When I ran for LCP, I was the only one, and we only had one person apply for each portfolio for VPs (ie. six VP candidates).
For me, a legendary year isn’t about having a mind blowing year with ridiculous numbers. It’s really about leaving the legacy that will last. I think people being inspired to step up like that is what made the year legendary.
COMM: Do you have any last words?
Margaret: As AIESECers, we always work very hard. Sometimes, it seems like we dedicate our entire lives. But at the end of the day, think about yourself and your life. You’ve done enough, if not a lot for the organization. Have you done that for yourself? If things do not turn out the way you wanted to, do you blame yourself or the organization? Or should you blame anyone at all? Do not think about what the organization can do for you, or what you can do for the organization. But please do think about how you, as a passionate individual, have and can make this organization and the society we live in better by just being you. Appreciate what you have, but most importantly, stay true to yourself.