An Atlas Corps Fellowship Spotlight
Rather than following a traditional path toward teaching or a PhD program after receiving her Bachelor of Science in Physics and Chemistry at Alexandria University in Egypt, Shorouk Elkobros decided to pursue alternate pathways to mobilize science for good.
At just 22 years old, Shorouk launched a start-up to combat water scarcity in Egypt using Concentrated Solar Power technology, where mirrors and lenses covering a large surface area train the sun’s rays onto a specific area to generate power. The success of her start-up led to conferences, funding opportunities, community forums, and finally to an opportunity to participate in a Social Entrepreneurship in Sustainability program organized by the African German Youth Initiative in Berlin in 2016.
Inspired by the people she met in Berlin, Shorouk decided to produce a documentary film about how social entrepreneurs are contributing to climate change mitigation in East Africa. “I can now tell you that I know a girl who is producing electricity in Tanzania, a guy who is conserving water in Kenya, and a lot of other great people and stories that are changing my life and changing my perspective,” said Shorouk of the research she’s done since 2016 for the documentary.
While she recognized that producing the documentary wouldn’t necessarily be profitable, she knew it would create valuable opportunities, like the chance to learn more about storytelling, to meet inspiring individuals doing important work, and, ultimately, to use a powerful communications tool to amplify the critical role science can play in preventing climate change.
A Unique Invitation from Atlas Corps
Armed with a new perspective, Shorouk applied for the Atlas Corps Fellowship. Atlas Corps is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that engages emerging global leaders committed to the social sector in 12 to 18-month professional fellowships at leading U.S. organizations to learn best practices, build organizational capacity, and return home to integrate into the network of global changemakers.
Typically, organizations that host Atlas Corps Fellows are nonprofits or social enterprises, as their work tends to align with the Atlas Corps mission. Shorouk was therefore surprised when she received an invitation to interview for a Fellowship at Nestlé Corporate Affairs in Washington, DC. Upon learning about her potential supervisor at Nestlé—the Manager of Corporate Communications, Liz Caselli-Mechael, who began her career in international development working on agricultural public-private partnerships in East Africa—Shorouk grew curious and accepted.
It was immediately clear that Shorouk’s skills could be a great fit for her team, but Liz suspected she would need to do some convincing to get Shorouk excited about joining a corporate team for the yearlong Fellowship, since Shorouk’s experience had been almost exclusively with NGOs. Liz acknowledged some of the stigmas associated with corporations and social impact in the initial interview, but focused the conversation around the broad influence they could have on the agricultural technology and food security sectors. Nestlé was a perfect example of corporations using their power for good. As the world’s largest food and beverage company, Liz hoped that Nestlé’s track record with social impact would win Shorouk over like it did Liz years ago.
“Though any business or publicly traded company must consider revenue, Nestlé operates under the premise that our ability to create value for our shareholders is dependent on the value we create for society,” Liz explained. “That means continually making our products healthier to meet our consumers’ needs, reducing our carbon emissions and water usage in our production process to ensure that resources are still around to benefit all of us for generations, and sourcing our products in a way that supports farmers so that we continue to have access to the best quality ingredients. Our decisions and operations create value for our shareholders through creating value for our communities, families, and planet.”
Though any business or publicly traded company must consider revenue, Nestlé operates under the premise that our ability to create value for our shareholders is dependent on the value we create for society.
Following the interview and Shorouk’s submission of a few writing samples, Liz extended Shorouk an offer on behalf of Nestlé to serve as their first ever Atlas Corps Fellow. “There were two main reasons we wanted to host an Atlas Corps Fellow,” said Liz. “One was practical. We are a very small team and hoped to find an efficient way to add talent and bandwidth for the coming year. The other is that Atlas Corps’ mission truly resonates here. Talent comes in many forms and from many places, but opportunity doesn’t. I personally have found working at Nestlé to be an amazing environment to grow and learn, and Atlas Corps presented a chance to extend that learning environment to rising leaders from other countries. It was a great fit with our Project Opportunity program which looks to use hands-on training through apprenticeships to improve career readiness and accelerate growth for people of all ages and backgrounds.”
Liz wasn’t the only one excited about the Atlas Corps opportunity. Shorouk was thrilled to receive an offer from Nestlé. Anticipating her yearlong onsite training with Nestlé’s CSV Digital Communications team in DC, the 200+ hours of professional development training provided through Atlas Corps, and regularly networking with over 600 current and past international Fellows, Shorouk knew she was going to gain great tools and make meaningful connections to help with her documentary. She became an Atlas Corps Fellow and joined Nestlé in May of 2017.
Six months later, both Shorouk and Liz feel great about their respective decisions regarding this Fellowship. “Being an advocate for the environment, I never thought I’d love my work at a corporation,” said Shorouk. “In the United States, Nestlé is such an exemplary workplace, from having a strong Parental Support Policy to providing a sustainable supply chain for food and nutrition. During my time with my team at Nestlé, I’m doing what I’m most passionate about: producing Creating Shared Value stories, learning best practices on social media, and advocating for the environment, people, and pets. This is definitely a life changing experience for me. I grew and I keep growing everyday both personally and professionally since I started my Fellowship at Nestlé USA.”
During my time with my team at Nestlé, I’m doing what I’m most passionate about: producing Creating Shared Value stories, learning best practices on social media, and advocating for the environment, people, and pets. This is definitely a life changing experience for me.
“Shorouk has brought an amazing attitude and has directly contributed to our work at critical times,” said Liz. “Everyone on our team loves training her on new tasks because she’s a great listener, takes feedback well, and continually improves her contributions. Shorouk has put a lot of time not only towards contributing to our core work, like creating social media kits for volunteers and partners, but also into tracking the effectiveness of that work by directly following up, saving highlights from our partners, and ultimately making informed recommendations on what work is the most useful for our goals.”