Jessica Riley Project Everest Ventures

Jessica Riley

University of Wollongong
Team Leader, 2nd-In-Charge
Jessica studied Bachelor of International Studies Major in International Relations and Major in Global Sustainable Development at University of Wollongong

What's your job about?

I started with Project Everest Ventures as a Trekker in Cambodia on the FarmEd Venture, since then I have lead a team of students in Cambodia on the same business venture as well as senior leading for the country. My primary responsibility as team leader was the wellbeing of my team, followed closely by the accountability of ensuring the progression of the business and assessing viability and social value of our products and services for FarmEd in Cambodia. As a senior leader I managed all the logistics of operating in a developing country, including transport, household operations and maintenance and budget and spending. This position required me to be not only an expert in FarmEd but in all other business ventures, which for Cambodia included a waste management venture called Everest Recycling Solutions, and again my primary focus in this role always fell to the well being of the people and their success in progressing the business ventures forward.

What's your background?

I grew up in a small town in Central West NSW called Dubbo. I lived there my whole life sparing a 12 month move out to Nyngan (further west) to be closer to my grandparents. Nyngan however, is far too small so we didn’t last long. School was my absolute haven, as a child I loved the social aspect of being in a classroom and I had quickly found the joy in learning, which I still carry with me through my university studies. Getting the opportunity to work with Project Everest, coming from such a small town, was a real eye opener. A massive motivation for me was being able to experience the world and come back and tell my family about it, as my father has never left the country and would never have the developing world on his radar. People in small towns often miss the beauty that lies outside it, and I didn’t want to be one of those people.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

The beauty of Project Everest is the fact that anyone can be involved. There is value in every new personality/skill set/background that comes through the door and the staff that I have worked with have been amazing at recognising the strengths and weaknesses of the people in front of them and developing this out for each and every member. The teams of students are multi disciplinary and the collaboration and innovation that comes out of this really shows in country. This organisation attracts motivated, passionate people with a who are willing to learn and able adapt in times of challenge, pressure or crisis which makes for a strong and productive work environment.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

The coolest thing about my job is that I get to meet and work with such incredible people. No matter how stressed or tired I am, or how many things go right or wrong in country, coming home to a house full of energised motivated people who can celebrate the wins of the day and acknowledge the losses and all come together for dinner at the end and just want to spend time together is truly the magic of my position as a leader with Project Everest and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What are the limitations of your job?

The hardest part of my job was time… You don’t get any for yourself. There is a lot of responsibility but it comes down to how you prioritise it, and for myself I allocated it to the people and prioritised them which meant that when it came to the end of the night if someone asked me to play a card game I would rather give them that 15 minutes then go to bed, which meant that I was always physically exhausted. Mentally though, taking that 15 minutes with them is what I needed, and what they needed, so finding a balance here that works for both myself and my team is all that was missing.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

The thing I wish I knew as a student is that these are your years to be selfish. Apply for the exchange, go on the holiday, call in sick and go to the party, volunteer at the place you love even if you can’t afford too…  sometimes you just need it. All things in moderation of course, I think that there is so much emphasis pushed on students in high school that the HSC is everything and we forget to be 17 and 18 year olds enjoying our youth. Don’t let that happen in university, don’t let anyone, parents or a boyfriend or a best friend stop you or limit you from the full experience and opportunity that university offers you… Be selfish and embrace the opportunity, because life experience will matter a lot more in the future than a piece of paper that no one looks at.