What do you do when you're ready to retire from a successful career in Silicon Valley? Why not move to Africa and do volunteer work?
Okay, this isn't the way most of us imagine spending our golden years. But Rick and Wendy Walleigh -- like so many baby boomers reaching the traditional age of retirement -- were too healthy, motivated, and interested in giving back to play golf for the rest of their lives. From Silicon Valley to Swaziland describes their experiences, from the challenges of day-to-day existence in an unfamiliar culture to the joys of helping people in poverty grow their own businesses. If you're thinking about transitioning to a more meaningful career, you'll find the Walleighs' story both informative and inspiring.
In 2005, Rick Walleigh left a 30-year career as a high-tech exec with firms like HP and Ernst & Young to use his skills to give back through volunteering for TechnoServe.
Rick traveled to Africa with his wife Wendy to work on reducing poverty. Now back in the US, he continues to work part-time for TechnoServe as a Senior Advisor to the CEO and other members of TechnoServe’s senior management team.
Because of his transition from high tech executive to volunteer, Rick was featured in the Wall Street Journal article “Second Acts: Career Paths For Worn-Out Executives”.
Rick has been published in The Harvard Business Review and is an accomplished presenter. "From Silicon Valley to Swaziland" is his first book.
`We both wanted to `give something back.' We both wanted to be working on something of obvious benefit to society.'
Both Wendy and Rick Walleigh have impressive credentials and successful careers in the new tech world. Wendy, with an M.S. in Communications from Boston University, and a B.S. in Psychology from Tufts University, succeeded in high-technology marketing and sales in computer networking hardware and software companies as Director of OEM Marketing at 3Com Corporation. Her responsibilities included product marketing and management, branding, marketing communications, sales and sales support. Rick, with degrees form Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Harvard Business School, worked in the high-technology industry, in executive roles in high-technology companies and was a Partner in management consulting at Ernst & Young for twelve years even publishing articles in The Harvard Business Review. In 2005 Rick and Wendy `commercially retired' and instead went to Africa to do volunteer work for TechnoServe, an international economic development non-governmental organization. This book is about that `change' - leaving the world of work for the world of self-fulfillment in a new zone of comfort.
This inspiring book offers so many insights into what `young' retirees (and we all know who we are) can do with good health, keen minds and energy, and the desire to help the world at least maintain if not progress. Rick and Wendy moved to Africa - South Africa, Kenya, Swaziland, and more and offered their hearts and minds and backs to helping where help is so desperately needed. It is a study of `transitioning' from a life of comfort to the colorful but struggling life in Africa and the joys of feeling the `make a difference' that so many of us wish for in aiding world problems. It is a memoir and more of a journey, replete with excellent photographs and comments about philosophy and the memories of this adventure from their hearts, that makes this a book that deserves a very broad audience. Highly recommended.
The author and his wife had a great time, and did good work in Africa.
Unfortunately, the writing did not allow me to feel much all this. It was just a narrative of what happened, without characters you can bond with, or a plot to get excited about. Couple of things I remember:
There was a short chapter titled "Businesswoman of the Year Award Dinner". The point of the chapter was that a high-ranking official made sexist jokes. We only learn about author feeling uncomfortable with the jokes, never what the jokes were, why were they told, or what the status of women in Swaziland is. Nothing to hold onto emotionally.
Another tidbit that hit close to home was a mention of Stanford Hospital misdiagnosing his wife's ankle injury, and being defensive when presented with correct diagnosis by an African doctor. I've experienced similar problems in US, and there is a few pages in Musk's biography where he almost dies due to misdiagnosis in the middle of Silicon Valley. Hmmm.
I am half way through the book, and I am delighted with the level of details in narrative of what happened. This is the down to earth, realistic of 'how I can make my little contributions to a small portion of people', not your everyday 'saving the world' kind of story. but that made it a good book to get to know what Swaziland and Mozambique are like. About the lack of emotions mentioned in another review, yes I agree that the author is presenting events in a detached manner. but being an engineer myself I resonate with the style well. You can always form your own opinion after reading the facts, excessive emotion from the author sometimes ruins the story.
I was lucky enough to win this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and it was a quick and pleasurable read. And I'm only a little jealous of the adventures and opportunities the authors have had! It was interesting seeing a different type of international volunteering (entrepreneurship and business help instead of nursing, doctoring, teaching, or missionaries). Their story was a really good read that will probably influence my own retirement journey one day.