Force For Good

Force For Good series: Supporting young and motivated people

Our Force for Good series meets you with the people at VMware passionate about volunteering. They share the lessons learned in the process and the special moments from their volunteering journey that they cherish. Meet Alexandra Bakalova, Senior User Experience Designer.

Hi Alexandra! Tell us about the cause you are supporting. 

When I was graduating from high school back in 2009, I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. I had so many ideas about my future and yet I didn’t know much about either of them – Mathematics, Architecture or Graphic design, what was the best choice for me? I knew nothing about those, but I was forced to choose one. It was unknown, it was hard, I was confused.

Years later I heard about ABLE – the Association of Bulgarian Leaders and Entrepreneurs and their program ABLE Mentor – a not-for-profit project. Its aim is to encourage high school students to chase their ideas and reach out for their dreams.

For the last couple of years, I have been a volunteer at ABLE Mentor. What I do is mentoring students from all over the country. I help them follow their dreams, I support and encourage them to seek out and find solutions for their challenges. In ABLE Mentor, students from 10th and 11th grade are individually paired with a mentor in a common field of interest. Together they work on a specific project for 4 months with the goal of building a broad range of interpersonal skills. Projects have been chosen by the mentee with the help of their mentors and can be: personal development, social change, or entrepreneurship.
If a student wants a job in design, yet he or she is not sure about the direction, I know where we can start from. Not only can I share what user experience design is, but we can also meet a couple of friends and learn more about other possible design directions. I have a friend that majored in Fashion design, another in Game graphics, others in Animation, UI, UX, Advertising, or even Interior design. We can meet them all and find out about their job activities. We can start searching for the right university or work on a portfolio. What is important is to have fun and work as a team.

So far, I have mentored a couple of students. I worked on various projects – from choosing the right design path to working on a business plan to open a co-working space. Eventually, I joined the ABLE Mentor team as coordinator. Due to the pandemic, the last two seasons were held entirely online, and this is when I grabbed the opportunity to co-host the online events.

How did you start and why?

A friend of mine suggested that I volunteer as a design mentor, and I gave it a shot. I like the idea of supporting young and motivated people. I like the idea of sharing knowledge and I believe it goes both ways – during the past 4 years I have learned many things from my mentees and what is more, I made some great friends.

What is volunteering for you? What motivates you to do this?

I believe we are all responsible for the world we live in. If there is something we do not like, there is for sure a way to make a change. We can inspire the people around us to do good and this is what motivates me the most.

How do you find time for volunteering?

Finding time for volunteering can be hard. I usually do this during the weekends as I believe students need our full concentration. However, I was excited to learn that VMware offers 40 hours a year for volunteering. I can log volunteering time during the weekends, and I think this is awesome!

What did you learn about yourself while helping the causes?

I grew up as a person. I have learned to delegate tasks; I have learned to guide and trust my students. What is more important, I now know that not everything is supposed to be pixel perfect, we should rather embrace people’s characters, ideas and move forward as a team, one step at a time.

As a VMware employee, how does our culture of service impact you?

My colleagues at VMware are inspiring. From environmental causes to sending Christmas gifts to children, each cause matters and you can always find supporters. When I see my colleagues also volunteering and donating, I feel like being part of something bigger, making an impact.

I am happy to share that more and more people from VMware are joining the program. Shoutout to Gabriela Krasteva who is also part of ABLE Mentor’s core team and is one of the top-rated coordinators in the program!  

Tell us about the people you met on this journey.

During my journey with ABLE Mentor, I met amazing people. First – lots of motivated, smart, and purposeful students. I met inspiring mentors – from various fields, cities, and countries. And finally, all the amazing people volunteering at the core team of ABLE Mentor. Communicating with people of various ages, hearing other points of view, sharing, and working together are beneficial not only for the students but for everyone involved in the program. Growing up as a person and learning come in different shapes and this is what ABLE Mentor is for.

What would you say to someone who has never been a volunteer, would like to become one, but doesn’t know where to start from.

There are so many ways to volunteer and help our communities as well as people around the globe. No matter whether one walks the animals in a dog shelter or sends a gift to a kid, the act of sharing and spending personal time to do good is refreshing. You should try it.


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