Adanna Shallowe is a senior manager at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, also known as the RSA.
Founded in England over 260 years ago, the mission of the RSA is to enrich society through ideas and action. The RSA spearheads research, projects and initiatives ranging from the future of our cities and communities, moving towards a more creative economy and the redesign of public services.
Based in London, Adanna drives development of the RSA’s Fellowship community, a global network of 28,000 people who support the RSA’s mission of finding innovative and creative solutions to social challenges. She is also responsible for identifying global platforms for the RSA’s research content.
A graduate of The University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, Adanna studied International Relations and Business Management. Prior to joining the RSA, Adanna worked for the Trinidad and Tobago Government as a research assistant and for the United Nations Development Porgramme as a research officer.
Adanna shares what drove her to move to England from Trinidad, how she supports a global network of innovators and the best career advice she’s received.
I was educated at The University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, where I studied both International Relations and Business Management.
MY FIRST JOB
I was an intern at Angostura Limited, which is famous for producing Angostura Bitters and its selection of world class rums. As you can imagine it was loads of fun working in the marketing team fresh out of university.
MY FIRST BIG CAREER BREAK
I got my first big break in my career by working as a research assistant for the Trinidad and Tobago Government. I was responsible for developing their National Strategic Development Plan, called Vision 2020. The experience made me firmly commit to public service and giving back to the community and society in which I live and hope to help thrive.
My next job was working at the Caribbean Sub Regional Research Facility at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Port of Spain, Trinidad as a research officer. I worked on all the UNDP thematic areas such as Poverty Reduction, Disaster Management and Resilience and HIV/AIDS Prevention.
MY TYPICAL WORKING DAY
I start the day by getting caught up on news from the New York Times, Washington Post and the BBC. I do this so by the time I’m walking into work I know the main headlines of the day. I usually listen to a podcast on the way to work. These days it has been Pod Save the World or Pod Save America but The World Next Week by the Council on Foreign Relations is on my standard listening list.
I get into work and check emails which are usually queries from RSA Fellows from all over the world asking how we can collaborate or elevate the work they are doing. This usually takes a bit of my day. There are times when visiting Fellows are in the city for the day, so I often catch up with them in person. I also liaise with our key Fellows or RSA Connectors who coordinate activities in our RSA Hubs located all over the world.
Then I typically shift gears by working on one of the RSA’s major areas of research, such as Inclusive Growth, Future of work or Mission Oriented Innovation Policy. I do desk research on what the key experts and policy makers in the field are saying. I also scan the reports and publications by international institutions such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Development Programme and World Bank. If there is an interesting speaker at our RSA Lunchtime Lectures I will slip to the RSA Great Room and listen to the talk or catch the live stream at my desk if my day is particularly hectic.
I try to do some reading as well at some point in the day, either online or by going to the RSA Library.
The RSA will be participating in the Political Symposium at European Forum Alpbach in August. I’m working with my RSA colleagues on putting together a retreat session at European Forum Alpbach in Austria, hosted by the RSA in partnership with University College London’s new Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose led by Professor Mariana Mazzucato on Mission Oriented Innovation Policy.
When I’m not working I love to travel to other cities, mainly to Europe and all over the world if time permits. I think travel gives everyone a window into walking in someone else’s shoes by experiencing different cultures.
I can’t live without a good book. I’m an avid reader. In my opinion, it’s so much like travelling to another place and walking in someone else’s shoes. It’s a great way to cultivate empathy in my own life.
I’m always inspired by interesting, intellectually curious people doing awesome things to create a better world.
I’m really good at putting people at ease. I think it’s a trait that all island people possess. Spreading good vibes.
BEST CAREER ADVICE
The best career advice I ever received is to keep learning and keep growing. My mother gave me that advice a very long time ago. She’s a retired educator and a very smart woman. It’s guided me throughout my career. I always ensure, in every role, that my job is to learn and grow from all experiences. I can never stop learning from others.
MY BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT
Honestly moving to London was a major achievement for me. I left Trinidad about 10 years ago with the simple of goal of challenging myself to spend a year in a different country. Each day, especially in the beginning, was a challenge due to dealing with the culture shock and the new environment. Now, somehow, I seemed to have successfully made a life for myself. It was a slow process of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
One day I hope to be a storyteller who connects others with global issues in a real way, devoid of jargon and policy speak. I hope my stories will motivate others to create positive social change.
I LOVE WHAT I DO BECAUSE…
I love what I do because I get to truly live as a global citizen, by connecting with people from all over the world, talking about global issues and connecting the dots. I get to see, in real time, that we’re all the same irrespective of our nationality or station in life.
Interview by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema