In this Amplify BlogSpot, we introduce you to VJ Bala, who was elected as VF’s Board President summer. VJ is a Senior Vice President with Propeller Health and for over 30 years, has developed and commercialized pioneering digital products & experiences that empower people and businesses across industries from healthcare and public sector to manufacturing. VJ noted, “It’s an honor to serve on the board of Volunteer Fairfax, an organization that exemplifies volunteerism and giving back”.
VF: How do you see the organization changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
VJ: We’re living through extraordinary times with the COVID-19 pandemic, social injustice and racial inequities, and economic and environmental disruptions affecting people across the Washington DC region and the country. Volunteer Fairfax and the work this organization does is more important than ever in harnessing volunteerism to bring people and communities together. In the next two years, I see the organization evolving with a new strategic plan to meet the needs of a changing Fairfax County in tackling these challenges and enabling the One Fairfax policy. I see myself helping VF reimagine our programs and services to ensure equity and to serve the community with a renewed sense of purpose alongside our government, nonprofit, corporate, and other partners.
VF: What is your greatest strength? How does it help you as a volunteer?
VJ: My greatest strength is in bringing out the best in people to help them realize their true potential. I have volunteered as a board member, pro bono consultant for nonprofits, mentor for a high school club, and more. It’s about inspiring people with a vision of what’s possible and coaching them to get there. As a volunteer, that helps me see brighter possibilities for our community and then motivate others to work together in achieving those.
VF: What are your three biggest accomplishments?
VJ: I’ve been drawn to the transformative power of technology and innovation since I was a teenager. Empowering people through technology has fueled my often pioneering ideas early on in manufacturing and then public sector and healthcare. For example, creating “no-code” software to automate product design and manufacturing in the early 1990s to building web applications for on-the-job learning and digital marketing and transformation before “digital” was a thing in the mid-to-late 1990s. I was also humbled by the opportunity to bring my corporate experience to non-profits. I helped a Washington DC-based non-profit engage the local community through digital marketing methods technology companies use to raise funds for programs empowering education and women in rural India. I also consulted for Compass Pro Bono on how Volunteer Fairfax can rejuvenate its signature event, VolunteerFest — in fact, that work led me to join the Volunteer Fairfax board as I fell in love with the organization’s mission!
VF: Give us one word that describes you the best?
VJ: Pioneering (in seeing trends early). Relentless (in pursuing my vision).
VF: What other CEO’s or industry leaders do you look up to?
VJ: Today’s leaders have to lead with empathy and embrace change bottom-up. If done right, they can inspire movements for good that are also good business (or a cause, if nonprofit). Mahatma Gandhi’s approach to driving grassroots change through thoughts, words, and actions working in concert is a model that’s even more relevant today. Late management guru CK Prahalad is another source of inspiration with his work “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid”, which popularized the idea of the poor as a profitable consumer base. It’s a lofty goal and guide for many social entrepreneurs to help create a more inclusive society and close the socio-economic divide around the world.
VF: If you could swap jobs with a staff member for a day, what would you want to try and why?
VJ: I’d swap jobs with a Volunteer Fairfax program lead. Being close to the action delivering programs and services with our partners and volunteer community is when we bring our mission to life. Experiencing constituents’ responses and seeing the impact first-hand would be gratifying as well as provide insights to better serve the organization.
VF: Anything else you would like to add/closing words?
VJ: It’s an honor to serve on the board of Volunteer Fairfax, an organization that exemplifies volunteerism and giving back. We have a lot of work ahead of us to help communities and make a difference in people’s lives. While there’s a lot of uncertainty around us today, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”