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Keeping spirits high: Ally’s EF journey

“My job is to make people happy,” says Ally. “What’s better than that?”

Around EF Education First’s Boston headquarters, some know Ally as the comedic force behind the internal High Fives emails, which keep staff in tune with happenings in the office. Others recognize her as “Ranger Ally,” who cheered for competitors during EF’s Backyard Run, a multi-team staff race through the woods. Not everyone, however, realizes she’s the mastermind behind the personality-packed events that help make EF a top place to work.

“As the Internal Communication and Events Specialist for EF Boston’s Employee Experience team, my job is half event planning—both big and small in scale—and half communicating about these events so staff are engaged and in-the-know,” she says. “In short, my job is to make it fun to come to work every day.”

Growing up, event planning wasn’t on Ally’s radar. With dreams of becoming a professional artist, she left her hometown of Norfolk, Massachusetts to study studio art at UMass Amherst. Her passion eventually led her to Florence, Italy—home of the Renaissance masters—where she practiced sculpture at the Lorenzo de’ Medici School and fell in love with international travel. After graduating, she decided to put art on hold and move abroad for a year. Without hesitation, she packed her bags for Rayong, Thailand, where she taught English to students in grades 7–10.

“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience what it feels like to be a minority in another culture,” she recalls. “Working at a school without desks or steady running water was one of the most humbling and challenging experiences of my life. All of the educators I worked with were absolutely incredible.”

As her teaching contract came to an end, Ally was faced with a tough choice: continue her career in international education or focus on her art. After backpacking around Southeast Asia, she returned to Massachusetts and took up nannying while she considered her next move. One day, she bumped into a neighbor who would change the direction of her professional life.

“We started talking about the kind of work I was interested in, and my neighbor reminded me about EF,” she says. “I remembered researching the company while I was in Thailand and it sounded like a perfect fit.”

Inspired by this conversation, Ally interviewed for a sales position at one of EF’s core divisions, EF Educational Tours, which connects teachers and students to educational travel opportunities around the world. She landed a job as a Tour Consultant and partnered with educators in rural regions to bring their classrooms abroad. One of her favorite experiences was working with a private boarding school dedicated to transforming the futures of children in challenging socioeconomic situations.

“I managed EF’s partnership with the school and coordinated three major trips for them each year,” says Ally. “It was incredibly rewarding to facilitate these massive educational moments for such deserving students and their amazing teachers.”

Following more than two years as a Tour Consultant, Ally decided it was time for a new challenge. “I wanted to shift from serving EF customers to working for my peers and colleagues,” she says.

Soon after, she joined EF’s Employee Experience team, which she describes as the “cherry on top of the EF sundae.” She explains: “We’re all about employee experience and company culture. We’re responsible for knowing everything that’s happening on our Boston campus and making sure staff are excited and fulfilled every time they step away from their desks. EF culture is so unique—it’s our job to make it palpable.”

Ally’s first task in her new role? Plan the first-ever EF Backyard Run, a 12-hour overnight team race for staff. No big deal, right?

“Having come from zero event planning background and never having run in a race before, it was quite the experience,” laughs Ally. “But it gave me great exposure, allowing me to get in front of so many EFers.”

In addition to recruiting participants, she navigated some pretty unusual event logistics. Not only was she in charge of surveying the route through the woods, she also had to consider ways to keep runners healthy and safe through the night. After deciding on a location and a summer camp theme, Ally says the puzzle pieces started falling into place. Working alongside her colleagues, she came up with creative approaches to ensure staff were supported and motivated as they attempted to achieve personal athletic milestones, like running half-marathon up to ultra-marathon distances. “EF Forest Friend” staff were posted along the route to cheer on runners. Meanwhile “Ranger Ally” kept energy levels high with hourly challenges, like hula hooping, smashing eggs and sharpening pencils. All in all, the event was a huge success, bringing 250 staff from EF’s many business divisions closer together.

“A lot of people had never done anything like this before,” remembers Ally. “When the last person crossed the finish line, all of us stood together, cheering, crying, and losing our minds. That moment stands out to me as the definition of EF spirit.”

Having successfully executed such a complicated event, Ally now feels she can take on anything. “It helped me gain the confidence to share my ideas and made me a better listener. EF is all about equal playing field ideas and having the freedom to execute them.” She adds jokingly, “Planning EF Halloween is going to feel easy compared to this.”

Next time one of EF’s signature employee events pops up—whether it’s a community service initiative or a themed activity in the in-house Lingo Cafe and Bar—staff members have Ally and the Employee Experience team to thank.

“EFers are engaged, passionate and hungry for opportunities to better themselves and their careers,” says Ally. “Our people are eager to do something that’s never been done before. There’s so much my team and I can do, and knowing that our staff are interested and engaged makes it all worth it.”

Interested in opening the world with us? Visit careers.ef.com

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