Getting to Know the La Piana Team: An Interview with Arielle Donelan, Associate Consultant
This blog post is part of our series getting to know the La Piana team. This week we spoke with Arielle Donelan, Associate Consultant.
What are three words you would use to describe your role with La Piana Consulting?
- Eye-opening. Inspiring. Challenging.
What attracts you to working with nonprofits, foundations, and/or the consultants who serve them?
- I’ve been connected to nonprofit work for my whole professional career, minus a short stint at a Coldstone Creamery. I love what nonprofits can accomplish when truly rooted in the communities they partner with. My current role helping nonprofits achieve their missions and increase impact, has become my way of living my values and a source of hope for the state of things.
- It’s surprisingly hard to get things done in a thoughtful way. It takes a lot of thought to do things well and intentionally. Right now, I can refine my consulting skills while working with some amazing people, which has helped me to become more purposeful in my thinking in general. Helping change agents who want to do good is not just exciting but necessary in work that occupies so much of my headspace. If everyone can do good who wants to, then those drops in the bucket start to add up and that means something.
What skills or lessons from your past experience do you expect to draw from the most in your role? And/or what stands out as a career highlight for you to date?
- My expectations, which we know are rarely reality, would be that I would draw from my communications and graphic design background and that somehow would be applicable to some of my projects at La Piana. Black Principals Network was the first project I worked on that I really got to take ownership of. It was intimidating at first, but quickly became one of my favorite projects. The work stretched me and challenged me but has allowed me to draw from previous experience as well as new resources and my peers at the firm. I’ve found that it’s useful to draw on my experience using analytics and interpreting reports to come up with action plans based on what the data was telling us. It felt really gratifying that after just a month or so of being at the firm, I could plug in a piece they really needed on that project. Not only am I here to learn, but I am here to add.
What are your favorite types of challenges/projects/opportunities?
- I’m a creative at heart, design and artistic endeavors are an escape for me so any project that calls for dynamic data visualization or infographics are especially enjoyable.
- It’s been surprisingly fun to have problems that people ‘nerd out’ about the solution for because they get to talk about something they are passionate about. The first time someone gave me a bunch of interviews and asked for themes, it was intimidating, but listening to my colleague Ali get excited about the process and the tools, has helped analysis become one of my favorite opportunities to contribute meaningfully to the work we do.
What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not working?
- Anywhere with trees and water is where I want to be, which is interesting because I have quite a contentious relationship with bugs being allergic to mosquitos. In Pittsburgh there are a lot of rivers, creeks, and lakes that allow for many opportunities to go kayaking and paddleboarding. I have a kayak that sits in my living room because I have nowhere else to put it, but it’s something I’m passionate about!
What is your favorite place/sight/sound in the world?
- Smell: a fire. I really like the smell of a campfire.
- Place: Sleeping Bear Dunes, I couldn’t help but feel awe and so small at the same time. I went for the first time in 2020, we chose it because it would be away from people and a safe trip we could take during the pandemic, and I had no idea what it would feel like being there. We pulled up and there was just a huge mountain of sand and we walked up it and it took literally forever and ever and ever, literally straight up. It’s so immense. We walked for maybe 5 hours, and we still didn’t reach the end of it and we went hours without ever seeing another human. I loved how it felt Immense, peaceful, quiet, and beautiful.
Is there a book or film that has left a particular impression with you lately, and why? Or If you could have lunch with anyone famous, who would it be and why?
- I’m a Type A person who has a hard time relaxing and I tend to take things very seriously. I had a mentor who was a writer who gave me an assignment to read more fiction. Usually, books that I would choose would be how to learn a skill, or about racism or sexism, which are not really light reading choices. Homework to read happy and less heavy stuff turned out to be refreshing. I’ve come to love Samantha Irby. She describes herself as a fat black queer woman with an irritable bowel. Her writing is raw and real, she hilariously captures the absurdity of everyday life. I enjoy the journey her writing takes me on.