Simon Walker Believes That Charity Doesn’t Just Begin at Home, But in The Corporate World, Too!
Simon Walker's corporate allegiance to just one company—the Hydrogen Group—has elevated him to the lofty position of Chief Operating Officer. He joined the UK company as managing director in 2000, but promotions took him to Asia where he has spent the last five years—two here in Singapore.
As COO of this leading global recruitment company, Walker uses his position to put a charitable face on Hydrogen Group’s philanthropic initiatives, but ask him to describe the biggest risk he’s ever taken and he’ll tell you about a holiday trip to Bangkok when his daughter was just two! These days, Walker takes plenty of risks—not the least of which will be inspiring the Hydrogen Group team at the 15 November Spartan Races!
RS: Can you share with us your company’s commitment to charitable causes?
Walker: We feel that it’s part of our corporate obligation to the community, which is why our employees took part in and donated to the JP Morgan Run in London and the Run the River event. The latter was staged to help educate children from poor families and neighbourhoods so they stand a chance to break the chain of poverty in the future. We also donate to and fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Research. Last year we held a huge drive to raise funds for UNICEF’s Nepal earthquake victims.
RS: Hydrogen Group employees will run the Spartan Race. Why choose this particular event?
Walker: This one’s personal. I heard devastating news about the child of a very close friend of the Hydrogen Group diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. We decided that—as a company—we wanted to do something to help. Muscular Dystrophy (MD) is a devastating muscle-wasting disease that requires sufferers to spend most of their short lives wheelchair-bound, physically challenged and unable to care for themselves. We also selected the Spartan Race because it doesn’t matter what an employee’s fitness level may be; he or she can still compete with our team!
RS: Are there other reasons you choose to fundraise for MDAS aside from your friend’s child? Are you looking to raise funds for a specific aspect of MD?
Walker: We believe greatly in the mission and undaunted spirit of Singapore’s Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDAS). Everyone is so committed to improving the lives of people with MD. By participating in Spartan Races, we do our bit to raise public awareness in addition to funds. Specifically, our efforts have two focuses: patient care and research. We’ve put up a fundraising page to drive our efforts and all donations go directly to MDAS. We’ve also organised a post-race celebration and hope to raise S$10,000 from admissions to the event to benefit MDAS.
RS: How many employees will participate on the 15th, and in which categories?
Walker: As a company, we have a total of 24 people taking part together in the Spartan Sprint category. We even have a handful of our family members and friends joining in as well!
RS: What are your personal thoughts about corporate philanthropy and fundraising?
Walker: It’s hard to ignore this growing trend because it has so many positive aspects associated with using a company’s power to help the community. Most companies seek ways to give back to society and charity fundraising is one option. While raising funds is important, for employees, taking part in these events gives them opportunities to get to know like-minded individuals that they might not interact with at work. People like getting together to help good causes and research has proven it. When companies encourage personnel to get involved with charity work, staffers are more inclined to see the corporation as kind and employee-focused because they care about things beyond the bottom line. Happier workers benefit everyone!
RS: How often do you take part in endurance sports events?
Walker: I must confess that I’m not really actively involved in endurance sports! Having said that, I recall the toughest race in which I took part: walking non-stop for 52 miles through the Scottish highlands. It took 23 hours to complete the distance and I’m afraid it was all at the expense of my toenails, all of which dropped off!
RS: How will you prepare Hydrogen Group participants for the Spartan? Will you organise a training camp?
Walker: Due to the haze, we’re not organising a training camp, but we have partnered with a great local gym, UFIT, to conduct weekly boot camp sessions to prepare Hydrogen staff for the Spartan Race. On a personal level, I undertake weekly gym sessions where I do interval training, though I don’t run.
RS: What's the biggest risk you've taken?
Walker: [Laughs] Would you believe it? I’d have to say that taking my daughter on a four-day Bangkok holiday when she was only two was the biggest risk thus far. It was a first father-daughter trip for us and getting through the chaos and challenges of dealing with a two-year-old was unforgettable. Thankfully, both of us somehow managed to pull through, she stayed in one piece and we had a wonderful experience in the end!
RS: Is there something specific you wish your company to achieve in addition to raising funds for MDAS?
Walker: I’m hoping that we have fun together while challenging ourselves; that we get out of our individual comfort zones. Whenever we engage in an opportunity that gets us out of the office together, we all see different sides of our colleagues, so I’m sure this will turn out to be a team building session that creates great memories in addition to aiding a meaningful cause.
RS: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Walker: I would do what I could to increase diversity and inclusion in the global workplace. Too many companies hire people based on educational qualifications rather than their backgrounds, experiences, talents and skills. That’s the easiest way I know to miss out on recruiting future stars from different backgrounds who have had to fight hard to achieve successes. I believe that employers should look beyond school—at past performance, merits and the context in which people performed. In my mind, our current hiring methods are broken; employers too often miss talented individuals just because they hadn’t the money to get an education. That’s just wrong!
Simon Walker is not lacking in passion, so we want to know where you stand on the topic of corporate philanthropy. Are you more likely to seek a job with a company committed to social justice and charitable giving—or do you prefer a firm that believes corporations have no business diverting attention away from their bottom lines?
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