We are delighted to introduce Dawn Kirkland, who has supported our work through Sun Life Financial.


Can you tell us who you are, a little bit about you, and your professional background?

I am Dawn Kirkland, HR Business Partner for Sun Life Financial in the UK. I have worked for 11 years at Sun Life Financial in a generalist role, involved in all aspects of HR.

When did you first get involved with Babbasa, and what inspired you to do so?

My colleague, Nick Shanahan has recently taken on the role of D&I executive sponsor – he is passionate about the subject, eager to learn and educate others in the business and make some positive changes in the business.

When learning that the insurance industry was not attracting a young, diverse workforce, Nick was keen to understand why and look at how we could provide some opportunities. When researching the type of opportunity Sun Life Financial could help with, we discovered the work of Babbasa.

What problems do you think young people are facing while trying to start their first career role right now?

I think the lack of opportunities for young people – employers with aging work forces are trying to work smarter, reducing costs which leads to less opportunities for young people and increasing the level of competition for each role.

Do you think professionals can support young people to overcome those challenges during this time? 

Yes, by thinking creatively and outside the box. Challenging themselves and their current practices to think and do differently.

Can you tell us a bit about the opportunity you offered to young people over the summer?

We provided 2 week remote paid internships with a performance related bonus. 

The interns had a packed schedule working in all areas of the business but with specific parts tailored to their interests.

They were each assigned a work pillar mentor, a project pillar mentor and an international pillar mentor to support them throughout the various parts of the internship.

During the 2 week period, they were each given a different task/project to work on with a requirement to present the results at the end to the leadership team.  The performance related bonus was linked to this.

Having everyone working remotely actually led to a greater reach due to Sun Life Financial colleagues across the globe all working remotely.

What made you decide to choose Hamza, Theresa and Noushima for this opportunity?

We were very impressed by all the candidates and how Babassa had briefed them on the opportunity and our company.   

Nick and I were in agreement on our top 3, each stood out as being keen, eager, personable and committed to the internship.  We felt they would use the opportunity positively to move forward in their future studies/careers.

How was the experience for you? Do you feel your organisation benefitted?

The experience was great. We benefited in many ways  – 

  • Pulling together quickly to offer something relevant and worthwhile
  • Having new, young opinions to take on-board 
  • Doing something different gives everyone a new focus

While planning your opportunity, what things did you need to consider as an organisation?

  • Timing
  • Covid-19 restrictions
  • Lending laptops for access to platforms
  • How to ensure they could use equipment safely and appropriately

How did you decide to structure your opportunity? Why did you choose to do it this way?

It was important that the opportunity had a busy schedule, working remotely meant we wanted to make sure the young people felt supported and engaged throughout the process and that the momentum was kept up with no time for getting bored!

Did you encounter any obstacles in the planning or completion of your opportunity? If so, how did you overcome them?

No, we had a number of volunteers across the business wanting to help.

What would you say to other professionals who are considering getting involved with Babbasa?

Do it!