Interview with Gaby Li: New Project Manager with OtherHalf Stem Cell

By Sandra Lee


Planning and managing a project is probably the most intimidating thing you could do in our Rover Scout Group. Our Scout Group specializes in training our Rovers the basics, but the lessons that come out of project management will always be different. What is learnt from managing a project will depend on the Rover, and personally, I always love hearing about their experiences.

I conducted a short interview with Gabriella Li, a first-time project manager, about her experiences working with OtherHalf Stem Cell. I interviewed her before the project launched to see the anticipation. This is what she had to say:


Me: What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced being project manager? How did you fix it?


Gaby: Getting Rovers and their guests to sign up for the project was definitely a challenge. About 11 days before the actual event, we only had 2 people officially signed up. However, after our department meeting, we got all of the Rovers to help us.

I’m not the type of person to start the conversation and I’m not entirely comfortable with delegating, even though I know that they’re willing to help. It was better for me to ask even during the department meeting though. Most important, we met face to face, and the solutions were talked about and done face to face. It was crazy during that week, but we reached our goal! We got about 30 Rovers signed up.

Me: What do you think the problem was?

Gaby: The problem was that if you send out an email to the whole crew, they might not want to respond right away. If you’re talking to everyone, you’re really talking to know one. I learned that it was a lot more effective to talk to individuals or groups and have an ask for them directly.  I learned that we need to speak out and ask for your Rovers for help and support. Once I started to ask, I realized that people are super friendly and willing.


Me: How long have you been a Rover? What were some things that you’ve learned before that helped you plan this project?


Gaby: I’ve been a rover for about a year and a half. I did pick up a few things during my time. For instance, 3 months after joining the Rover Crew, my mentor Karen Tse, asked if i wanted to MC the conference. At first, I was very nervous and thought it would difficult. She, along with some others, offered a lot of encouragement. Once I did it, I realized that it wasn’t all that scary. Once you do it, you’ll feel a lot better. It’s important to expand your comfort zone.


Me: This organization (OtherHalf) deals with some very sensitive issues. What has been the most memorable part of being project manager?


Gaby: The orientation was right before the conference last Sunday. We were in orientation for about an hour. Two coaches from OtherHalf, a coordinator and one from the branch, led the orientation. They taught me that stem cells can be a very sensitive topic, so they taught us how to talk to people about it. They talked about how to sensitively ask personal questions. For instance, we can only accept stem cells between 17-35 years old. We can’t just straight up ask them how old they are. Instead, we should tell them that we are with OtherHalf, we are looking for people between the ages of 17-35 to register as a stem cell donor. If they’re not, then they will tell you that they are not within the range.

Alice actually registered to be a stem cell donor, so it was neat to see what the cheek-swab process was like.


Me: How was the decision made for us to work with OtherHalf? 


Gaby: Other Half chose us. Scouter Darren and the project coordinator, Mandy, are long-time friends. This is how the two groups connected. Mandy mentioned that they were going to attend the Taiwan Festival and needed some volunteers. So, Scouter Darren got Alice and President Eli Chan to help plan the project.


Me: What are some things you’d like people to know about OtherHalf?


Gaby: One of the main things is that just because it’s called OtherHalf Chinese Initiative, it doesn’t mean that they focus on Chinese people. They have Chinese in their title because when they founded in 2008, they had a Chinese patient who was looking for a stem cell match. Now, they try to help all different ethnicities. You don’t need to consider them as a Chinese focused group.


Me: What are you most looking forward to at our time at Other Half?


Gaby: I was looking forward to meeting other volunteers. It was at the Taiwanese Festival, so it was really chill and so much fun. The other volunteers were mostly students as well. They volunteered for OtherHalf and Canadian Blood Services. For a lot of them, it was also their first time helping OtherHalf.



Me: What are you most worried about?


Gaby: I needed to talk to people I never met. There was a high chance that people would ignore or reject me. I lost sleep over it! I was practicing in my mind how to talk to them and start the conversation. But it was okay! Within the first hour, I was shadowing Scouter Darren and Scouter Lester, and they taught me some tricks about how to tell who is more approachable; stuff like who to approach: the person walking or the person sitting down eating lunch.


Me: This is a 3-day project. It’s the most we’ve ever committed to a community service project in Rover Crew history. How do you feel about that?


Gaby: When I took this project, I was excited and nervous at the same time. It involved other volunteer groups, so there was also that to think about as well. Everyone in my department (Community Service), especially my department head Alice, helped me a lot. It’s definitely been a good experience so far.

Now that the weekend is over, it was great to see how much fun Gaby had throughout the project. She was very willing to talk to people, despite her natural shyness. It was amazing to see her encouraging her team, which included myself, to talk to the people passing and getting them to sign up for the registry! Great job, Gaby. I can’t wait to see which project she will plan next.

To learn about our relationship with OtherHalf, you can also check out Rover Scout Brian Asin’s blog. Here, he interviews a volunteer of their’s, and talks about the importance of this project from their perspective.


Stay tuned for the Youtube Recap!

Sandra Lee

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