Inside the B: Q&A with Ailanit Davydova
The Inside the B Q&A series follows employees from all across the B Global Network as they share more about their roles and what brought them to B Lab, the challenges they see for our network, and give us a peek into their personal lives. In this edition, Ailanit Davydova, Customer Support Specialist on B Lab Global, joins us from Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, United States to discuss her transition from the Certification & Verification team to the Technology team, how her volunteer work with a New York City government agency helped her look at business differently, and how taking public transit in the suburbs reminds her of city life.
Beelan Yonas, Global Communications Manager: What organization are you a part of and what is your role?
Ailanit Davydova, Customer Support Specialist: I'm part of B Lab Global, and recently joined the Product team as a Customer Support Specialist. So excited to see this part of B Lab grow! I was previously on the Certification & Verification team working as a Senior Process Associate on the recertification process for B Corps and have transitioned into this new role to support our customer service capabilities on questions that come in specifically about the B Corp Certification and our standards.
B: What made you decide to transition from focusing on the recertification process for B Corps to customer service?
A: I did not have a typical role on the Certification & Verification team. Most everyone on that team is an analyst and solely focused on evaluating and verifying companies in the certification or recertification process. I initially joined B Lab in 2017 as an intern. Once my internship period ended, I as well as another intern (John Marlow, now the Senior Multinational Company Associate) were brought on as the first experimental “associate” roles responsible for the operations of that team.
Over the years, my role expanded to becoming the point of contact between the Certification & Verification team and customer service. B Lab receives 100-130 support tickets each month from individuals with questions about the certification, and using tools like the B Impact Assessment and the SDG Action Manager. Our analysts had to split up their workload which was mainly focused on verifying companies to answer questions. I thought, “Well, instead of taking time away from eight or so analysts, why not have just one person responsible for managing customer tickets specifically about the certification?” With Femmy Fatondji joining B Lab Global last year as the Customer Satisfaction Manager and formalizing our customer service capability, we discussed the possibility of having a role specializing in our certification process but sitting on the Product team. It’s kind of a funny story because I talked a lot with Femmy about creating the role, but I never imagined it for myself. As it became clearer that the person in this role would be most successful if they had been trained on the Certification & Verification team, I was asked if I would be interested in considering the role.
B: What brought you to B Lab?
A: After college, I became an AmeriCorps volunteer — like the domestic PeaceCorps — after college at the Department of Sanitation in New York City (DSNY). I had studied environmental policy and English in college, and at the time, really believed in the power of the local government to make sustainability accessible. I helped educate janitorial staff on recycling management for the New York City Housing Authority, which is the government agency that provides affordable housing to some of the city’s poorest residents. The city has a giant waste problem, and places to put trash as a resident of public housing was minimal and recycling options were nonexistent. It was very eye-opening to see that a lot of sustainability is a privilege, and the long term impacts of housing development and racial inequalities that are so embedded in our systems. Until then, I had always thought of the local government as a method of making sustainability accessible to people, but my experience at DSNY really made me understand how difficult it can be to do so in this sector. It was the first time I realized I need to think about solutions that are not just the government.
After AmeriCorps, I decided to move away from New York City for the first time and moved with my husband to Pennsylvania for his job. I got a job working for an environmental engineer and was looking for a second job. I was using B Work to find jobs and thought I should look into the organization that’s behind the website. That’s how I found out about B Lab. It was really accidental.
B: What challenges do you see for our network?
A: There's a real opportunity to think about the B Impact Assessment as separate from the certification. I think that there's a possibility to use the assessment in innovative ways that could also reduce stress on the certification. From my experience, people seem to crave a different way to feel part of a movement and a chance to talk about their company’s work and impact. Being able to tap into that would be a good challenge for us to address.
B: Is there someone in the network who's been instrumental to your success and would like to call out for appreciation?
A: Fabiana de Araujo (Senior Certification & Verification Team Manager) has been a great mentor and colleague to me. She invited me to join the Standards Approach Circle, an internal group created to oversee the certification of smaller sized companies including new certifications, recertifications and Pending Bs, even though I did not have a leadership role on the team. I think my experience there has helped me with my own career development at B Lab. She sees the big picture on the Certification & Verification team, and I think her perspective is really helpful. She’s a great manager and cares about people’s growth. All of her direct reports end up becoming managers, and I think that speaks really highly of her.
B: Where did you grow up?
A: Born and raised in Queens, New York City! I only moved to Pennsylvania just five or so years ago. I’m first-generation; my parents came here from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. My mom is a maid at a hotel, and my dad owned a dry cleaning business.
I spoke both Russian and English growing up. I was in ESL classes (English as a second language) for a while. I don’t get to use Russian at work, so I’ve kind of lost it in some ways, but I talk to my parents every day so I’m able to have that practice. But even now, my extended family tells me I’m getting rusty! They tell me it sounds like a third language for me.
B: What’s a dish you can make with your eyes closed?
A: It’s called baksh, a green rice pilaf with a very healthy amount of cilantro, which I think is my favorite herb. It’s very tasty, and you can add some diced chicken or lamb or both to it, and you can’t go wrong. I made it for the B Lab team in Berwyn [Pennsylvania] when I was an intern, and I was a little scared. I was like, “Is this too 'ethnic'? I should just not bring it in.” But people liked it, which was nice.