Tell us about your job!

The T4D team provides assistance to field teams that want to integrate technology into their projects. I work specifically in digital communities which is all about using technology tools to facilitate discussions across communities. I design, create and implement all the different MEL tools for various assessments; whether its understanding the environment for a new project or evaluating an existing program. Then I go out to the field to conduct surveys and come back to create reports that help inform programming going forward. I also go back to the donors to report on successes and help them understand how their money contributed. For example, Mercy Corps’ project Sign Post provides information to migrants. I currently work on a web platform that provides help to refugees travelling through the Balkans. The site includes a map which shows refugees where they can access services in the area, a blog with up-to-date policy information such as border closures, and a Facebook page refugee where moderators provide information to refugees asking questions. This alone can get 800-1,000 posts per month.

What are you doing day-to-day?

My day-to-day changes day-to-day! Recently I’ve been travelling a lot for assignments. Often my day-to-day is preparing for this. This includes creating survey tools, coding them, making contacts on the ground to facilitate this. For example, next week one of our donors will visit our site in Jordan and I will coordinate this and organise focus group discussions. Otherwise, I’m in excel analysing the result of surveys.

Did you know you wanted to work in this field or for this organisation?

Actually, when I applied to SAIS I wanted to work for the US government. But my government offer was affected by the hiring freeze. I had interned with Mercy Corp twice and so I turned to an organisation I cared deeply about. I knew I didn’t want to do project management and MEL gave me hard skills and I was already good at statistics and excel. It also gave me the opportunity to be on the ground interacting with people.  

How did you make it happen?

Mercy Corps, really values internship positions. One of my previous assignments was a quality assurance programme and the other was field position. Those two skills really rounded out my resume and made me attractive to the organisation.

What’s the most useful thing you did at SAIS to land this job? 

Internships were really the most important. I actually found out about the opportunity through a SAIS alum, so I think that connection was crucial. I also did the M and E skills course at SAIS but that wasn’t as helpful.  

Give us your top tips for those looking for a job in development this year.

Networking. I know it’s the SAIS motto but its important.

I would also say that I didn’t have my job offer after graduation, so I’d say just be open to internships after graduation. They provide really valuable experience.

Also, if you know which organisation you’re interested in and can’t seem to break into it, there are so many other ways to get the experience you need from a smaller, less well-known organisation. It also gives you the opportunity to be a larger fish in a small pond. Finally, I think it helps to finding some concrete tangible skills such as quantitative research methods or statistics. This can be really helpful in a field where everyone has a humanities background.

As narrated to Grace Cramer, Senior Editor, SAIS Perspectives. 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Department for International Development from Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0