(Summer ’15) Amna Magzoub, ’16
Amna Magzoub (’16, Biology and Mechanical Engineering)
Amna will be working in Washington, D.C. this summer at USAID’s Global Development Lab. Specifically, she will be working with Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) team. Tasks there will include improving USAID’s monitoring and evaluation platform to understand how the US Government prioritises and allocates foreign assistance; improving the Network’s new platform, the Global Innovation Exchange, to help the team move their innovators in their ecosystems through the Global Development’s innovator pipeline.
So I’ll be honest, this is my first time writing a blog. I feel a bit anxious and exposed. My writing skills aren’t exactly impeccable either. But nonetheless I think it is worth the time to share my thoughts and experiences to a wider audience. For the duration of this summer, I hope to take you on a personal journey of growth and development, as I find myself and discover my place in the world.
All photo creds go to David Hines unless noted otherwise…
Jargon and Acronyms that will be used …
- RRB – Ronald Regan Building
- The Agency – U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
- The Lab – Global Development Lab. The new functional Bureau in the Agency. Formerly known as Science & Technology
- HESN – The Higher Education Solutions Network. Housed in the Lab under the Center for Data, Analysis and Research (DAR)
- HESN Lab – One of the eight university laboratories that form HESN.
- IDIN – International Development Innovation Network. IDIN is one of the eight HESN Labs.
(6/15) Touch Down!
I arrived at Dulles International Airport the morning of Monday, June 15th and took a cab to my home for the most part this summer. I already made arrangements and booked my room at Shenkman Hall, George Washington University. It’s my first time in the area since perhaps the age of 7 or 8. So really, I was nervous. I had no knowledge of the city. I barely knew anyone around. I was jet-lagged and exhausted after a 48+ hours trip from home: Khartoum, Sudan. And I was due to start work the next day. But it was my choice to challenge and take myself out of my depth.
Observation of the day (#OotD):
Business attire means something completely different here. An Ann Taylor raid was in order.
(6/16) First Day in the Office
So I figured out the metro system (to some extent) and was informed by Alex Moseson to check-in at the RRB at 9am. Alex is one of the HESN team members. I have already met Alex before, as well as other team members on multiple occasions. I came in time, to my relief as a chronic late-comer, and met Alex at the USAID lobby. He greeted me with hugs, as the good friends we are, and told me about the Continental Breakfast they had prepared in my honour upstairs! The real reason for that though, was that the team has just moved offices and had a Lab-wide breakfast to celebrate. This was a great opportunity because I got to meet and connect with, not only the team I’m working with, but several directors of different teams, Centers, and even the Lab’s Director Ann Mei Chang casually over tea and scones.
Observation of the day (#OotD):
Connections are important. Networking is the heart and soul of professional life.
(6/19) Meeting the other Interns
So far, I have only met with staff on the HESN team and Sara Miller, another HESN intern. Sara is an MPH candidate at Texas A&M. I also knew of David Hines, a Babson College graduate sponsored by IDIN. But on Wednesday afternoon, we had an informal intern meet-and-greet kicked off by none else but Dr. Ticora V Jones, an MIT alumna and the HESN Program Director. It was a full house in the Nelson Mandela Room and each of the HESN team members introduced themself and the HESN Lab their responsible of. We also went around as interns introducing ourselves and the HESN Lab we’re affilitated with.
On another note, it’s the second day of Ramadan. The holiest month of the year. 🙂
Observation(s) of the day (#OotD):
1. There are a lot of interns from Texas A&M University (TAMU)
2. I was probably the only current undergraduate there…
(6/26) A Day out in Town
It’s hard working in an office. One thing I realised is that I don’t have the patience to sit in the same place for 8 hours. It gets frustrating, especially when work is slow and tedious (re: boring). At this point, I’m just researching how to use DevResults and getting familiar with the Agency/Lab/DAR/HESN. But thankfully Friday was “fun” day. The Agency organises events for interns across all the Bureaus, not only HESN ones, and these events range from professional development workshops, to panels and tours. Today I signed up for a Capitol Building tour.
Observation(s) of the Day (#Ootd):
This was an incredible week for President Obama’s legacy.
Thanks to TriviaCrack, I already knew a bit about U.S. History which came in handy during the tour.
(6/30) More fun!
So apparently, older folks need to have some fun too. Today, the appointed “fun team” organised an all-Lab retreat at one of the Alexis Bonnell‘s house in Annadale, VA. It was a day packed with food and drinks (none of which I could actually have *sobs*) and plenty of team-building activities. All the HESN interns working in the Lab were invited to come (re: required). This was another opportunity to meet and network with the Lab in a casual environment.
(7/9) A Week of Firsts
This week, for me was monumental. It was my first time to:
- almost work a full 40-hr week. Just one more day! #win
- create a WebApp – a map that allows you to see HESN’s partners worldwide
- listen in and participate in a conference call. I pitched and explained my app to M&E specialists in all the HESN Labs.
- attend a public meeting outside of work. My friends and I went to the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid’s (ACVFS) public meeting inside the RRB.
Work has been tough. No security clearance yet – so I gotta stay downstairs at the Mezz. I have been so busy with so many things: creating startup guides for the Lab’s new M&E platform, the WebApp, creating a visual report for HESN’s social media engagement and researching outcome-oriented indicators that the Lab can adopt. On top of that I got assigned even more tasks! I’m starting to get overwhelmed, frustrated and demotivated. 🙁
Thankfully, Ticora finally came back from India and paid me a personal visit. She even got tea from India so we scheduled for weekly tea parties once Ramadan is over. That definitely made my day.
Observation of the Day (#OotD):
I should carry around business cards. Apparently people expect you to have them on you all the time …