PKG Fellowships 2020: Shannon Wing, Part I

by Shannon Wing, Computer Science (’22)

Part I: Working Remotely

Hello! My name is Shannon. I am a current sophomore studying Computer Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering Systems and I am excited to give you a glimpse into the first two weeks of my PKG Fellowship.

First, an introduction. When I arrived on MIT’s campus as a freshman, I didn’t know how I was going to contribute, but I came with conviction: I needed to make this opportunity count. In short, I knew I needed to leverage my education to help those that were not given the same opportunities that I had been lucky enough to receive. Given all this, I will say that knowing that you want to do good for the world doesn’t really get you too far and not knowing where your place is can be maddening. Through many conversations with Alumni, faculty, and peers, I realized that I had to be patient and take small steps in many directions to explore and build experience. I eventually honed in on a goal for the summer. My tentative plan was to get involved with a social venture to build experience in global work and to explore the upcoming field of impact metrics. 

And with that I ran into Essmart, a distribution company for life-improving products based in Bangalore. I was intrigued by their approach, using marketing, distribution, and after-sales services in partnership with rural shop owners to bridge the gap between essential technology manufacturers and rural community households across India. I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to work with their accomplished team this summer to further develop how they evaluate their contributions to the communities they serve. 

Although the experience was not as we would’ve guessed in the original plan, we are all rolling with the remote work environment just like the rest of the world. Two words to summarize my first two weeks with Essmart would be constant learning. Since I have unfortunately been unable to be on the ground visiting shops and speaking with sales representatives, I have had even more leg work in front of me. How can I get the best understanding of these impact metrics without ever stepping foot in the country itself? Working without this understanding and experience is a potentially disastrous proposition in the social sector and my first task was to work through how I was going to be able to bridge that gap to the best of my ability remotely. Luckily, I have had the Essmart team behind me that brings this knowledge and experience to the table and I have learned a lot through conversations with them. In addition, I have been able to collect many research studies and articles that have assisted in building a bigger picture of the problems each product is working to tackle.

As I grow in understanding, I have begun to build a comprehensive picture and numerical analysis of the impact each product that Essmart works with has on the families that purchase them. Most importantly through all of this I am learning. For example, I can tell you a whole lot about the development of clean cookstove initiatives, what their progress has been, and what has been successful and unsuccessful and why. But maybe for another time. 

Thank you to the Essmart team for a remote welcoming onto the team in these unprecedented times. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store.

Tags: Environment, Finance & Entrepreneurship, PKG Fellowships, PKG Fellowships Summer 2020

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