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A Question to NetHope Academy Interns – Who Are You?

January 6, 2013, by Frank Schott, NetHope Academy Senior Global Program Director

As we enter the new year, I have been thinking about all that we have learned over the last two  years working with almost 400 NetHope Academy Interns and Graduates.    We are inspired almost every week by stories from Kenya, Haiti, Rwanda, Ghana and South Africa.

We see amazing young women and men come out of our programs from rural areas, big cities, large universities and smaller technical institutions.  We see interns that survive the rigorous screening process only to find that there are many just like them that are the “best of the best”.   Suddenly “the best” is “average”.

We have challenged interns to learn more and many have responded by earning multiple industry recognized technical certifications.  And then there are some amazing stories about interns that have single handedly enhanced programs that were desperately short of qualified IT professionals – the food distribution programs in Haiti, the rural broadband rollouts in Rwanda and the workgroup collaboration efforts of Microsoft partners in Kenya.

But we see problems from time to time.  Why is it that one intern does so well and another does not?  When we go deeply into analyzing the performance we find that we can’t say that its education or intern placement or IT mentor.  And we also know that it has nothing to do with where you were born or whether you are a man or a woman.     The single biggest factor turns out to be ATTITUDE. Let me introduce you to two fictional interns to illustrate the point.  These interns could be anyone.    I will call them Jayden and Kennedy.   As you read through these, be thinking about who you are.  Or who you want to be.

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Jayden says that NetHope is teaching technical skills that Jayden may never use.  And NetHope is requiring that Jayden achieve certifications that future employers may never care about.

Kennedy thinks that education of all kinds is a gift and learning new things may actually open up new opportunities.  Kennedy knows that employers look at certifications as evidence that the applicant has achieved a certain level of technical competence.  But perhaps as importantly, the employer sees someone that is a self learner which could mean a lot in the years to come.

Jayden is not happy with the internship they have received.  Jayden says “I will never want to be a desktop support technician so this is just a big waste of my time”.

Kennedy realizes that internships are hard to get and he/she is learning invaluable skills that will apply to just about anything.  Things like customer service, working with others, time management, conflict resolution.  Kennedy also knows that it’s impossible to predict what the future looks like but this is a great start.

Jayden says “NetHope is an NGO based in the US and should be able to do more for me … more money, better job assignment, find me a job”.

Kennedy says “I am excited to have been chosen for the program.  I can see NetHope’s commitment.  And I am learning a lot from my peers.  Everything is not 100% perfect but I am going to take advantage of everything that has been put in front of me.  No, I will do better than that.  I am going to exceed everyone’s expectations.

Jayden says “They tell us to do stuff – attend training sessions, acquire certifications, use the LMS, fill out self-evaluations … I know I will graduate so what does it really matter?”

Kennedy knows that the program is just six months long and wants to do it all.  Kennedy attends every training and shows up on time.  Kennedy knows all that is offered in the LMS and has taken a lot of courses that were not assigned.  And Kennedy knows that doing an honest self reflection on your work is the key to developing as an IT professional.  Kennedy thinks “who will care more about my career development than me?”

Jayden says “my stipend is just not acceptable” or “I don’t understand why I am making so much less than my NetHope Academy colleague”.

Kennedy says “it’s not about the money.  I am learning so much that I would pay THEM to do this.  I know they are investing in me.  I want to do the best I can now.  If they double my stipend now, it would not change my life.  I am looking to the future”.

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So who are you?  Are you Jayden?  Are you Kennedy?  Who do you want to be?  Who do you think your employers want you to be?

I welcome your thoughts … perhaps some of you will say “I am Kennedy.”   That’s great … Perhaps some of you will say “I have been like Jayden but I am going to work like Kennedy”.  And for those of you that don’t want to be like Kennedy, I can only say that I hope you give up your spot in the program to the Kennedys that would love to take your place.

Happy New Year!!!


Frank Schott has spent almost 30 years in the technology sector. Since 2005, Frank has served as a NetHope Senior Global Program Director in charge of the Field Capacity Building and Emergency Response initiatives. Frank was named a Microsoft Integral Fellow by the Microsoft Alumni Association. This prestigious award recognizes Microsoft alumnus who have made a meaningful difference in the lives of others by using his/her talents, time and resources to contribute to the world.


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