“I can say my growth has been tremendous. Accenture is a big, professional company with an objective of ‘high performance delivered’. I knew nothing less than hard work would be expected of me.” These words just begin to reflect the impact that Margaret Kareithi’s recent six-month NetHope Academy Internship with Accenture Development Partnerships in Kenya, has had on her life.
In 2010, Accenture Foundation helped initiate NetHope Academy. Initially, NetHope Academy launched in only one country (Haiti) with just 39 technology-focused interns ready to grow, develop and ultimately get full time employment in the IT sector. Three years later, with the support of Accenture, Microsoft, Cisco and over 100 employers, NetHope Academy has expanded to four countries, and has served over 400 unemployed youth, 84% of which have secured employment after completing the program.
This year, in addition to the generous implementation and time and skills grants awarded to NetHope to improve and scale the NetHope Academy, Accenture provided another level of support by hosting internships. In Kenya, two NetHope Academy interns, Margaret Karethi and Jennifer Gachukia had the opportunity to complete their NetHope Academy internships on an Accenture Development Partnership project. The project, in collaboration with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, focused on business processes reengineering and digitizing government payments in order to streamline citizen’s access to government services. Both inspiring young women made a remarkable impression.
Margaret and Jennifer were two of four interns that Accenture Development Partnerships hosted this year. Their primary responsibilities were to complete in-depth research, stakeholder management and project management tasks. Each has owned at least one business process on the project and responsibility for the data collection for that area, including conducting and capturing stakeholder interviews.
Accenture’s Liz Cruickshank, Alexandra Kern and Abhay Pathania were IT mentors to Margaret and Jennifer during their internships. They had quite a lot to share about the women’s impact on the project and the changes they witnessed in their professional growth. Margaret and Jennifer were initially noticed for their overwhelming demonstration of enthusiasm to be on the project. Quickly, each took hold of her specific focus areas, proving their commitment and willingness to take initiative and learn. Their IT mentors also commented on the consistent level of preparedness and professionalism Margaret and Jennifer had around the work they were asked to do, “They were always ready to answer questions on any figures or processes that required follow up.”
Margaret and Jennifer each clearly came into their internship committed and ready to contribute, but their mentors also saw tremendous growth in their skills over the course of the internship. Most remarkable to the mentors was Margaret and Jennifer’s significant improvement in their communication skills. They developed confidence by being given the opportunity to design presentations and deliver those presentations to clients. Their mentors eventually trusted them enough to work directly with government stakeholders as well.
Each woman distinguished herself on the project.
Margaret was known for her unwavering professionalism. Though quiet and shy initially, within a few weeks she emerged as a mature professional who worked hard and gave her best, even in unfamiliar territory. Each time Margaret was given a task, she progressively took on more responsibility and ownership. She became known and valued for her very natural presentation style.
Jennifer, known for her bubbly personality and warm energy was a real morale builder on the team. Confident and self-assured, she developed a great reputation for getting things done. Jennifer’s consistent display of determination and her strong organizational skills lead her to excel at managing client contacts for data collection and workshop preparation. Liz Cruickshank, the project manager on the project said, “The number of times I finally got around to an activity only to find that Jennifer had already taken the initiative to get things rolling is something that was most appreciated and I will always remember.”
And, as is often the case with NetHope Academy internships, the learning was bi-directional. By hosting interns, Accenture Development Partnership team members got a chance to supervise and coach a less experienced team member. Liz remarked, “The most important thing the ladies have taught me has been to set the right expectations on deliverables – both timing and substance. I’ve become a better manager and mentor the past few months.”
The NetHope Academy interns also provided Accenture project team members with a closer connection to the Kenyan people, an often difficult feat during short-term engagements. Margaret and Jennifer’s presence on the team meant that additional perspectives were incorporated into the work, which is often valuable for those project team members who are unfamiliar with the local culture. The Accenture Development Partnerships team felt Margaret’s and Jennifer’s presence to be particularly beneficial in helping them better understand their clients.
Said Jennifer about the impact her internship experience had on her, “I came out of college thinking that I have a lot of knowledge only to realize that knowledge is ‘useless’ without the hands-on skills. I am grateful that NetHope and Accenture gave me wings to fly.”
Margaret Kareithi and Jennifer Gachukia are two inspiring women who took the opportunity NetHope Academy and Accenture provided to excel in their internships, build credible business relationships, develop lasting skills for long term success and they also helped develop others along the way.
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To learn more about the NetHope Academy visit the IT Internship Program page.
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