Katie McCloskey, a 2014 Fellow based in Boston, shares her thoughts on her first six months at Vera. Born and raised in Northern California, Katie graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in Human Geography.
What about Vera first attracted you to the Fellowship?
When I began my job search, I had trouble choosing between my interest in technology and my love for cultural geography and sustainable development. The Fellowship offered the best of both worlds. At Vera, I have the opportunity to work on projects with incredible organizations in international development while employing a whole new set of web and mobile tools.
What do you find most engaging about working at Vera?
We constantly grapple with both broad questions about international development and very precise details about how to build a system. This balance of big-picture with granularity keeps me on my toes. When it comes to meeting organizations’ needs, standard templates and a one-size-fits-all approach just won’t do.
What skills have you honed as a Fellow?
The Fellowship has been a transformative experience in many ways, but I’d say the most satisfying part has been improving my technical skills. For example, I configured a mobile application to track school construction, employing a new technology that automatically syncs their progress to Salesforce. It’s hard to believe that six months ago I had never even looked at Salesforce, and now I’m gearing up to take my developer exam!
Tell us about the projects you’ve worked on.
So far, I’ve built an attendance tracking system for an after-school literacy program in DC and a mobile application for a Ugandan nonprofit working to construct schools. I’m currently working with a Boston-based economic research lab and a WASH (water, sanitation, and health) consulting firm operating in East Africa. Overall, my projects have been really diverse. I love comparing notes with other Fellows since we’re all working with different organizations across a range of domains and geographies.
What has surprised you most in your time at Vera?
It’s been really interesting to see organizations working out of major US cities experience some of the same challenges in utilizing and understanding their data as organizations in more remote places. I’ve learned that access to technology is not synonymous with good use of it. Vera’s impact hinges as much on the human systems at work in an organization as it does on the technology systems.
What do you like most about working in the Boston office?
There’s a huge amount of potential for Vera to influence the U.S. nonprofit space and support the health, education, and community development networks operating here. We’re also looking to do more work in Latin America, which is especially exciting for those of us who speak Spanish.
What’s your favorite Vera memory so far?
The day we canoed down the Connecticut River at Fellow training and all of the other spontaneous social time we spend together as a company! Whether it’s a pickup game of soccer, a makeshift cricket match in the street, or a fiercely competitive game of pool, it’s awesome having fun alongside people who challenge and encourage you so much professionally. We’ve got a great crew.
To read more about the Vera Fellowship Program, check out 2013 Fellow Jill Shah’s reflections on her experiences here. Applications for the 2015-2016 Fellowship Program are open until March 1. Please email [email protected] with questions.