Summer Learning: Oh Goodness, What is ICT?

Summer Internship <br />(© Appropriate IT)

Summer Internship
(© Appropriate IT)

Guest blog by Kaitlyn Stalnaker (2015 summer intern | LinkedIn Profile), student at the University of Maryland, College Park

Have you ever faced a project that made you feel like you’re in over your head? I have. At the start of this year, I applied for an internship with Appropriate IT. This opportunity was seemingly perfect for me as it dealt with business development for a company that created solutions for underserved populations. That is right up my alley. Before I started my internship with Appropriate IT, I was told that I was younger and less experienced than desired, but they found me interesting. To me this meant I had a lot to prove. And I was pretty determined and optimistic to prove myself.

For my first task, I was asked to write a white paper about ICTs in agriculture… my first thought was, “oh goodness, what is ICT?” If you hadn’t guessed, technology is not my forte. For me, this meant extensive research into WHAT an ICT is (information & communication technologies) and who it benefits. I had a lot to learn. I read about a few dozen ICT projects… and then a few dozen more. I started to outline what I believed to be the most crucial aspects of all ICT projects. Four reoccurring themes are- always receive and incorporate farmer feedback, try to make the project sustainable beyond initial grant money, localized information is most valuable, and projects with community facilitators tend to be most successful. If you happen to be starting an ICT project, consider taking these considerations into account, you’re welcome. But to write a whole paper about it? Bland. It certainly would not prove I was worth taking a chance on, I needed more.

Meanwhile, I was trying to keep up to date on social media. Twitter (https://twitter.com/appropriateit) was a cinch, but gaining followers on LinkedIn (Appropriate IT’s LinkedIn profile) was a lot harder than I had initially anticipated. It is nothing like using LinkedIn as a personal profile. Sponsoring updates and advertisements cost money, money that I do not have. Thankfully, LinkedIn was gracious enough to give me coupons for sponsoring updates. Though they have not resulted in many new followers, they received more “impressions” and “clicks” than our original posts, so I knew that the word was at least getting out. I began to brainstorm more ideas to gain followers. I searched LinkedIn for groups with similar interests, joining as myself and advocating for Appropriate IT. I even began to make short videos to describe our products (videos on Janani & Shakthi) in an attempt to grab more attention (something I had never done before). As social media began to gain more traction, I once again switched gears to think more about my ICT paper.

I scoured the internet for an interesting take on ICT networks, and began to lose hope. A lot of papers even claimed that ICT networks are overrated and do not provide sufficient help to farmers. I began to realize that not only did my paper need something more, typical ICT information systems need something more too. After a lot of googling, I decided to focus on the Internet of Things (IoT). Upon researching, I was pleased to find that there have been many advancements in the sector. But again, as a very technology inept person, I was unsure where to go next, so I began to reach out to professionals in the area. Two people really came through for me and I would like to thank them both. To my boss, Usha Venkatachalam, and to Dr. Hadar Ben-Yoav (I hope that your move went smoothly), thank you for inspiring me and helping me figure out which of my ideas were worth pursuing. With their help, I was able to complete my paper with what I hope is an interesting point of view.

In summation, I have had a challenging summer and I have learned a lot. Beyond learning a lot more about technology, I learned a lot of lessons that I think every prospective intern and employee should take into account. First, do not be afraid to approach something that seems a bit out of your grasp. If you get it, do whatever it takes to show that you deserve it. Second, you may not always get the results that you want, but look for the positive side in everything that you do. Do not be afraid to think outside of the box and try something new. Finally, always ask for help. The brain power of many is so much greater than the brain power of a single person. Not to mention, it is great for networking. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to grow and learn in this internship, and I can only hope that the quality of my work reflects that.

Guest blog by Kaitlyn Stalnaker (2015 summer intern | LinkedIn Profile), student at the University of Maryland, College Park

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