What is it like to work in marketing and communications at an edtech social enterprise? Check out what TechChange’s Director of Marketing, Nancy Ngo, has to say about managing global campaigns that promote social change through technology training.

Where are you from?

I grew up in the DC Metro Area in the city of Falls Church, Virginia – a very multiculturally diverse suburb of Washington, DC.

What did you do before working at TechChange?

I started my career at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California where I promoted several of the company’s core Search products and advised senior executives including Marissa Mayer. Since then, I’ve done marketing and communications at various tech companies, U.S. government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

While completing my graduate program in International Economics and International Relations at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), I specialized in Southeast Asia international trade issues which ultimately brought me to a rapidly growing internet company in Vietnam called VNG Corporation (formerly known as Vinagame). Although I had done many online trainings independently, it was in Ho Chi Minh City where I had my first professional foray into edtech. I saw online education as a practical solution to address broken education systems that impact the global economy.

How did you hear about TechChange?

I found out about TechChange when reading the 2012 Economist article, “Geeks for Good”. As I learned about the company, I was struck by how unique TechChange was as a B Corporation – a certified social enterprise – located in downtown DC. I saw TechChange as a confluence of my interests in technology, international development, and an opportunity to apply my marketing and communications skills at an edtech startup to help grow the business at the ground level.

What exactly do you do at TechChange? What does a typical day look like for you?

No two days at TechChange are ever exactly the same. Generally, I manage integrated marketing campaigns to grow TechChange’s global learning community. These campaigns involve working with the team to communicate TechChange’s story and the impact of our trainings and alumni. They also involve finding new ways to reach more students across the world through partnerships and events. In addition, I manage the TechChange blog, social media channels, and media relations.

Nancy, Nick, and Erik prep for TechChange's FailFest performance

Nancy, Nick, and Erik prep for TechChange’s FailFest performance

How did you get into marketing and communications?

I’ve always been a media junkie that loves writing. My passions for media, writing, and international affairs brought me to a public affairs internship with Time Magazine in New York City while attending the University of Pennsylvania. Since then, I’ve always been fascinated with the challenge of crafting the right messages to target audiences around the world in the right way and at the right time.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in international development and marketing?

It comes down to understanding your audience, wherever they are in the world, and being empathetic to their experience. In the context of the audiences we work with at TechChange, we constantly have to think about the constraints they are under including limited access to internet, inconsistent electricity, coordinating globally dispersed teams, and/or managing projects in the field. The key is understanding that there is no one size fits all approach to reaching customers, especially ones that are transient, based around the world, and focused on different functional areas and contexts.

Also, the best way to be successful at promoting a brand or product is when you wholeheartedly believe in what you’re promoting.

How do you keep up with the latest developments in marketing, communications, technology, and international development?

These days, I get my news mostly through social media platforms including LinkedIn (Pulse), Twitter, Facebook with the help of some very smart friends sharing useful links, and email newsletters. I also use aggregators including Feedly, Google News, and FlipBoard. I’m always looking for inspiration from great global brands that execute clever and effective campaigns. In addition, I find it very useful to learn from PR crises and branding mistakes that companies and organizations make as well.

The ever-evolving media landscape forces marketers to constantly keep up to speed on different ways to reach and interact with customers. I try to keep my marketing and comms skills sharp by teaching myself the latest technology tools and best practices in implementing these tools. I do this by frequently attending webinars, taking courses online and in person, reading industry blogs, keeping in touch with colleagues in my industry to share lessons learned, and trial and error in my day to day work.

What do you love most about working at TechChange?

TechChange is the type of place where you proudly wear your nerd on your sleeve! I enjoy the culture of fun camaraderie among tech-savvy international development nerds that have lived all across the world. It’s a work environment that empowers you with creative freedom to take ownership of initiatives that help grow the company. We’re all very autodidactic and are constantly learning new skills from both each other and outside of work with online courses and trainings as well.

Nancy and the TechChange team with David Bray, Chief Information Officer of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the TechChange office

Nancy and the TechChange team with David Bray, Chief Information Officer of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the TechChange office

What is your favorite TechChange moment so far?

It’s tough to list just one. I’ve really enjoyed our Fail Song performances, coming up with clever band names such as “CAPS LOCK CRAZY” and “Beauty School Valedictorian”, the time when the CIO of the FCC, David Bray, came to visit as a guest speaker in one of our courses, and many more. On a day to day basis, I love interacting with our global alumni whether it means hearing the challenges community health workers are facing on the ground in fighting the spread of Ebola, or learning about their career success stories with the help of their TechChange trainings over the happy hours we host regularly in downtown DC.

What do you do when you’re not at TechChange?

Reading, spending time with family and friends, salsa dancing, and planning my next travels.

If you had to direct someone to the best place to eat in D.C. where would it be?

My favorite Vietnamese restaurants are all out in the suburbs of D.C., especially in Falls Church.

With the emergence of the 3D printing industry, how can 3D printing help kids who need upper limbs and fingers?

Join us in a free webinar discussion with e-NABLE, a global online community of humanitarian volunteers designing, building and disseminating inexpensive, functional 3D-printed prosthetics for children.

3D Printing Prosthetics:

A conversation with Jon Schull & Jeremy Simon of e-NABLE
January 22, 2015 at 10:00-11:00 am ET
Register here.

Please register in advance to participate in this free live event. If you cannot attend the event live, the session will be recorded and archived so anyone will still be able to sign up to see it after January 22.

Monjolo energy-meter sensor created by University of Michigan’s Lab11. Image credit: Umich Lab11

How can remote sensors and satellite imagery make monitoring and evaluation easier and more accurate than pen-and-paper surveys?

In my most recent post on many of the technology tools for M&E we discussed in the inaugural round of TechChange’s Technology for M&E online course, the course participants and I shared several of the current digital data collection tools. These tools include Open Data Kit (ODK), Magpi, SurveyCTO, Taro Works, Mobenzi, Trackstick, and Tangerine.

Generally speaking, global development recognizes the benefits of mobile data collection–as Kerry Bruce said in the first course, mobile data collection is a “no brainer.” But what kind of cutting-edge technologies like remote sensors and satellite imagery are available for collecting large amounts of data more efficiently and accurately?

In this upcoming round of the course, we will be highlighting these cutting-edge technologies, how they have been used in development, and how they can change data collection methods. Satellite imaging is being used to remotely monitor illegal mining, urban development, and deforestation in real-time. Remote sensors provide accurate, real-time measurements for the adoption of water pumps or cookstoves by detecting motion and reading temperature.

We’re very excited to have presentations from the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) in the upcoming TC111: Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation course. CEGA is a global development research network that works to create actionable evidence for policy makers and program designers. They also design and test new technologies to find new solutions to the problem of poverty.

satellite imagery

CEGA is researching how remote sensors and satellite imaging can help create more accurate measurements. We have three researchers on this topic joining us in the course: Guillaume Kroll from CEGA’s Behavioral Sensing program; Dan Hammer, a Presidential Innovation Fellow working with the White House and NASA to increase access to satellite imagery for the non-profit sector; and Pat Pannuto who researches sensors at Lab11 and is working on numerous projects with CEGA.

Dan Hammer was the Chief Data Scientist at World Resource Institute’s Data Lab and worked to analyze deforestation from satellite images. In a recent article, Guillaume highlights how remote sensors are reshaping the way we collect data and highlights CEGA’s success with stove usage monitors in Darfur. Pat presented at the Development Impact Lab’s State of the Science on how remote sensors can be used for data collection and monitoring (slides available here). Pat is trying to “solv[e] the ‘last inch’ problem: bringing connectivity and computing capability to everything” and thinking about how connected devices (the Internet of things) can impact global development.

Patrick Pannuto: “Sensing Technologies for Data Collection & Monitoring”

Interested in learning more about the cutting edge technology for M&E including remote sensors and satellite imagery? Join our upcoming course on Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation.

With the rapidly growing field of monitoring and evaluation, there are many technology tools that are designed to help the many roles of M&E practitioners. The fastest growing area has been digital data collection, which currently uses mobile phones and portable GPS systems. Reporting has become easier with all the tools for data visualizations and data cleaning. There are also many research options with statistical software and programming languages for data entry, documentation, and analysis. In addition, real-time M&E tools let you do program and data management with real-time project updates. What we found in the course was that there are tech tools that integrate multiple aspects of M&E.

Here are several of the tools we discussed in the inaugural round of our Technology for M&E online class last fall, as crowdsourced by over 100 IT experts and M&E practitioners based in over 30 countries. In the next iteration of this course, we’ll be covering some of the latest tools including satellite imaging, remote sensors, and more.

What M&E technology tools do you use? How has your experience been with these tools listed? Are there great tech tools for M&E that we missed? Please share with us in the comments or tweet us @TechChange.

Interested in learning about these tools more in depth? Join us for our popular Tech for M&E online course that runs 14 September – 9 October.

GIZ Nepal participants Pushpa Pandey, Valerie Alvarez, and top TechChange student Bikesh Bajracharya with TechChange Communications Associate Samita Thapa, (and TechChange cubebots).

In our most recent mHealth online course, twelve participants from GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) Nepal enrolled in the course to support its mHealth pilot for adolescent sexual and reproductive health. This holiday season, I was fortunate enough to return to my native home of Nepal to meet these TechChange alumni in person at the Nepali-German Health Sector Support Programme (HSSP) at their new office in Sanepa, Nepal. Since the September 2014 mHealth pilot launch, more than 150,000 adolescents have used their interactive service.

Nepal’s National Health Education, Information and Communication Center (NHEICC) developed a National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Communication Strategy (2011 – 2015) that stressed strongly the use of modern methods of communication in its implementation. GIZ, Health for Life (H4L), and the UN Population Fund partnered under NHEICC’s leadership to initiate this SMS based mHealth project – the first in Nepal. The SMS messages and interactive package focus on delaying marriage and pregnancy, healthy timing and spacing of babies, health and hygiene, and addressing gender based violence. The local mobile services provider, Nepal Telecom and NCELL, distributed the interactive SMS package that includes an encyclopedia, role model stories, quizzes, and a hotline for further questions.

Mr Khaga Raj Adhikari, Minister, Ministry of Health and Population launching ‘m4ASRH’ (Mobile for Adolescent Sexual & Reproductive Health) on 18 September 2014.

Mr Khaga Raj Adhikari, Minister, Ministry of Health and Population launching ‘m4ASRH’ (Mobile for Adolescent Sexual & Reproductive Health) on 18 September 2014.

Since Pushpa had shared the status of the GIZ mHealth pilot in Nepal as her final project for the mHealth online course the day before we met, it was especially great to catch up with her in person! She expressed that this mHealth course was much more engaging and fun to complete than other online courses she has tried out. Bikesh, the top user in our course with over 400 tech points, is new to the GIZ team and very excited to apply what he has learned in the mHealth course to his work in Nepal. Valerie recently arrived in Nepal and very new to the GIZ-team, was also excited to learn how much the other participants were engaging and that she can still access all course material for four more months.

All three GIZ Nepal participants shared their astonishment on how many tech points Bikesh was able to stack up in the course and also the fantastic course facilitation by Kendra. They also admitted that hearing Pushpa present in the mHealth course gave them insights that they weren’t aware of even though they work at the same office. While taking a technological approach to development projects in a country like Nepal can be challenging, it is an even bigger challenge to get the government’s buy in. It was exciting to learn that despite some hurdles, this mHealth pilot was an initiative supported by the government of Nepal.

We are excited for the future of mHealth in Nepal and wish GIZ all the best in their continued success! We are also excited to welcome six more participants from GIZ Nepal in our upcoming Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation course in January to better measure the impact of this mHealth pilot! It is wonderful to see how GIZ is committed to mHealth and M&E through their investment in technology capacity building in Nepal.