Have you seen our animations and wondered who is creating them? Meet one of our graphic designers who brings them to life, Rebecca Nelson.

Where are you from?
I am from Accokeek Maryland, which is not too far from DC so I know DC incredibly well, particularly when it comes to the museums.

What did you do before working at TechChange?
I worked as an Assistant Manager at Simulation Rides at the Smithsonian. I did some freelance projects on the side (customizing TOMS shoes for events at Nordstrom), but nothing I really wanted to, till I found TechChange.

How did you hear about TechChange?
I helped my friend apply to TechChange two or three years ago. He got the job and I got to watch the company grow from a third party perspective. I remember his job slowly developing from graphic designer, to motion graphics, to animation, then back down to illustration as he was able to specialize as the company grew. I was also able to see TechChange start from a room to an attic to where it is now and wanted to be a part of this incredible journey.

What exactly do you do at TechChange? What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is different! Even though I mostly do character animation, it is a fraction of everything we work on here, so I have become more of a generalist, which has its own benefits. I have illustrated, done storyboards, recorded and cut audio, rigged assets, done motion graphics, designed 3D models, and then of course, animated.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know every aspect of the pipeline, it has made me both more valuable as an individual who could make their own animations, and as a teammate able to know what the next person working on the same project needs.

Rebecca working on a project at her desk

Rebecca working on a project at her desk

How did you get into creative design?
Ever since I was little I loved the idea of animation, though as a child I had no idea what it was called, so I just drew a lot. I was much better at science or math, but I was fascinated by art because it was something I didn’t understand. Of course, now I know little things that help with design, like rule of thirds or that when the mind thinks of an object, it tends to be from a slightly above angle, because we usually have to look down on smaller items (an exception being things with screens, we tend to remember those from a straight angle).

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned working on animation projects for international development organizations?
It’s hard to boil it down to one single lesson. The first main thing I learned here was the pipeline of animation productions, even if it was as simple as a program shortcut. In animation lingo, I even started using a rigging system that allowed Inverse Kinematics (IK) on rigs in After Effects instead of Forward Kinematics (FK). It was a little bumpy at first because I learned the hard way the pivot points couldn’t be adjusted after the fact, but it was definitely valuable in the long run.

The second main thing I learned was the cultural and social aspects of animations. Clients usually want something very specific, and for good reasons. For example, characters must shake hands with the right hand because the left hand is considered disrespectful in certain cultures, and other specific requests like the relocation habits of refugees after a natural disaster. It’s fascinating to learn these as we work on these projects!

How do you keep up with the latest news in design?
My first source is my team at TechChange. Someone is always trying to innovate and streamline the design/production process. So, we naturally find out about new things in design. Second, I go to school in my spare time where I learn more about 3D modeling and rigging and texturing, which I have started to use at TechChange for small projects. Third, I watch a lot of cartoons. There’s a new generation of shows and content providers that allow a lot more independent and creator-based productions and the best way to learn about it is by just watching it.

Kids visit TechChange for documentary

Dylan and Jack from Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring, MD interviewed Rebecca, Charlie, and Nick for a documentary on the 3D printers and prosthetics.

What do you love most about working at TechChange?
I love how open the company is. Everything is available to look at so there’s none of the bad things that one associates with big companies here. At any moment I can know what my higher ups are working on, where our energy comes from, what is going on with the courses, and I even know how much cereal is left because the cereal bar has clear containers!

What is your favorite TechChange moment so far?
I really love Show and Tell at TechChange. Every month, we do a team show and tell where we all get to show the rest of the team what we have been working on. I actually really hate presenting, but there’s nothing more beautiful than when people get to talk about something they’re passionate about. It goes back to my favorite thing about the TechChange, how transparent they are. I would never know about how hard everyone works if we did not take the time to highlight them. Oh, and we did wine and painting once as a group. It was a really interesting experiment seeing how each team member approaches the same challenge.

The TechChange team strikes a serious artist pose with their final art pieces during Wine and Painting night

The TechChange team strikes a serious artist pose with their final art pieces during Wine and Painting night

What do you do when you’re not at TechChange?
I’m constantly taking some sort of class to get better at what I love, so I am mostly busy with homework. When I do finally decide to leave my home, I usually end up at a book store. My earliest jobs revolved around books; it’s a habit I never quite kicked.

If you had to direct someone to the best place to eat in D.C. where would it be?
U-street Cafe, since they combine both my love for breakfast food and peaches!

Meet Charlie Weems, TechChange’s project manager. Like many of us here, Charlie wears many different hats at TechChange. Read more and get to know Charlie and what he does as a project manager here.

Where are you from?

Amherst, Massachusetts

What did you do before working at TechChange?

I worked at USAID/Tanzania as well as two other USAID contractors. Before that, I graduated from Whitman College where I majored in Politics and wrote my honors thesis on the regulation of commodities markets to prevent price spikes of staple foods.

How did you hear about TechChange?

As lame as this sounds, I actually saw a TechChange job posting on LinkedIn and responded. The deadline for applications was already a few months past, but I decided to apply anyway and I’m really glad that I did.

TechGirls Ghada and Nataly   learn about photography with Charlie during their visit to the TechChange office

TechGirls Ghada and Nataly learn about photography with Charlie during their visit to the TechChange office

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

Lots of things! I rotate from videography, to script writing, to front-end web development. I also have been working on proposals for new contracts, which is exciting. When I first started at TechChange, I was mostly focused on assembling self-paced courses, like our course about diagnosing and treating Malaria that has now been deployed in Nigeria and Uganda. Building a training for TechChange requires a lot of multidisciplinary skills such as design experience, conducting video interviews, proofreading technical content, and being able to create engaging learning exercises.

Recently, I’ve pivoted towards web development with the redesign of our website. This was a great experience because I was able to collaborate with our graphic designer Yohan, as well as the rest of the tech team to get the website launched. Overall, I ended up contributing 395,179 lines of code to the github repository for our main website; it feels great to know that thousands of people are viewing it every month. Next, I’ll be focusing on the future of TechChange’s online learning platform. We have some great mockups so far and I think folks in our courses will really love the features we’re adding.

How did you get into programming and social change?

My dad was the author of a fairly popular series of C++ and Java textbooks, so I kind of grew up with computers around all the time. In high school I began exploring web-design and briefly ran my own shop building websites for small businesses that I knew. Being at TechChange has really taken my development skills up a notch though, and there’s a lot more left to learn. Pair coding with Matt or Will, our tech team is a great experience.

As for the social change part, I was always involved in volunteer work growing up, but going to Whitman College was a huge turning point for me. The politics program there has a strong social and economic justice focus, so organisations with that focus was first and foremost in my mind when I started looking for jobs.

Charlie in Uganda for the Malaria Consortium project

Charlie in Uganda for the Malaria Consortium project

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in international development so far?

Projects and innovations need to have a laser-beam focus on being sustainable, and that often means incorporating a for-profit incentive. It’s really easy to get excited about a new innovation geared towards developing countries (think of how many different battery-charging cook stoves we see each year), but the real test for any innovation is whether or not it’s useful enough that people are willing to buy it. Cell phones and solar panels are fantastic examples of products that have passed this test in many developing country contexts, while others (such as the Playpump) run into major issues with long-term sustainability.

How do you keep up with the latest news in software development?

Hacker News keeps me pretty up to date most of the time.

What do you love most about working at TechChange?

It’s really hard to pick! But I’d probably have to say the people. It’s wonderful to come in everyday and work with folks that are not only super smart, but also really funny. I think I’ve laughed more while working here than at any other place.

Charlie's birthday gift from the TechChange team: a personalized beer label for his home brews

Charlie’s birthday gift from the TechChange team: a personalized beer label for his home brews

What is your favorite TechChange moment so far?

Probably when we finally turned in our Malaria Consortium project. Catherine, Swetha and I literally had to sprint to the nearest Fedex so that it would get to Uganda on time. It was great to come back to the office having completed TechChange’s largest project ever.

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

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my 3D printer! It’s been a lot of fun to assemble. Once I get it fine-tuned I think I’ll take on making drone parts. Beyond that I usually like going out camping with friends or hanging out at happy hours after work.

Charlie with his 3D printer

Charlie with his 3D printer

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

I’m a Huge fan of Right Proper Brewing Company in Shaw.

At TechChange, we believe that online learning doesn’t have to be boring, which is why we have an in-house animation and graphic design studio. What is it like to be a production designer and animator working with international development organizations? Read on to learn about what it’s like to be on the TechChange Creative Team from Senior Production Designer, Pablo Leon.

Where are you from?
I was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up in Guatemala.

What did you do before working at TechChange?
I was a sign artist at a store, and also did a lot of freelance work with graphics and such.

What exactly do you do at TechChange?
As a senior production designer, I wear many hats in the creative process. I’m a production designer, where I set out to create the look and feel of our projects. I’m also an illustrator. In addition, I do some motion graphics animations.

TechChange ICT4D animation 

How did you hear about TechChange?
I was in school at the time and decided that being a sign artist was just not for me. I wanted to do more with my skills. One day while I was browsing the web, I saw a post for a creative job at TechChange. I read up on the company, liked what I saw, went in for an interview, and the rest is history.

How did you get into animation?
I graduated from the Art Institute of Washington with a degree in media arts and animation. Animation, cartoons, and comics have always been a passion since I was young, and I didn’t see a reason to grow out of them.

TechChange CGAP animation

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in doing graphics and animations for international development?
It is very important to be socially aware of what best conveys a message on screen. Translating certain topics to a visual medium can sometimes be difficult, especially when you’re not familiar with the subject or if it’s a very sensitive subject, such as religion.

The TechChange Team with the 2014 TechGirls during the Job Shadow Day visit The TechChange Team with the 2014 TechGirls during the Job Shadow Day visit 

How do you keep up with the latest developments in animation/multimedia technology and trends?
The Internet is a good place to start but there are only a handful of websites out there for it, such as Animation Scoop, or the ever controversial Cartoon Brew. The animation community is not huge but we tend to talk and learn from each other a lot.

What do you love most about working at TechChange?
I have the most fun when I can take complex content, tear it apart, and put it together with a narrative to make it simple for everyone to understand. The second best thing would be the coffee here. And arguing about geek culture wearing a Mexican wrestling mask is a close third on my list.

Between Two Nerds: Episode 1

What is your favorite TechChange moment so far?
Our move to a new office on U Street from Capitol Hill, and being able to hang up my Jurassic Park’s Jeff Goldblum print is quite a highlight.

Pablo with Jeff Goldblum photo Pablo works at his desk under his Jeff Goldblum photo 

What do you do when you’re not at TechChange? 
Basically I just draw and paint on my free time. I love working on the projects I get for TechChange, but working on personal projects is equally important as a stress reliever. I’m not a fan of resting, so workaholics unite!

If you had to direct someone to the best place to eat in D.C. where would it be?
Burger Tap & Shake has the best burgers in town. You cannot question me.

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.

Yohan Perera recently joined TechChange as a Graphic Designer. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Digital Arts & Design from Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida. Born and raised in the beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka, a country that was torn by civil war for 30 long years, he received an opportunity to work as a Graphic Designer for Sri Lanka Unites, a Youth Movement for Hope and Reconciliation in 2011, where he gained his true passion to use graphic design & media for social change. He enjoys seeing the world around him through his camera.

Welcome to the TechChange team, Yohan!

Kendra first connected with us almost a year ago while taking our mHealth online course. She was interning with the USAID Bureau of Global Health, mentored by the eHealth Coordinator of the Office of Health Systems. Having recently returned from Zambia, where she collaborated with ZCHARD and the Zambian Ministry of Health to scale Programme Mwana, an SMS test result delivery system to support early infant diagnosis, Kendra was interested in exploring how integration of mobile devices with public health programs could increase impact.

As a TechChange Alumna now team member, she has led facilitation of TC105: Mobiles for International Development and TC309: Mobile Phones for Public Health, coordinating live events, developing content, case studies and activities, and moderating discussion forum. With a background in global public health and project coordination, she provides content support and management for a variety of TechChange projects, while also supporting overall TechChange operations. Passionate about user centered design, she studies development and design in her free time, aspiring to ultimately improving mobile health and online learning user experience.

Prior to joining the team, Kendra completed an MPH with Boston University, as well as a Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida. She also worked in the non-profit sector, supporting the mPowering Frontline Healthworker and mHealth Working Group initiatives with Jhpiego.

Welcome, Kendra!

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Israel, specifically a city south of Tel Aviv called Rishon Le Zion.

What did you do before working at TechChange?

Before I worked at TechChange, I worked as an Animator/After Effects Compositor on a few different children’s cartoons. The shows were produced either in Israel, or in Europe. I worked both in a production studio environment and I spent some time traveling and working where ever I had a stable internet connection and a desk.

How did you hear about TechChange?

I heard about TechChange through a job posting on indeed.com.

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

I coordinate the work of our amazing creative team, with the vision of the instructional design team and provide feedback and guidance for different projects. My typical day would start by talking to my team, getting their input on current projects, checking their progress and setting goals for the day. Followed by answering clients and team emails. After that I would go into either storyboarding, drafting a concept note for a project, editing video boards (for animation), animate, figuring out next steps for larger projects, hop on check-in calls with clients or any other task that requires my input. At the end of the day I would make sure that the creative team has delivered completed tasks, check in with Nick or Chris on long term deliverables and plan my next day. The job is pretty diverse and requires a lot of long term planning, as well as attention to details. The things I always try to ask myself are: Are we on schedule? Are we improving? Are the team members in the loop?”

How did you get into animation?

As a kid, I was (and still am) a geek that spent a lot of time indoors watching TV and movies – especially cartoons and Disney movies. With heroes like Bugs Bunny, Spiderman and the Genie, I was amazed by the power of animation. I couldn’t believe that there were people out there creating visual representations for stuff that I thought only existed in my head. Growing up, I went to an engineering high school, and my sense for design and animation wasn’t very encouraged. After I finished my mandatory military service, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) sent me a link to the animation department of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. I had no idea that a career in animation and design was even an option, but I told myself that if I get in, I’ll go for it. I applied and some how got through the tests. The first two years were very hard, but even after a lot of failures I couldn’t give up, because my drive to animate and draw kept growing as school was getting harder and harder. 4 years after graduating, I look back and I know that taking that chance was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Alon Alaskov creating interactive infographic

Alon Alaskov creating interactive infographic

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in creating animations for international development and social change?

The most important lesson in international development that I’ve learned is that there is a lot of room for creative thinking. Coming from a design background, I try to approach animation projects with a clean slate and do a lot of exploration. I’ve learned that this approach can applies to international development-related work as well, especially when explaining data-intensive concepts in visually compelling ways that make it easier to understand.

How do you keep up with the latest developments in animation/multimedia technology and trends?

A lot of web browsing. I have a Google News feed that keeps me updated on these issues, as well as colleagues who post interesting articles on Facebook and Twitter.

What do you love most about working at TechChange?

The people. This is by far the best team I’ve ever had the chance to work with. There’s a wonderful environment here, amazing energy, and hard working individuals.

Alon with his birthday gifts from the office: cupcakes and a sketch of himself made by his co-worker Pablo

Alon with his birthday gifts from TechChange: cupcakes and a sketch of himself made by his co-worker Pablo

 What is your favorite TechChange moment so far?

After almost two years of living in the US, I finally got to have a proper Halloween office party. In the party I had the privilege to participate in a short intellectual experiment called: “Between Two Nerds”. Thanks to Nick Martin, Pablo Leon and Charlie Weems, it turned out to be one of the best productions I ever took part in.

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

I enjoy spending time with my wife, watch movies, read comics/books, work on personal animation/design projects, hike, play PC games, and hangout with friends.

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

Busboys and Poets. Great food, awesome atmosphere.

Does Alon’s job sound like your dream job? Apply to our Animator/Videographer position here.


Katherine (Katie) Perry has recently joined us as a communications and operations associate where she will be key in TechChange’s daily operations and communications efforts. Katie previously served as a researcher at the Youth, Prosperity, and Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she examined the intersection of youth, international development, and security. She was also a contributing author to the CSIS-IYF Global Youth Wellbeing Index. Prior to her work at CSIS, she lived and worked in Hokkaido, Japan, teaching English through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. Katie holds a B.A. in international relations and Japanese from San Francisco State University, and M.A. from the George Washington University in international affairs, concentrating on international security and development.

Fun fact: Katie enjoys not knowing the lyrics to any of Katy Perry’s songs.

Welcome Katie!

Rising Swarthmore College junior, Oscar Chen, just spent his summer and part of his last winter intersession break with the TechChange team in Washington, DC to get professional software programming experience. Complementing his Computer Science major, he worked as a Junior Programmer Intern. Read on to learn about his full-stack developer experience in learning to code in PHP, Python, Django, and more.

1. How did you hear about TechChange?
A combination of luck and choice of school brought me to TechChange. My first stint at TechChange (a one-week “externship” in mid-January of this year) came through a program at Swarthmore that connects students with working alumni, and I was fortunate enough to land at TechChange, where two alums currently work.

2. Why did you choose TechChange to spend your summer?
Put simply: to come back! My time at TechChange in the winter, however short, exposed me to a great deal of what makes TechChange so special as both a company and a place to work. In just one week, I had the opportunity to work closely with both the development and e-learning team to design a course gamification system, and picked up enough of PHP and the WordPress web platform to begin implementing it in the course platform. Along the way, I’d gotten little glimpses of how the teams worked together in the old office, and how nearly everyone seemed genuinely interested in the work their co-workers were doing just five feet away.

After a software engineering course in my spring semester, I became interested in the software development process, and how teams use version control and process models. My short stint in the winter wasn’t quite long enough to really delve into TechChange’s processes, and so I wanted first-hand experience working as a full member of the team. In addition, after doing mostly Android app development in the spring, I was eager to try my hand at some full-stack web development, applying both my Python and newfound PHP skills in the live web applications developed by TechChange.

3. What are your interests?
Academically, I’m a computer science major interested in software development and process models. Outside of work, I’m a soccer-loving geek with a passion for food! I also enjoy biking and reading good science fiction novels.

4. How did you use your TechChange internship to explore your interests?
My time at TechChange gave me the chance to dive into web development and learn about the multiple different frameworks the TechChange developers use. Working through TechChange’s version control and software development processes (weekly priorities meetings, gitflow, etc.) allowed me to see first-hand the benefits and pitfalls of working as a team.

DC is a very bike-able city, and so I found myself biking both to work and around the city to pick-up soccer games, intern events, and even food truck festivals! TechChange’s flexible hours definitely gave me freedom to explore, and I wouldn’t have found that at another firm.

5. What did you do at TechChange this summer? What was your role at TechChange?
I was involved in numerous technical projects that the TechChange tech team had in their plans for the summer. The first few weeks of my time at TechChange were spent familiarizing myself with the different apps and architectures that have been developed with Django, and embarking on small bug-fixing projects to get my hands dirty with them. I also aided in testing and updating to new versions of software in use.

Oscar at work

Oscar works on an event tracking system for WordPress using TinCan API at his station at TechChange

Later on, as a re-design of the gamification system I implemented in winter, I began work on an event-tracking system for WordPress using the Tin Can API. This became my largest project in the latter half of my internship, and with the creative license to design it however I wanted, I took to it immediately.

6. What did you learn during your time at TechChange?
Many things! I learned that big screen TVs in the office are invaluable during the World Cup. I learned that “Beauty School Valedictorian” is a great band name. I learned that my feet are not built for the wear and tear of working at a standing desk.

On a more serious note, the experience I’ve had in full-stack webapp development and WordPress plugin development has really challenged me. In my projects, I’ve had to go from essentially zero knowledge to implementing new code in numerous languages and frameworks on both front-end and back-end areas. As an example, my last project involved using third-party Javascript libraries, jQuery, and Ajax to develop a new event-tracking system within the WordPress course platform by writing a plugin in PHP. Just a semester ago, my knowledge of these were cursory at best, but now I’ve gained enough proficiency with them to develop on my own. I’ve learned tons about the details of full-stack web development, especially about back-end database querying, API calls, and how servers communicate with each other using HTTP requests. I’ve also learned the merits and details of using practical UNIX tools such as vagrant virtual servers, bash scripting, nginx, gulp… the list goes on.

Throughout the summer, it was evident how much focus was placed on being not just a technical enterprise, but one for social change. Guest experts would cycle through every week, and each project I learned about from talking with people around the office was a part of a larger societal mission – whether it be developing malaria diagnosis training modules for USAID or providing peacebuilding training to international development professionals. It was very exciting to see that our work was ultimately not just profit-driven, but also mission-driven.

7. Did your TechChange experience end up going as you expected?
In one way, yes! I’ve gained a plethora of new skills, and leave with a much-expanded practical knowledge of full-stack web development. But I was also pleasantly surprised by how much larger it seemed – in between my two stints, the company moved its offices to a larger, more central location. There were many new faces I met, but everyone welcomed me back as part of the team. Learning more about everyone’s role on the team through weekly show-and-tells was great, as were the occasional office fun days (full of World Cup viewing, cupcakes, and board games).

World Cup games and cupcakes at TechChange

The TechChange team takes a break to watch a World Cup game and enjoy some cupcakes

8. Would you come back to work at TechChange one day? Why?
Of course! There are so many exciting projects that TechChange tackles each week, and the people in the office are an intelligent, diverse bunch who are as committed as they are fun to be around. The work TechChange does leaves a real societal impact on both their students and what students do with their knowledge – something very important to me.

9. What advice would you give to future TechChange interns?
Find ways to engage with the people around you in the office: They are all sharp, interesting folks and the office banter is always lively. The projects that everyone works on are all so different, but the way they come together in our weekly show-and-tells is pretty cool to see.

Explore the city around you: Washington DC just topped Forbes’ list of “America’s Coolest Cities” – from my experience here, that has definitely rang true! There are many hidden gems in the area to be discovered; Will recommending me a secret taco joint in the neighborhood comes to mind. Being here during World Cup season has definitely helped – DC is also ranked as the best place in America to watch soccer!

Interested in applying your coding and programming skills for social good? Apply to be a Junior Programmer at TechChange here.