Well the week that went by was absolutely hectic. Both for me personally and for the WIT Cohort!
After a slow, comfortable and breezy start, last week we really did accelerate and get a lot of cool stuff done. This blog is me letting you in to my thoughts about our week 2 activities and also sharing my observations and learnings from the outcomes we’ve achieved.
Now in week 1, we got the girls to create an intro video, a personal website and share their first TWTW.
Come week 2, we’ve actually delved into the structure of the program. Theme for the week was #discover and the entire idea behind the theme was to help the girls realise that:
a. There are tonnes of opportunities out there
b. We can find it on our own, and fairly easily that too
Validating and Researching opportunities are an extension to discovery of opportunities and it is in this context that we had the activities designed as well.
Now when designing the activity, what I had in mind was doing something that fits easily in our 1 hour activity time slot but also drives home realisation that this is all it takes to discover opportunities. To make things a bit more spicy, I decided to allot just 15 minutes for them to discover 3 opportunities and tweet about it.
Honestly, after announcing the activity in the group, setting the timer and shouting “Go!”, there was this absolute silence. I keep checking the twitter feed to see if they’ve tweeted something. And then one tweet comes in. Soon after that it was a burst of tweets and opportunities!
All of them managed to discover opportunities and tweet them. It really was during the activity that I also realised that these 20 girls collectively discovered about 60 opportunities in just those 15 minutes.
Their excitement was beyond bounds! All of them ended up realising that this is all it takes! While this activity seems like a very very simple one, the kind of impact it has left our girls with is huge.
On Thursday, we had another session. This was more of an information session and not really an activity. But we did manage to share quite some thoughts on Researching about opportunities and also writing good emails.
Now at the start of the week, when I decided that we needed them to create wiki pages and also have their first call with their coaches, I was not sure how to resolve the conflicts coming in. As in multiple students would want to pick the same opportunity or the same coach. And multiple coaches would pick the same students also. As expected, this happened.
To resolve the opportunities, I used my judgement to pair people with opportunities they might most benefit from. And when it came to coaches, we had the girls write to their choice of coaches and then had the coaches also pick their mentees/coachees.
This did bring about some confusion but then I also realised that it couldn’t have been completed without some amount of confusion. The more coaches the girls reached out to, the more coaches they had to turn down when the coach of their choice confirmed to pair with them. Probably limiting choice of coaches to maximum 2 would have been a better idea.
In any case, the great thing is that the girls did manage to resolve all the confusion. Almost all of them had their first intro call with the coach and it went absolutely amazing! All parties happy and enthusiastic about future calls too 🙂
My appreciation goes out to both the participants and coaches for sticking through with the confusion and yet managing to have their calls done. We have one absolutely committed bunch of people on-boarded!
Nikita comes on-board
Given that there are now multiple threads running, it was time to bring someone to help operationally run the cohort. We have Nikita Uday who has volunteered to work with us.
Soon after she came onboard, we couldn’t catchup. I also had some unexpected travel come up. But Nikita really did stick through and help out. Kudos to her!
Starting this week, I also look forward to working with Nikita more closely.
How do we design the activities?
So the WIT program has an overarching structure and narrative to it. We have an objective to meet and we have certain values in place.
But we never really work out the specifics of what exactly we will do each week. This is so that we leave enough room for new ideas to come in and also learn the progress of the cohort and then figure out what works best for the cohort.
I have a base program in mind — something that we will absolutely do. But it really is based on the Cohort’s energy and capability that we decide whether or not we should stretch the base program.
Given that the Cohort 1 is brimming with energy and also given that they are so very talented, we’re into pushing our limits as well as theirs now. Thinking of more exciting/interesting activities and designing even more enriching experiences is getting exciting! SKG is pretty good at throwing in super exploratory ideas. His ideas are almost always stretched in terms of experimenting with the limits. Now the challenge is bringing in those ideas into execution with our cohort and also efficiently managing their energy levels.
These observations are my key takeaways from the whole activity last week. This really is learning for me as to what worked and what did not. And these observations and realisations play a huge role in program design for the next week as well
Let’s look at some of the nuggets that have come in!
1. I spend too much time in the group, helping the girls. I should look to purposefully stay away and let them figure out solutions on their own.
2. Really need to leverage their inter-personal interaction and collaboration this week!
3. The girls are hustlers. They can keep up with the speed at which we are moving and are also delivering output.
Learning and Thoughts
- The girls did a neat job of emailing the coaches. Some of them have really done well! Having a feedback discussion on everyone’s approach would be a good idea in terms of everyone picking up emailing ideas and skills.
- I have to put the framework in perspective — on building relationships.
- Listen more than you speak.
- Having some content published on how students can get started with Research would be a good idea.
- Focus on improving yourself and then help others by open-sourcing your learning. (ആദ്യം സ്വയം രക്ഷപ്പെടുക)
- We just need to sit at home and Google!
- Our participants are now equipped to become Wikipedia contributors.
- Each coach has some area of expertise or experience. Perhaps the participants should work with their coaches in translating their experience into blogs or even a handbook. (Ayushi — How to get into Google, Paavini — Open source contribution)
- Imposter Syndrome is something most of our girls talked about. In their applications, interviews and now in their TWTWs too.
- Learning to communicate over emails is super important.
- Using twitter are a microblog and also to remember the minute details for your TWTW. (Anusree was planning to maintain a personal diary. Twitter should work better instead)
- It is important for coaches to be relatable, friendly and pleasant.
- There is such bias amongst our participants about how a scholarship winner/recipient should be — Some of them have an imaginary picture of how a winner looks like — talks only in english, has eloquent writing skills, is a super coder — and this leads them into feeling they aren’t anything like that image in their head. I hope getting to interact with these winners for real is helping them develop better perspectives and squash that all-so-perfect image in their head.
- Be as prepared as you can and then face the rest as it comes.
- Coaches allowing themselves to learn from each other is excellent! Sharon is doing a wonderful job there. Seems like Sharon has found a friend to work with. I’m sure this makes Sharon more approachable and warm!
- Coaches talking about their “First Times” and how they got started with technology or applying to opportunities would make the whole experience more relatable. (Fausya talks about her first time applying)
- Opportunities are numerous ! The effort to discover, research and the heart to apply are the keys.
- Girls enjoyed the #discover activity quite well!
- Keep trying is a good message for the coaches to emphasise on. Focus on effort.
- Addressing a problem that girls face upfront might be a good way to get talking about the problem. Also talking about how you understand their concern may be a good way to build more comfort and confidence.
- Talk about your aspirations. People would like to help out. (Ref: Amrita suggesting a hackathon to Liyana)
- Start somewhere!
- Find people you look up to or want to be like. Figure out how they got there, Get connected to them.
- Coaches can share their experience at work/college/or with organisations. Gives a more realistic expectation to the students and goes a long way in helping them understand what to expect. (Ref:Ayushi)
- Students can take help from coaches in improving what they are already doing or in getting started with what they wish to. (Mirdula exploring a Women in Tech cell in her college)
- Coaches can be instrumental in connecting participants to resource people (Ref: Sethu mentioning about Nidhiya and Dona)
- One on one, personalised feedback has a significant effect in improving learning.
- Look at everything as a skill and stop getting personal about it.