My First Week of Accelerated MBA Graduate School at George Washington University

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In addition to switching jobs, I am now starting my Masters of Business Administration at George Washington University. Why? Because I don’t have enough going on in my life, what with a new job, a wife, two kids, a dog, house, and all my ICT4D friends.
So to just make it that much more intense, I am in the accelerated MBA program at GW, where we cover a semester’s worth of classes in half the time. Called the “AMBA”, it will still take me two years of Tuesday nights and Saturdays to graduate, but I can work full time at Development Gateway and bring home the bacon that my young family needs.
At this point, there are two dubious records I hold in the class.

  1. At 38 for the second time, I am the oldest member of the AMBA Class of 2014 by at least two years. My goal was to start grad school before I would have such an honor, but now that I have it, I am rolling with the mental fragility prestige this title conveys.
  2. I also happen to be the most traveled member of the class, with experiences from 82 countries, beating out the next competitor by 10 countries. Funny enough, he is Indonesian with an Italian name, and I am the American with an Indonesian name.

Overall, I am excited about the AMBA courses and the freedom to challenge myself. It seems that most course grades are based on essays and case studies versus quantitative tests, and most people maintain the B average required to graduate, so I feel that I’ll do well.
Of course, this is the first week, so check back in a year and I may have a different opinion. In the mean time, check out my team’s first two work products:

Well, what do you think – worth an A?

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Goodbye Inveneo, the best job I’ve ever had

peace out, inveneo

Four and a quarter years ago, I joined Inveneo with the dream to accomplish three goals with the company. I aimed to grow the local ICT partner program to a market differentiator for Inveneo, raise the company’s profile in the Washington DC market, and get Inveneo on large USAID programs.

I am proud to say that I’ve achieved each of my goals.

  1. The ICIP program grew to be what sets Inveneo apart from all other ICT companies and has become a major reason we are sought out as a partner and implementer. Now under the leadership of FJ Cava, the program has achieved success in Haiti and around the world beyond my expectations and has inspired similar efforts at other organizations.
  2. Unquestionably, Inveneo is now known in Washington DC. Today, it’s rare that I have to explain what Inveneo does or even hand out a business card. All the major players know of Inveneo, many of their staff have met Inveneo staff personally, and the conversations start with “How can we partner?” – with real business opportunity in mind.
  3. Inveneo is now sought out as the preferred technology partner for major USAID RFPs and IQC’s, to the point where Inveneo is on multiple primes’ proposals as the exclusive ICT solution designer and implementer.

In addition, Inveneo now has a deep pool of staff that can support its Washington, DC business. Sybille Fleischmann has ICT in education deployment experience from Microsoft and in Haiti that eclipses my own. Lisa Lin brings deep experience with USAID contracts beyond any level of detail I would ever want to have. Kristin Peterson and the sales team know their way around the different contracting vehicles and how to read the proposal and partnering tealeaves.

Moving On

So it’s with the satisfaction of knowing I’ve propelled Inveneo into the highest levels of international development that I now take my leave from the organization. I am moving on from Inveneo on September 7th with a full heart of goodwill and happiness for the organization and my departure from it.

I feel truly blessed to have worked at Inveneo for the last four years. I loved, LOVED, every minute of it, often to the point of tears when I saw our impact on the communities we serve. It was truly the best job I’ve ever had.
I will cherish the working relationship I’ve had with the Inveneo team. I will especially miss Kristin and Mark, who were more than my bosses – they became great friends to me and I appreciated their continued support and endless patience.

The Next Challenge

Yet its time for me to take on a new marketing challenge with another organization. Starting September 10th, I will be joining Development Gateway in Washington DC. They develop results monitoring and big data ICT solutions for bilateral and multilateral donors and national governments and are instrumental in supporting the growing momentum around the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

Not to worry, I will still be in the ICT4D space and I will not forget Inveneo. I will continue to be a tireless advocate for both. I will start by suggesting that you subscribe to ICTworks, one of the many initiatives I started at Inveneo that I know will live on well past my exit.

How to be an Exciting ICT4D Conference Presenter

ICT4D presentation feedback

I am often asked to speak at conferences, meetings, and workshops on Information and Communication Technologies for Development – ICT4D. My goal is to be a lively presenter, engaging the audience as active participants in the discussion. I am succeeding at my goal from feedback like the responses above on the Learning@Hand back channel.

So what is my secret to getting kudos like that in talking about technology and development? Here are a few guidelines to being an engaged, exciting presenter.

  1. Start with a storyline: The first step for any good presentation is to develop a storyline. Know the story arch you want to present and build an outline of key points based on that story arch. Note the focus here – in a story. As the great Seth Godwin says, a presentation excites, motivates, inspires. You will educate the audience in the course of the talk, but don’t make it the focus. That’s a workshop, not a presentation.
  2. Think in photos: Woe to the presenter who puts more than 5 words on a slide. They are confusing a presentation with slide notes. Your slides should accentuate your point, not be Cliff Notes to remind you want to say. Your audience can and will read your words faster than you, and just be annoyed that you read so slowly out loud. Instead just use big, evocative photos that demonstrate your point. Google Image Search is your friend here. And for those that worry about image rights – if they didn’t want the image used freely, they shouldn’t put it online. For my presentations, I have a goal of less than 5 words for the whole presentation – including my title slide.
  3. Be animated: No one likes to watch grass grow, so don’t just stand there clutching the podium. Grab the microphone and move out into the audience. Talk with emotion, point to your photos, point to people in the audience, raise & lower your voice, get excited, cry, do whatever the presentation calls for to get and keep your audience’s attention. Trust me, they will remember your point if you make it memorable.
  4. Convert the audience to participants: I love asking questions to specific audience members, especially the engaged ones. Also, I do pop quizzes asking for answers to be shouted out. I make people vote by raising hands or standing up. I ask for gadget examples from the audience, like who has the oldest phone or newest tablet. Anything to make people feel they were part of the presentation, not passive receivers.
  5. Get personal: Big topics, like ICT4D, can often be impersonal and seem remote to the audience. I like to break through this barrier with personal stories – events or actions I experienced that tie the big, global narration to common themes we can all relate to. One of my current favorites is that yes, everyone is on Facebook, even my mom – and she “likes” every single one of my posts. Also, stopping mid-story and asking the audience what they think should happen next, especially when the next step isn’t logical or expected, is a good way to make a personal story participatory.
  6. Go funny and positive: I love making people laugh. And if they’re laughing, people will accept critique and criticism in a positive light. Often, I am discrediting theories and actions that are popular but ineffective, so the humor goes a long way to get the point across without being booed off the stage. In fact, I know I’ve hit the mark when the crowd erupts into laughter and then goes “oooo” when they realize the joke it on them for perpetuating these misconceptions.
  7. Be short: No one ever leaves a presentation saying “I wish that talk went on for another hour!” So be brief. Finish early, and spend the extra time getting mobbed by your new fans.

In general, I think I am a pretty good presenter now, or as I like to think of it, a lead discussant, by following these simple rules. Then I happen to see a presentation that really rocks and yet again humble me. Here is one of my favorites, which I re-watch often to learn from: Mark Congiusta on Power Point Failures

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In fact, if you only watch one video to improve your presentation skills, please let it be this one. It gives great guidelines on how present with the right mood: funny, informal, yet highly informative.

 

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USAID Report: Designing Effective Education Programs Using ICT

I’m proud to announce the publication of USAID’s First Principles: Designing Effective Education Programs Using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Compendium, to which I contributed during its formation and development. Yes, I am even listed as an author on the back cover with Anthony Bloome, Ed Gaible, Analice Schwartz, and Janel Hoppes Poché.

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Designing Effective Education Programs Using ICT provides important overview guidance for designing and implementing education programs that use technology. The principles and indicators are primarily meant to guide program designs, including the development of requests for and subsequent review of proposals, the implementation of program activities, and the development of performance management plans, evaluations, and research studies.
The First Principles series are intended to help USAID education officers specifically, as well as other stakeholders–including staff in donor agencies, government officials, and staff working for international and national non-governmental organizations–take advantage of good practices and lessons learned to improve projects that involve the use of education technology.
The guidance in this document is meant to be used and adapted for a variety of settings to help USAID officers and others grapple with the multiple dimensions of ICT in education and overcome the numerous challenges in applying ICT in the developing-country contexts. The last section provides references for those who would like to learn more about issues and methods for supporting the education of the underserved.
Designing Effective Education Programs Using ICT is based on extensive experience in, and investigation of, current approaches to technology in education and draws on research literature, interviews with USAID field personnel, and project documentation. It also includes profiles of projects funded by USAID and others.

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