May 17, 2023
Internship Spotlight Series: Mary Effie Akinyi
By Lindsay Marcellus
Mary Effie Akinyi is a rising senior who is pursuing a major in Business Administration at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ) along with a minor in Politics and Public Policy. She participated in the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP) in spring 2023, where she completed an internship with mEducation Alliance, a non-profit organization focused on the evidence driven and sustainable role of technology in education to advance quality educational outcomes. Below is an interview with Mary Effie about her internship experience. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What interested you about this internship?
I heard about the internship through the CMU/WSP office, and was quickly drawn to the organization’s commitment to accelerating the sustainable impact of EdTech for learners in low resource contexts. This was especially appealing to me because I am passionate about positively impacting the African continent and a lot of the organizations that are members of the mEducation Alliance work in developing countries, more specifically, African Countries.
What was your favorite part of the internship?
My favorite part of the internship was getting to sit in during meetings with other organizations doing international development work in the area of education. These organizations are members of the alliance and these meetings provided opportunities for them to talk more about their work and establish partnerships. I was particularly impressed by how representatives from each of the organizations used the monthly or quarterly one hour meetings to highlight their work, seek solutions to challenges they had faced, and network for future collaborations and partnerships.
What are some skills you need to carry out your duties? What, if anything, in your experience at CMU did you find to be helpful in terms of preparation?
A lot of the work I did was around communications, website support, and symposium preparation. This work needed strong verbal and written communication skills which I felt CMU adequately equipped me with. One really daunting task was drafting a bi-weekly eNews that was shared with an audience of about 2,000 readers. The content was different each time so I found it a bit challenging but my supervisor served as my editor so it got easier, and I actually started enjoying it. For website support, I needed to edit the website and make recurring updates. This needed basic wordpress skills which I had learnt from my Business Communications class. Whatever was not too familiar, I simply googled.
How did you develop professionally and personally over the course of your internship?
This was an incredible opportunity to get to know myself better in a professional environment so I made this one of my internship objectives. I worked virtually for the most part and that required a lot of accountability from my end. I was assigned tasks and left to my own devices so I came up with a work plan that enabled me to time my tasks, track them, and ensure they were delivered on time. Being in charge of myself motivated me to be more hands on and manage my time better, and I think that is an important skill to have.
Professionally, this could not have been a better fit. I knew before the internship that I wanted to go into international development but the internship definitely solidified that thought. I had the opportunity to see all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into development projects being implemented in a number of developing countries. My biggest learning point was the importance of building a network. Being involved in International development work requires a lot of correspondence with different groups and organizations, establishing relationships and then leveraging those relationships. To get anything done, you essentially have to network at all times.
What advice would you share with future interns?
Be curious, go the extra mile, and communicate.
I volunteered to take on additional tasks and asked to contribute to tasks that I wanted to get better at. This was something that I really liked about the internship. True to my supervisor’s promise that I could make out of it whatever I wanted, I took the opportunity to get the most I could out of it.
This was a role I was very passionate about so that motivated me to go the extra mile. My work felt impactful so I took every opportunity to contribute more. The focus for me was on the big picture impact of my day-to-day tasks.
Communication was a huge part of my work, so I made sure to apply that to my work relationships too. I spoke up when it was not clear what was expected of me so that I could get clarification. This helped me know exactly what I needed to do each time which in turn helped me deliver high-quality work. It also helped me maintain open communication lines with my supervisor which greatly benefitted me especially because we were virtual most of the time.
Photo credit: Mary Effie Akinyi