The Final Year Student Fellow
Marie is a 2021/2022 Chalkboard Education fellow that joined the fellowship in her final year. Despite an increased school workload and juggling other activities, she has proved to be quite the multi-tasker and still provides her best throughout this fellowship. Curious to know more about Marie? Then this interview is just the perfect read!
Ayeyi: Hi Marie! How’re you doing?
Marie: Hi! I’m fine, thank you. How’re you too?
Ayeyi: I’m alright. How has your day been?
Marie: Today I’m out of it, but how is your day?
Ayeyi: Today has been a slow day, but it’s picking up. Alright, so we know you’re working at Chalkboard Education. What motivated you to apply to be a fellow at Chalkboard Education?
Marie: I was intrigued by Chalkboard Education’s service. It was the first time I saw a company providing services without using internet connection. This was when COVID hit, so the internet was necessary because everything runs through the internet. So, to know that there was a company with a service that didn’t necessarily need an internet connection to run was very intriguing. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to polish my skills and get a feel of how it is to work for a company. Before this fellowship, I hadn’t worked for an actual company; I had only done freelance work. That was my motivation for applying.
Ayeyi: That’s interesting. And how did the application process go for you? What was the experience like?
Marie: The application process was quite simple. I was supposed to send an application, which included recording a two-minute video of myself. It involved selling myself and why I think I am the best fit for the position. Then, I had two interviews. I had my offer in September. The interviews were more conversational and seamless from start to finish.
Ayeyi: So when you found out you had been accepted to be a fellow, were there any expectations you had before you started working, considering that you had not worked for a company before?
Marie: Ok, so I’ll describe my genuine feeling because I had mixed feelings at the time. When I got the offer, I was very excited because I had applied for something, and I had gotten it. I also looked forward to getting the offer because I would build an array of competencies from communications to soft skills that I need to thrive in my future career. Then again, I was in my fourth year and heard many rumours about the workload in fourth year. I was planning to do a thesis, so I knew balancing work and school would be very tough. So, when I got the offer, I had very mixed feelings.
Marie: All in all, I was excited. During the application process, it was stated that the fellowship program was more of a training program. So I had the mindset that they were training me; I didn’t have to be perfect, or I didn’t have to try and be who I’m not. If I didn’t know something, I could easily ask for help. So, that’s how I was feeling at the moment.
Ayeyi: Ok, that makes sense. And you mentioned that you accepted this offer in your fourth year when the workload was a lot. So I’m curious, how were you able to balance schoolwork, other activities, and working. Have you found that perfect balance, or are you still trying to find balance?
Marie: This is interesting because I’ve struggled the most with balance for the past three weeks. The Chalkboard Education fellowship turned out to be more challenging than I expected. Also, considering I was taking five courses this semester and balancing this with extra-curricular activities and other things I had to do at home, it was way more challenging than expected. The past three weeks were when I had to prepare for my Capstone presentations, complete final projects, attend meetings, and be part of my senior class representative group; it was a lot to handle. I even forgot I had meetings with people and missed my meeting with Adrien, the company's CEO. I haven’t continued working seriously for these past three weeks and haven’t been able to find the balance. However, now that I am completing school and don’t have much to do concerning school work, I think I will find a good enough balance. I also want to say that during the times when it was easier than now, I typically work mainly on the weekends and Mondays before the update meeting. I mainly work on weekends unless I have to join a meeting during the week. I have not found the perfect balance and have struggled a lot in the past three weeks, but I think it’ll get better.
Ayeyi: I appreciate the honesty because it paints a candid picture of how it is to be a student and work simultaneously. Thank you for that.
Ayeyi: So, we have talked about balance, but what is your exact job title at Chalkboard Education?
Marie: An Operations Officer.
Ayeyi: And what have been some of the tasks that you have done under this title?
Marie: A few things I’ve done are creating the first course that the company rolled out. I join meetings with my direct supervisor, Genevieve. I designed and documented an internal procedures manual. I’m currently researching and applying for grants on behalf of Chalkboard Education and sending emails to non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Since I joined Chalkboard Education, these are a few things that I’ve done.
Ayeyi: That sounds interesting. Out of these tasks you’ve mentioned, what would you say has been the most challenging and why?
Marie: I think the most challenging has been researching and reaching out to NGOs. It was pretty hard to find grants for Edtech companies because Chalkboard Education is an Edtech company. Also, getting the template, I created approved took quite a long time, making it hard to approach my monthly targets because I couldn’t proceed. Finding NGOs that train beneficiaries or employees regarding NGOs was also quite tricky. I think those two have been the most challenging for me.
Ayeyi: And on the flip side, what will you say has been the most exciting task you’ve worked on?
Marie: I’ll say it’s creating the manual because I learned how the company’s dashboard works. I’m very conversant with every functionality on the dashboard, so when it comes to helping employees and clients on board, I feel like I know what to do. Also, I enjoy joining meetings and seeing the communications between Chalkboard Education and its clients. I feel like I’ve gained many skills from these two tasks, so that’s been interesting.
Ayeyi: And let’s get a bit deeper. You mentioned you created the first course. Can you take us through the process of creating content?
Marie: For the Curriculum Vitae (CV) course, we had to determine what we wanted the training material to entail. We know the content, but how do we create the structure: Where do we start? Does it need an introduction? Does it need a body? Should we add voice memos? Should we add pictures? After creating the content and structure, we started putting it on the dashboard. A course is segmented into folders (chapters of the course) and sessions (the content in each sub-topic of the course). We also created quizzes to test the knowledge the students or users of the learning material learned. We then assigned each quiz to a session or a folder. Once that was done, we sent it forward for approval. Once approved, we sent out emails and advertisements, which the Marketing handled. Then people expressed interest. I managed the emails and sent out the pin for the interested users to access the course. Then my co-fellow, Chinenye, manages the analytics for the course.
Ayeyi: I also find it interesting in Chalkboard Education that the different departments are somewhat linked. When you talked about how the marketing department also marketed the course, I remember Paa Kofi and I worked on the explainer video to push the course. So it’s interesting to see what the backend was and how you were able to create the course and the whole process.
Ayeyi: Ok, let’s go outside Chalkboard Education. Who is Marie, and what is she doing if you’re not working? What does she like?
Marie: (giggles) Eish, I like this question. Outside Chalkboard Education (pauses to think) Should I use the instance of when I was a student or now that I’m not a student?
Ayeyi: I think both.
Marie: Ok, when I was a student, it was my school work and group meetings. Saturdays and Sundays, I catch up on my shows. I’m a huge reality TV fan, so I’ve watched Are You The One, The Bachelor…you name it; I’ve watched everything. So I use the weekends and sometimes later in the evening during the week to catch up on shows. During my time at uni, I barely went out. I would occasionally go out once in a while to watch a movie or go for dinner. Now that I am not a student, I’ve been going out. I recently went out with friends to Kruna Club and Alley Bar, and we roamed from place to place. Ouuu, and I also played sports in school. I was part of my school's Kasanoma female football club, so I used to go and play on Saturday mornings. So that’s just a little bit about me outside Chalkboard Education.
Ayeyi: The Marie outside Chalkboard Education seems extremely fun….. love it! (both laugh) So, we’re getting to the end of the interview, but someone somewhere probably wants to apply for the next cohort of fellows for Chalkboard Education. What will you tell them?
Marie: Honestly, do it! Once you psych your mind to do it, you should be prepared and organized from the beginning. Don’t commence the application process before you say once I get it; I’ll organize myself. Also, assess the pros and cons and see how you can navigate. I feel like working for Chalkboard Education is working at one of the most flexible companies. Also, because of how closely related the departments are, you get to work with a few people, which helps you network and connect to people from different walks of life. Also, it’s a training program, so there are certain things I’ve noticed that I’ve wrongly done that I wouldn’t apply in my future career. For example, I’ve observed that I’m very forgetful, so now I set timers for meetings. When it comes to finishing tasks, I arrange the tasks based on deadlines. I feel like this has made me more responsible. I have a long way to go, but I would instead find out what I’m doing wrong now than in my long-term career.
Ayeyi: Love it! Thank you so much, and I’m sure whoever is reading this will also love what you’re saying and hopefully consider it and apply it. So, this is the end of the interview, and I want to thank you for your time. You have been an amazing fellow, and I hope nothing but the best for you. Also, as you’re graduating, congratulations, and I hope the rest of your life is good.
Marie: (smiles and giggles) Thank you very much!
About Chalkboard Education
Chalkboard Education provides a mobile-based, offline-first Learning Management System tailored for underserved communities training. Lightweight, inclusive, and complete with full analytics capabilities, Chalkboard Education helps you reach your beneficiaries everywhere in the World, seamlessly. Currently used in 12+ countries in Africa, South and North America, Chalkboard Education is available worldwide.