Nine Student Consultants worked remotely in Palau, Jamaica and India.
While also participating in a cultural exchange
Raymond Li, Dietrich/Heinz IS '22
My project group (composed of three) worked with multiple stakeholders- researchers from Brandeis University, faculty from University of Technology- Jamaica, and medical staff from University Hospital of the West Indies in a research project involving the effect of providing financial incentives to diabetes patients in Jamaica. The group’s main responsibilities involved designing the study and creating an application that keeps track of the patients’ health information.
Being a project consultant is a unique experience. Unlike most internships that just require technical expertise, the consulting process starts from the ground up. This means you will be much more involved with the project- including picking the stack/coding platform, designing wireframes, all the way up to providing documentation and a means to transition after the project timeline has ended. Consulting trains your decision making and project design skills, not just technical skills.
The TCinGC program specifically is quite interesting because projects are assigned from many different countries and cultures. Oftentimes, the internship process involves learning about other countries and their cultures, and communicating with them to find common ground. It’s a very rewarding experience.
Taylor Michell, Heinz MISM BIDA '22
During the summer of 2021, I worked with a couple different organizations: Brandeis University in Massachusetts and the University Hospital in the West Indies (UHWI). Our task was to create a system to track daily step count of patients at UHWI with diabetes to help increase their levels of self care through exercise. The researchers at Brandeis wanted to answer the question, ‘Does providing incentives in the form of monetary phone credits have an effect on daily step count?’ Similarly, the practitioners at UHWI wanted to know if step count was increased in patients, would their cost of care decrease. The student team specifically developed a database to store the step count and two web applications: one to in-process participants into the study and a dashboard for researchers and practitioners to view the participants’ progress.
While I’m disappointed we couldn’t work with our partners in Jamaica in person, I had a great experience working with TCinGC this summer. The internship provided me some perspective on how technology consulting really works, and it provided me with the skills to work with a client in the future that were invaluable. Being able to work with people from different cultures added another layer of complexity, but that also led to an increased level of growth for me personally. I was able to build on technical skills I learned during the school year while sharpening my skills in networking and relationship building that are crucial in any field.
Anjali Akula, Dietrich/Heinz IS '23
During the summer of 2021, I worked with Kanthari, a non-profit in Kerala, India that provides a 12-month scholarship-based, leadership program that creates changemakers around the world. They were launching the alumni network, knock, as they had accumulated over 200 alumni over a decade of operation. As part of my internship, I transferred their alumni data to an updated flat database and created a social media platform through which their alumni could connect.
Although this internship experience was remote, I really really enjoyed my time working with Kanthari. I met with the administrators of Kanthari almost daily and it was incredibly inspiring to get to know them, their life stories, and the daily work that they were doing. It was amazing to meet with the alumni of Kanthari and have them tell me how directly impactful my work was to them and their organizations. Moreover, I gained a lot of important consulting experience as I had to develop the entire project timeline, decide my daily work and manage the scope of the project as requirements changed. In this way, my TCinGC experience was different from a typical internship as I didn’t directly have a manager assigning me work, but was actually a technical consultant advising an organization. I would definitely recommend this experience to other students.
Saachi Talwai, MISM '22
I had the opportunity of working with the University Hospital of Jamaica during my internship with TCinGC. As a remote technology consultant, I worked with UHWI to build a digital application to log health incident reports that were previously recorded on paper.
I had a fruitful time working with Mr. Wayne Little the SDE lead at UHWI. I learnt a lot about the Jamaican work culture interacting with him. The biweekly cultural exchange sessions were a lot of fun and helpful to understand the Jamaican lifestyle.
Curtis Lee, Dietrich Policy and Management '23
This summer, I had the opportunity to work with the Palau Conservation Society (PCS). Founded in 1994, the PCS strives to ensure the sustainable growth of the country. The organization first started its efforts with species-based educational programs. Over the years, the organization has expanded its efforts to numerous other programs that have both local and global impacts. A great portion of Palau’s economic growth comes from tourism, subsistence agriculture, and fishing. Since Palau’s economy relies heavily on the nation’s environment, the stakeholders of the organization and their work have also increased over the years.
The project I was tasked with was to create an effective and functioning database that holds information on the protected areas of Palau. Using the existing data that the organization had on protected areas, I worked with my team to integrate analytical tools and other relevant data, in order to enhance the database. In result, we were able to create a comprehensive Excel file that would allow members of the PCS to conduct more interesting analyses for their reports and projects.
Overall, this was a great learning experience for me as a student. Throughout the internship, I faced hurdles and challenges that were not expected. However, through these difficulties, I was able to learn and improve problem-solving skills. Furthermore, through the help of members from the organization and the internship program, I was able to acquire numerous technical skills. I look forward to taking all these learning points with me as I continue my college career.
Brittany Pruitt, Global MSPPM '21
As a public policy student with interests in international development and the intersection of technology and public service, I was excited for the opportunity to explore both areas as a participant in the Technology Consulting in the Global Community program. I was drawn to working with the Republic of Palau Social Security Administration and Healthcare Fund (HCF) due to an earlier experience working at a clinic in a low-resource setting. I conducted interviews and surveys to evaluate the current medical records data management across Palau’s healthcare landscape, along with the IT infrastructure within the Healthcare Fund and the healthcare providers. I presented the findings and path forward to the HCF Governing Committee and Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr. who was acting as the Minister of Health. Using information gathered from working with the broader group of stakeholders, I also created a medical records input form for updating health care information. This form will be further developed by the SSA and HCF IT staff.
The summer included cultural immersion activities through virtual sessions to learn more about Palauan culture and lifestyle. They provided an opportunity to connect to Palau in a way that typically would not be possible remotely, as well as the chance to develop more meaningful relationships with members of community partner organizations and amongst our fellow student consultants.
Rebecca Li, Dietrich/Heinz IS '23
I worked with Palau Ministry of Education (MOE). The organization is responsible for providing the public education services and implementing the national educational curricula.
My main task was to develop cleaning and analysis tools to improve the overall efficiency of analyzing students’ test performance. The goals were to reduce manual checking and automate test evaluation. The tools clean unreadable data and create descriptive statistics including mean, median, mode, standard deviation, and skew. It can also create a pass/fail table and proficiency table for all grade levels.
The experience provided me the opportunity to tackle real world problem with technology, and the tool I developed can improve the efficiency by over tenfold. I gained a lot of experience to solve a problem in a logical sequence and listen to the need of clients. I loved the cultural exchange program which enabled me to talk to Edwel and other Palauan people about their lifestyles, traditions and how technology changes our lives differently. We viewed history differently depending on our perspectives and listening to their ideas on World War 2 and fashion trends really interested me.
Meghna Chhabra, Heinz MISM '22
I worked with the Ministry of Education, the Republic of Palau. Recently, MOE had changed its technical infrastructure. Previously, all the 20 campuses were connected to a central office which was further connected to the Internet. Thus, communication to the outside world was being handled by the central office. Currently, every campus is connected to the Internet, and it has improved communication however, the campuses still use the intranet to access certain applications. The project included migrating these services to the cloud and making them accessible over the Internet instead of intranet which would reduce the bandwidth cost at the central office as the schools will be able to connect directly to the cloud. It would also provide the flexibility and agility that the MOE needs as it increases its use of technology in the coming years.
I had a great experience working with TCinGC this summer. Although I couldn’t visit Palau due to COVID restrictions, the bi-weekly cultural meetings tried to bring Palau to us by teaching us about the culture, food, and life in the island country. The internship provided me with an opportunity to hone my technical skills and build some consulting skills. I really liked that by deploying the applications in real-time, I was able to see the impact that technology will have on people’s life.
Laknath Gunathilake, Heinz MSPPM-DA '22
I worked with the Palau Financial Institutions Commission (FIC). The FIC collects data from banks operating in Palau to monitor the country's financial sector, and they store and analyze this data using a Microsoft Excel application. During the internship, we re-structured this application to make it easier and more robust for the bank examiner to conduct analysis. We also created a relational database using SQLite to store the banking information while providing training for the bank examiner to explore and create visualizations.
This experience gave me a sense of how to work with a partner organization outside of the US. I also gained experience on how to create a project scope, and identify a technical solution that best fits an organization's needs and capacities. While the experience was remote, the cultural exchange activities with some of the stakeholders in Palau gave us a sense of the rich culture and history of Palau.