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Part 2 in our series, where we introduce you to the people of EcoZoom from a firsthand perspective. Herein, meet ideas expert extraordinaire, Megan "the Italian Stallion" Iacobini de Fazio. Did we mention she boxes for fun?!
I first came to Nairobi for a 6 month internship with a large UN organization. On my first day I marvelled at the beautiful compound, the exotic birds, the bright blue swimming pool and the myriad of small coffee tables dotted around the place, each one seating small numbers of smartly dressed delegates sipping double soy-milk cappuccinos and eating croissants.
In the following months, I too enjoyed many al-fresco cappuccinos and croissants as I waited for the next bit of work to come my way. There was a lot of waiting. As an intern in the Public Information Unit I couldn’t help but feel like my presence made little difference to such a large organization. Although I did have a few valuable experiences, I wasn’t given much responsibility or independence to work on my own projects. The lack of autonomy was frustrating, especially when seemingly mundane jobs were required to go through multiple signoffs and checks before being published.
On the positive side, I did become an expert on how to use the photocopier and its endless features.
A few months into my internship, I met Megan through a mutual friend. Megan, in addition to sharing my name, shared my love of dancing, FOOD (read: nyama choma and Ethiopian. And fresh avocadoes!) and Austrian symbolist painters. She talked passionately about cookstoves, Indoor Air Pollution and products for the Base of the Pyramid. I was jealous of the fact that, even as a fellow, she seemed to be swamped by work. A soon as she mentioned that there might be an opening for a fellowship in the communications department at EcoZoom, the social enterprise where she worked, I jumped at the chance.
After a meeting with Amanda- our CCO- , during which we drank beer and bonded over the fact we both have dragonfly tattoos, I officially became part of the EcoZoom team. My first day at the office could not have been more different than that at the UN. Not only was I warmly welcomed and offered coffee (not a cappuccino, mind you), but I was introduced to the whole team and given product trainings and inductions.
For Comms Fellow Megan, working at EcoZoom is no walk in the park, it's a jaunt in the yard.
Now, four months on, I feel like joining EcoZoom was a great decision. Although my position is officially that of Communications Fellow, the breadth of work means that during my time here I have had to wear many hats, which has given me the chance to sharpen a variety of professional skills and to gain invaluable experience in other fields. I have learned a lot about market research, below-line marketing, excel spreadsheets (still a long way to go on this one), competitive analyses, communication strategies, press release distribution and commercial pilots – to name a few.
One of my projects has been to look into the commercialization of Be-Girl reusable sanitary pads, designed by our award winning jiko designer Diana Sierra. I looked into the sanitary product market in Kenya and organized a commercial pilot, which involved designing surveys, analysing data and working with distributers. I also tested the product out myself (it was very comfy, good job Diana)! Dare I say, I have become somewhat of an expert on reusable sanitary pads.
During my second month working at EcoZoom, I travelled to Rwanda for a conference on the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy. I learned a lot about the cookstove industry and the importance of access to the right technologies in emergency and humanitarian situations. Kigali was beautiful and I managed to squeeze in some time for some sightseeing and shopping. I feel extremely lucky to be travelling for work and I am happy that, even as a fellow, I am given the responsibility of representing EcoZoom at such events.
As I write this, happily sitting beneath the cool shade of a big tree in the EcoZoom garden, I am happy to have experienced the juxtaposition of a big NGO with a small startup. I can say I prefer the independence, ingenuity, and flexibility that working at EcoZoom has afforded me.