I am about a week early on this second reflection piece, but I wanted to write something given the concern that many have voiced (or are likely feeling) given some of the challenges I’ve faced on with my health.
This last month has been filled with a number of awesome experiences on the work front. Part of my decision to join Proximity was because I would have a multi-faced work experience. So far, that has held true. My time has been split between analyzing the current business to help improve operations/management, as well as looking forward toward a new product introduction. So although I’ve spent many hours in front of Excel spreadsheets (I’ve built out a financial model for the group), I’ve also spoken with potential partners, visited villages to help in user research, worked with the product design team on brainstorming solutions, and worked with our product lead on product/component selection, international shipping, and logistics. Before joining Proximity, I had been looking to receive more responsibility in my career, which is something that I’ve experienced so far here in Myanmar.
The social front had been less active (I kept myself busy with work), but that has recently started to change as I started to spend more time with friends outside of the office. I also just moved into a new apartment, which I am currently sharing with two other people (although it will become just two of us in about two weeks). I also spent a weekend visiting the ancient city of Bagan with some colleagues/friends, which was incredible. The next step for me on life outside the office will be to integrate physical fitness, something I have completely ignored since being here (which isn’t good!).
To be fair, there have been tradeoffs in living in a third world country. The biggest is food safety. I’ve gotten sick four times since I’ve been here, but I’ve also mostly been living out of hotel rooms where I’ve had to eat out essentially every meal. Telecommunications infrastructure has also been an issue. I haven’t had issues making calls locally, but finding an affordable solution to call the U.S. that doesn’t rely on the internet has been challenging. And regarding the internet, the number of locations with a strong signal are few and far between, and from what I’ve heard, pumping a line directly into an apartment is very costly. I need to further explore SIM card usage.
Overall, my experience so far has been filled with both ups and downs. I think it’s important for me to reflect on my original decision to come to Myanmar, which included:
1) Serving the bottom of the pyramid in a place where there is a big need for help
2) Working with a leading social organization that has the capability to drive substantial change
3) Having leadership responsibility in a new venture
4) Using technology as a solution to serve others
5) Integrating design elements (user-centered design) as a core piece of driving change
On a daily basis, people are so thrilled when I try to speak Burmese or even just acknowledge them. Even from these small interactions, I can tell that I am having an impact.
Going forward, my goal is to make the most of this incredible opportunity that I have to work in Myanmar. I plan to continue reflecting on this experience going forward, which will be critical as I consider what my next steps should be at the conclusion of this trial period.