Friday, May 22, 2015

3 weeks in Delhi

So my first trip for my new job was to the Delhi office to meet the team there and do some onboarding. I built my own custom CommCare app and saw the technology in use in 3 different hospitals in India. I saw nurses that would typically put medical details like heart rate and blood pressure in these huge ledgers that reminded me of Harry Potter into wireless tablets instead, for better medical record keeping, and hopefully for better medical outcomes. (RCTs pending.)

Hindsight 20/20: When telling your mom you are going to a hospital in India, it might be good to provide a little context.

My welcome lunch with much of the Delhi office

Me in front of a hospital in Delhi where they are using CommCare in the maternity ward. 

Yep.

Me at Humayun's Tomb

Look in the mirror for a tiny me riding in a moto rickshaw 

Yep.

There was construction everywhere I went. These little guys were at every work site. Caterpillar has nothing on them.


This is me in front of a hospital in Rajasthan where CommCare is being used in the diagnosis of Diabetes, Hypertension, and Depression.

Sunset in the lovely Hauz Khas Village park in Delhi

Sravan and me in the kitchen of the Dimagi flat where he is always whipping up something gourmet.

From the roof of the Dimagi flat in Delhi you can see these amazing trees.

Here's a little something I wrote from there when I was up all night with the heat and my stomach:

Sravan is doing his best to take care of me. He really is. But if you’ve met me (and let’s face it my blog audience is pretty much just my mom, so you have) you know he’s fighting an uphill battle.

Sravan is a Dimagi engineer who lives in the flat in Delhi where I’m staying. He came to fetch me from the airport and has been doing his best to walk with me to work and back and keeps cooking food and offering it to me.

He really is amazing. This morning (Saturday) he was up early reading “Introduction to Special Relativity”. He’s this kid that just graduated from Engineering Physics from IIT Delhi from a rural village. Check out his bio. He seems to know almost everything and is figuring out the rest. He’s taught himself to be a gourmet cook watching youtube videos. He’s always offering me some kind of help or support. (Nick Hamlin, Miki Vizner, you two would both love Srav instantly like the long lost brother he is from your tribe.)

But you know I’m like a three year old who wants to do it BY MYSELF! Everything has to be by myself. (One part loathe of ever seeming dependent on any other person, one part antisocial.) So I’ve been working hard to master the route between the flat and the office and also where to buy anything I need so that I don’t need any help. Srav is always making some amazing dal and offering it to me. He is a bit perplexed by my making a meal out of ramen and biscuits. It is hard to explain. He makes me strong Indian coffee and convinces me to get a delicious chai on the street. (It was 38C/100F and we were walking to work and he said “Do you want a hot chai?” and I said “No I’m okay.” and he said, “We’ll just get some then.” And we did. And it was delicious. And it really didn’t make me any hotter. It was 10 rupees (about 16 cents).

The flat is really nice. There are ceiling fans and three big bedrooms for the full time residents and two washrooms with water heaters for the shower. (Not that you need them this time of year. It’s been over 104F/ 40C every day I’ve been here so far.) There’s a well-stocked kitchen for Sravan to cook in and a housekeeper who straightens up after us and does the laundry. We have wifi. There are some small shops and fruit stands nearby.

Shops in Delhi have pretty much anything you would need. Familiar brands of everything. (Ragu, Oreos, Pantene, Colgate.) One liter of Coke is 55 INR, (about 86 cents). Doritos are easy to find here and 200 INR a big bag (about $3.14). I haven’t seen a Snickers yet, but when I do, I’ll know how to price my own ‘basket of goods’. (Ed note: 38 rupees / 60 cents) It seems like it would be an easy place to live. Delhi is great. I’m enjoying the trip. I have some other thoughts that started while I was walking around the city, maybe darker thoughts, but they’re really not about Delhi. A future post I guess… Stay tuned.

So far my impression of the new job is that it’s filled with these nice geniuses. Everyone here is being warm and kind and is really impressive. They all speak a ton of languages and have a bunch of degrees and I keep hoping they don’t realize I don’t belong… I’ve been onboarding and learning tons of processes: their sales process, the pricing model, application customization and design. Every day they bring in some amazing catered lunch and the whole office eats rice, and roti and dals and yogurt and some other delicious items I’ve been told the name of lots of times but can’t quite retain.

On Friday I got to go on a fascinating project visit. The project is a pilot funded by Grand Challenges Canada to improve outcomes for maternal health by tracking antenatal care and labor and delivery care in a maternity ward on an app on a samsung tablet, rather than these crazy giant (ex-colonial) registers where they record everything now. We went to Jamia hospital, in the maternity ward and saw the nurses recording details in the custom app. Patient name and medical history, risk factors, maternal and fetal heart rate and all the elements of a ‘partograph’. A partograph records data like dilation, contraction frequency and severity and location of the fetus and can provide decision support. It makes a lot of sense to me that a tool like that should be in an app and not on paper. It is faster for the nurses to complete and then of course there can be reporting and data analysis afterwards. There are so many factors that influence maternal health outcomes, so this is only a tiny piece of the puzzle but it does seem like a step forward.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

This Time Tomorrow...

So. It has been a long winter. But DC is gorgeous now. It's sunny and 72. DC has this beautiful crisp season of spring for about two weeks before the sticky, humid summer sets in and this is truly it. The cherry blossoms are blooming:




So that has me in a good mood but I'm also so excited about the NBA playoffs. This year looks set to be one of the best playoffs of my entire life. Every single opening round playoff series in the west has riveting big stars. The Spurs won 17 of their last 18 and are THE 6 SEED. And the 'weak east' has the historically good Spurs East (Hawks) and a juggernaut in Cleveland with the best player in the NBA and also a rejuvenated LBJ.  It's all gonna be amazing. It's the best time of the year. (Predictions: Spurs over Warriors in the west, Cavs over Hawks, finals goes Spurs repeat if they are still healthy and Cavs if not.)

My favorite TV series of the last few years just wrapped up. Justified was a great ride and I was team Boyd all the way. I'm working on a fan fiction alternative ending where Ava shot him just to get away from Raylan and they are reunited and run off Bonnie and Clyde style. I'm just a romantic.

Speaking of romance, the new season of Louie is already incredible and Pamela's description of life a la carte has me optimistic about the state of the human race for the first time in decades.

But tomorrow I'm going to New Delhi. New trip for a new job. I was offered a truly wonderful opportunity at one of the coolest companies I'ver ever heard of and I'll be joining Dimagi, a Cambridge based social enterprise that delivers open and innovative technology to help underserved communities everywhere. They're best known for CommCare a truly revolutionary mHealth platform. So I'll be moving to Cambridge and spending some time traveling to their projects and offices around the world. I'm so excited to see New Dehli and meet some members of my team and dive right in to some exciting work where I can leverage my technology delivery experience from the Accenture days. Check back in this space for photos and experiences from my first trip to India soon.

I'll miss my friends (and still believe in the mission) at GlobalGiving. (Thanks to them for the fun send off!) Dimagi is in the same universe and I expect I'll still cross paths with folks from that organization. It's a busy time and I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

6 Futures Update - The Wonders of a Gap Year!!!

For every generation, there's a gap?

You remember this picture:
Top row L-R: Claude, Maurice and Innocent
Bottom row L-R: Serge, Pacific and Du
and maybe this post about those six young men.

These were my top six students at ASYV. We worked together a ton and I really love these kids. They're being very serious in these official photos, but I remember them more like this:
Serge, Pacific, me, Innocent, Claude & Du.
(Maurice typically not pictured because, as always, he is behind the camera.)
So last year I told you that one of these six students received a full Scholarship to McGill University in Montreal (Innocent in the top right). I also told you that Pacific (bottom center) and Claude (top left) were accepted into a gap year program called Bridge2Rwanda.

Well a gap year does wonders. Five (5!) of these six students now have full scholarships to universities abroad! I am delighted for them all.

Thanks to support from Bridge2Rwanda and mostly their own hard work, Pacific (bottom center) will be attending Texas Christian University in Fort Worth Texas & Claude (top left) will be attending the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY.

Always resourceful, Maurice and Serge both found their own gap year programs. Serge was working with a program at the US embassy and will be joining Innocent at McGill University as a MasterCard Scholar. I am so glad they will be there together. Maurice was in a film internship program supported by the German government (? sure, why not?) and will be joining Immaculee & Jeaninne as a MasterCard Scholar at Arizona State University where he will major in film production. Maurice is going to fit right in and I can get regular reports from Macky & Jeaninne like the overprotective mother hen I have become.

Du, (bottom right) is still in the process of applying to Ashesi University in Ghana and I know he won't let up until he finds a program where he can succeed.

The resilience of these kids never ceases to amaze me. There have been a lot of “No”s on this journey but they kept pushing and fighting and this determination has been rewarded with some pretty huge opportunities.  I can't want to see how they use these chances.

Spring Break in PR and other late winter updates

Waaaay overdue for an update here. Sorry. I've been hella busy.

I spent some time in Rincon, PR with my sister at the end of March. I cannot recommend it enough. Great time. Beautiful beaches & snorkeling. Bioluminescent Bay. Yoga by the sea. Easy peasy.
View in front of our beach house
View in front of our beach house

Lindy and Kate being cute

Selfie at the beach

Lindy gamely struggling under the weight of an island

On February 9th my friend Sarah had a tiny baby, Nathaniel. They are both doing great:


Also in February I went with my friends Heather and Annie to Tucker’s organic farm in New York to see the chickens, goats and Tucker’s daughter Kai. It was a blast to get the band back together again.

Tuckaer and Kai in the cool log cabin on the farm they call home
On the way home we swung by Brooklyn for some brunch and saw some more of the old guard (and Allie's two gorgeous girls).
This is a great starting 7. In 2005.

I also got the chance (at a work outing) to bowl in the Truman Bowling Alley below the old executive building. They have a photo up there of Nixon bowling across the line.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Paid in Full

Back in the darkest days of Application Boot Camp I was exhausted and dejected. We were working 18+ hour days, trying to complete lengthy web forms while the power cut on and off at random. These kids were geniuses, but really struggling with western style questions like First Name, Last Name, Address (no one in Rwanda has an address) let alone calculating family income in Rwandan Francs and completing applications for admission to the university, separate scholarship applications, and applications for aid. Not to mention certified academic results, certified statements of vulnerability and in some cases translations as well as letters of recommendation. Just completing one application for one kid was a marathon.

Then there were the odds. We were competing against all the applicants in sub-saharan africa (untold thousands) for about 100 spots at the few MasterCard Scholarship schools that didn't require us to submit SAT results. And what was I doing anyway, getting these student's hopes up? Working these kids so hard to get all the applications in, and then when no one got one they would be disappointed about their prospects in Rwanda. Just another person letting them down. I was talking a lot about hopelessness and futility.

Avi, a fellow cousin working at the school is an optimist for no good reason. He offered me a wager that at least one of the kids would receive a scholarship. If not, he would make me a full restaurant style dinner. If one of the kids did get a scholarship, then I cook. Now this wasn't really a fair bet. He can cook and as you know, I prefer to eat out, but at the time, it felt like a safe bet. Always up for gambling, I agreed.

Now we know that four of my students were awarded MasterCard scholarships and three more were admitted to a gap year program (Bridge2Rwanda) and they all got scholarships this year. (Congrats to Claude who will be at University of Rochester, Pacific who will be at TCU and Peace Grace who will be headed to Agnes Scott College.) So that's 7 of the 20. (And Maurice, Serge and Julien are still trying.)

So, it's high time for me to pay up.  We set a date for me to go to Brooklyn and make Avi dinner.

I'm not afraid of much. I'm happy speaking in front of large groups, eating spiders and goat brains, and running hill sprints in the snow. But trying to follow a recipe makes me sweat.

I settled on a menu: Ceviche, Chimichurri Beef and Flan.

Ceviche tastes good and you can't over cook it, (because lime juice does that). Chimichurri Beef is delicious and Flan was a dessert I liked that fit with the Argentine-themed courses.

I had tried to make each of the recipes a few times on their own. There were burns (both me and the beef). Smoke alarms rang. The neighbors upstairs stopped by to see what was going on. I had to flush my eyes with water for 20 minutes after a mishap with the Ceviche once and considered a trip to the ER. It was rough. I had never tried to make them all on one day.

I got up early and took the Amtrak to NYC. As soon as I arrived I got Avi's keys and went to his apt to start shopping. 

First I made the flan. This is me caramelizing sugar (which can go terribly wrong in a flash):
You can see me in the reflection of the tea kettle.

The flan cooks in a water bath. This was really tricky and had caused a number of sticky spills in the practice rounds until it was explained to me (thanks Scott & Nicole) to put the pan in the oven and *then* fill it with water.


The Ceviche

The Marinated Beef

Avi & the Wine

Plated Chimichurri Beef over Arugula

The Flan turned out
So in the end it all worked out. Everyone lived. No one got food poisoning. Two bottles of Argentine Malbec probably helped with the positive review. If I ever have to cook again (and let's hope I don't) this is what you're getting.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work

Happy Holidays! It’s hard to believe this is the 11th edition of my annual holiday letter. I hope this one finds you and your loved ones happy, healthy and at peace.


I spent almost all of 2014 in Washington, DC. (Alert: Wanderlust warning is high.) You know, when I moved to Rwanda for a year in 2013 I was ready for culture shock, and there certainly was a lot to learn, but the real culture shock has been coming home and living in DC. It is pretty amazing what we all take for granted every day and I have a lot less patience than I did before for people complaining that their latte order is not quite right or their steak is closer to medium than medium-rare. Deal, people!


I spent the the first four months of 2014 looking for a job and really did not enjoy that, which I’ve documented here with a few tips and suggestions (mainly to avoid the process at all costs if you can help it).
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Chilling in my backyard in DC in February
That search ended with my accepting a position at GlobalGiving! GlobalGiving is the first and largest global crowdfunding community for nonprofits and I’m excited to bring my years of working on the internet to the nonprofit field. Working at a nonprofit is very different than I ever could have imagined and feels in some ways like an even bigger culture shock than working at a youth village in Rwanda. What I love most about my job is that my efforts go towards supporting amazing community based organizations around the world like APOPO’s Hero Rats finding landmines and diagnosing TB in Tanzania, XS Project working to improve the lives of the trashpicker community in Jakarta, or the Warrior Canine Connection training adorable puppies to be service dogs for our veterans in need. (I can’t fail to mention my favorite ever project, a certain youth village in Rwanda.) These organizations are doing important work, and if I help them at all, everything I do is worth it.


Not a sponsored endorsement (I promise!) but if you are still thinking about annual giving, please check out our site. With more than 3000 individual projects fundraising, you are bound to find one that aligns with your interests and is doing amazing work. (Added bonus about my job: I get to bike to work most days, which I really enjoy and my route takes me past the Supreme Court, the Capitol and the White House.)


I’m so excited to share the biggest development of the year: last year’s holiday letter had a bit of  a cliffhanger. I told you about our how I was supporting some students from the school where I had worked in their search for university scholarships and our efforts studying for the TOEFL and ‘application boot camp’. In early 2014, while I was looking for a job I was also still editing essays and checking with universities to see if required documents had been received. I am so thrilled to tell you that for four of those students that effort has really paid off! This spring we learned that these students were awarded full MasterCard Scholarships: Innocent to McGill, Libia to UBC in Vancouver and Immaculee & Jeannine to Arizona State University. (Three more students from that same class have received scholarships this November though their efforts at Bridge2Rwanda. Congrats to Claude, Peace Grace and Pacifique!) In November, I went to ASU to check on Immaculee & Jeaninne and they are really adapting well and enjoying school.


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Me at ASU visiting Immaculee & Jeaninne
Oh and I had a relatively minor toe surgery in February which had me off ultimate and running for about 6 months which, if you talked to me at all this year, you know I more than made up for by whining and whining and whining about it. It is all fine now and I’m back to running but mostly retired from disc. I did play Sectionals and Regionals this year with a wonderful bunch of ladies from Philly, Breakfast Club, and we won (the party).


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Epic Halloween with Sussman. I'm mummified on the right.
In March, I saw my nieces Kate and Lindy both dance at the Rainbow Dance Company annual modern dance concert in Raleigh, NC. They are both doing well in life and in school. Kate has her driver’s license now, so stay off the roads if you are in the Raleigh area.
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Lindy and Kate, aren't they cute?
I did make a few quick trips to NYC throughout the year for job interviews, to volunteer at the annual Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village Gala Fundraiser and most recently to represent GlobalGiving and attend a panel at the UN on the psycho-social response to the Ebola epidemic. I really need to get up there more often.


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Innocent and me at the ASYV Gala in NYC in May
In November, I spent #ThanksGambling14 with my extended family in Louisville, KY. In what has evolved into something of a tradition, my aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins all bundle up and head out to Churchill Downs and watch the races on Thanksgiving day. It was wonderful to see everyone. For Christmas, as usual, I’ll be in Raleigh to see my Mom, Sister, Brother-in-law and Kate & Lindy.


Looking forward to 2015, I’m planning to make some more college visits and hopefully get back to traveling internationally again. Please let me know if you pass through DC. (I’ve got a partial season ticket plan for the Wizards and I’m pretty excited about watching John Wall ball in the East this season.)


As always, I hope you enjoy my holiday letter and don't find it too obnoxious.  You can 'opt out' by sending an email asking to be removed from this distribution list. For those of you looking for more frequent updates, you can find me online at http://courtneyspondence.blogspot.com/ and @CourtneyMFK on Twitter.


Happy New Year!  May your 2015 be joyous and peaceful.
~Courtney
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Arizona in November

So, this is overdue, but as you've noticed I haven't been blogging much this year.

In November, I went to Phoenix, AZ with Keri Dorko to see two students from ASYV that received full MasterCard scholarships to Arizona State University and to hike in Sedona. It was great to see Immaculee and Jeaninne and they are fitting in well in school and seem fantastic. It was wonderful to see them.

Sedona is beautiful and like I always do (see previous posts on Wilson's Prom and Zanzibar) I mused on what it would take to stay there forever.

I'll just add a few photos and leave it at that. Working on the xmas letter now and this is old news anyway:
Immaculee in front of her dorm room


Me, another MC Scholar from Rwanda, Immaculee and Jeaninne on the ASU campus near the library

Me in on a 12 mile hike in Sedona where we stopped for lunch

Keri being sun safe on the hike


Friday, December 19, 2014

Kafkaesque Bureaucratic Health Care Nightmare - HELP!

(Ed note: Sorry it's been a while. I've been quite busy with the new job. I need a place to publish and tweet to the anguish that this 'Kafkaesque Bureaucratic Health Care Nightmare' has become.)

Courtney M. Kelly
614 D St. NE Apt. B
Washington DC 20002
(917) 405-5829
courtneymkelly@yahoo.com


December 19, 2014


United Healthcare
PO Box 30555
Salt Lake City UT 84130-0555


To whom it may concern:


My name is Courtney Marie Kelly (DOB June 2, 1976).  My member ID is XXXXXXXXX. My Health Plan is (XXXXX) XXX-XXXXX-XX. My group number is XXXXXX.


I am writing to formally protest that my medical claims are being rejected for OI (other insurance).  I have had health insurance only from UnitedHealthcare from July 1 2014-present. I have attempted to clarify this with my previous health insurance provider, Kaiser Permanente on multiple occasions, as I will detail below.


I received health insurance from Kaiser Permanente (KP) purchased through DC Health Link, the Washington DC Health Insurance Marketplace. I was insured by KP from February 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014.


I started a new (full time) job on May 12, 2014 with GlobalGiving.org, and this employer provides health insurance (through United Healthcare). My insurance through United Healthcare became effective June 11, 2014.


I called Kaiser Permanente (KP) (877 608 0077) on June 24, 2014 to cancel my health coverage. I was informed by the KP representative (Adelpho) that KP could not cancel my health insurance because it was purchased through the exchange. On that same morning (6/24/14) I called the DC Health Link (855 532 5465 & spoke with agent Keisha at 9:24 AM, call record: S-165-414-478) and cancelled my health insurance, completing a disenroll order effective June 30, 2014. (I have paid all my monthly premiums to KP through June 2014.)


On August 13, 2014 I called KP again to confirm the disenroll order had been processed. I spoke with agents Arielle and Tiffany. I was told my coverage was still active in the system. I was repeatedly told there was no escalation point and no one I could speak with because I came through the exchange. I asked that they at least record my attempts to cancel in the call record and they refused saying that they could have nothing to do with an account that was purchased from the exchange. On that same day, I spoke with a DC Health Link agent again (Keisha, call record #S-167-749-611). She assured me the June 30th 2014 suspension had been processed and noted in my record that I contacted the carrier.


On September 4, 2014 I again called KP to confirm the disenroll order had been processed. Again, I was told I was still active in KPs system and no one could complete a disenroll action because I came through the exchange. I requested any kind of escalation or assistance and was told that none was available. Again, on that same day I called DC Health Link and spoke with Nyisha (call record: S-168-688-788). She confirmed the disenroll process was complete and had been “acknowledged by Kaiser Permanente on August 19, 2014”. At this point, I was satisfied the matter was finally resolved because DC Health Link had a record of Kaiser Permanente acknowledging the disenroll order.


In November and December I began to see my health care claims denied by my health insurance provider United Healthcare (UHC). These claims were denied for “OI, Other Insurance”. I called UHC several times in November and December to have these claims processed and explained that I had no other insurance and I had disenrolled from Kaiser Permanente in June of 2014. On December 15th 2014, Sharon G, the agent from United Healthcare explained to me via chat session that at this point to have these health care claims processed, I need a certificate of creditable coverage from Kaiser Permanente to show the start and end dates of my coverage.


On December 16th, 2014 I called the DC Health Link again (and spoke with Angela at 9:19 AM) who once again confirmed that my disenroll statement had been acknowledged on August 19, 2014 by Kaiser Permanente. Angela informed me that she would resubmit the termination request, confirming this was back-dated to June 30, 2014. I requested a physical letter or fax confirming this request and was told by Angela that this was not possible, that DC Health Link could not provide this per HIPPA requirements.


Also on the morning on December 16, 2014 I again called Kaiser Permanente (301 468 6000) and spoke with agent Seisey who again told me that I was active in the KP system and that there was nothing she could do to help me. She transferred me to Denise in ‘KCC internal department’ and both Denise and Seise said ‘As soon as I head DC Health Link I can’t do anything.”


So  I am trapped between these three health care systems. Please assist me. I am writing to request that all my medical care claims that have been denied for ‘OI’ be resubmitted. I have not paid any KP monthly premiums beyond June of 2014. From July 2014 to the present, UnitedHealthcare has been my only health insurance provider and it is unfair and unacceptable that I am being punished and charged for health care services that are covered under my current UHC plan because  Kaiser Permanente is too incompetent to process my dis-enrollment. As my health insurance provider, I trust you to treat me fairly and not punish or charge me for the unfair business practices of Kaiser Permanente.


Rest assured that I have sent a similar letter (and fax) seeking redress from  Kaiser Permanente, and to DC Health Link.  However, the resolution of this matter is entirely in your hands, as you are my only health insurance provider and should process my claims as such.


If you have any questions or concerns with this matter please call me at 917.405.5829 or email me directly at courtneymkelly@yahoo.com or postal mail it to me at:
Courtney M. Kelly
614 D St. NE Apt. B
Washington DC 20002


Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I will fax, mail and blog post this letter in an effort to resolve this matter.


Sincerely,
Courtney M. Kelly



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Reflecting on the Job Search Process

Some Stats:
  • 17 Informational interviews (8 in person in DC, 9 on the phone)
  • 10 Physical business cards collected (I had no idea this practice from the 80s was still in use.)
  • 9 different online placement services registered for (This is a complete waste of time and never generated even one lead.)
  • 57 Cover letters written / resumes sent for posted positions
  • 9 Screening/ first interviews
  • 4 Lengthy exercises completed after screening interviews (3 of which led to offers)
  • 23 Total job interviews (13 in person, 10 on the phone/Skype)
  • 5 Job offers (3 Interview processes terminated after I accepted an offer.)
  • 86 Days of Job Search (27-Jan-14-wrote first cover letter to 23-Apr-14-accepted offer)
Ratio of First Interviews to Applications: (9/57) 16%
Ratio of Offers to Applications: (5/57) 9%
Ratio of Offers to First Interviews: (5/9) 55%

So from the 'stat shot' above my main conclusion is that I had a pretty low conversion rate for my applications, but once people met me, I had a solid conversion rate from interview to offer.  Maybe my cover letters were crap.  I tried hard.  I do not know.  (Part of the reason is that the app number is a bit inflated because in the beginning I was applying for some jobs I was not quite qualified for.  I now think that is a complete waste of time.  For every job posting they will get 1 zillion qualified applicants, why would they even look at an applicant missing one of the desired qualifications?)

Anecdotes:
  • Of the 5 offers I ultimately received, I had an introduction or some kind of connection for 3 and the other 2 were cold, unconnected applications.
  • In interviews people only asked me about my time at Accenture, even though I left there in 2009.  The work I did for a small agency was irrelevant, despite being essentially the same.  Big firm management consulting experience is viewed as some kind of talisman.
  • HR screening interviews are absurd, because the girl from HR (always a girl) does not understand the job you have applied for, and could not perform it, but attempts to assess your ability to fill the position.
  • HR/Recruiting personnel are the club bouncers of the job application process, irrelevant and drunk on their own power.
  • I still CAN NOT BELIEVE how many people were willing to meet me for informational interviews. It is shocking. It is a waste of their time.  And yet they agree.  Distant connections and friends of friends spent an hour with me on the phone or even in their office.  NO ONE I asked for an informational interview said no.  Not a single person! I met VPs, Directors and in one instance, a CEO.  My only rationale for this is that the HR/recruiting prices is so broken that meeting people and expanding your network is the only way to identify and hire quality resources. If I were billed for the 17 hours of informational interviews I got for free from senior resources, the value would be over $10K.  It is shocking to me that this is the natural course of events.
  • Some recruiting blogs will tell you that even when interviewing in this era of business casual, "Dress for Success" is still required.  That is complete BS.  I was always overdressed for my interviews in a dress and matching cardigan from Banana Republic with low heeled 9 West pumps. At least in the non profit space, casual clothing was the norm and I was a weirdo that escaped from a Talbots or Ann Taylor catalog. Dress young and hip if you can pull it off.
  • Devex are a bunch of jerks that wouldn't let me PAY to come to a job fair because I wasn't DEV enough.  Well, I got a job in the field anyway and you guys can GTH if you ever want anything at all from me.
  • Jobs posted on job boards like Idealist get 1 zillion applicants per position.  Identify 20 or so companies you want to work for and look at their online internal job posting page to find roles you qualify for.  Many of the postings on job boards have already been filled or are no longer current.  Check the company pages for new postings regularly and apply ASAP for roles you are 100% qualified for.
  • I was notified that my LinkedIn was viewed by almost everyone scheduled to interview me, so worth it to make sure that everything there is scrubbed and shiny.

Searching for a job is the worst, most soul crushing experience. Every single day of it I was sure I would never work again.  You can't even get a job bagging groceries any more (at least in DC the Giant is self-bagging).  I was sitting in my basement firing off cover letters that felt like messages in a bottle from a desert isle. It felt hopeless and impossible.  It was hard to see I was making progress.  I HATE asking for favors and sorting through my LinkedIn for friends of friends I hadn't talked to in years to ask if they would introduce me to someone at their company seemed soooooo transparent and self-serving.  I was ashamed.  I owe SO SO SO SO SO many favors now. If I can ever help anyone to get a job so help me I will do anything I can do.

Interviews are complete agony.  I struggled to find a balance to describe my accomplishments so I did not sound like a pompous ass and also so I did not sound like pathetic loser who has never achieved anything.  Confident but humble?  Principled but flexible? It is an exercise in contradictions. It is a hard tone for me to strike.

I owe so many people thanks for help with informational interviews but also advice and help with the agonizing self-loathing and indecision the job search brings. "Should I use a colon or a comma here?" with the implication that the right answer gets me the job and the wrong answer loses it.  Maybe the course of my life hinges on if I save this file in .docx or .pdf? So many of you listened to me complain about the job search, advised on clothing, helped with wording choices (managed or led?), discussed job options and supported me in one way or another.  THANK YOU!!

86 days seems like a terribly long time, but actually now I think that part of it is just a long recruiting cycle.  Just the other day (in May) I got an email asking to schedule a screening interview for a job I applied for in February.  It takes HR a while to pull all the resumes and sort through them.  The bigger the company, the slower they move. 

During those 86 days I worked pretty hard on the job search.  I was either researching job boards, writing cover letters, tuning my resume, completing exercises, emailing to ask for a connection to an informational interview and attending interviews (informational or aspirational). I did not do a whole lot of anything else, though I did take 3 days off and visit family in Raleigh at one point. I would say I spent over 60 hours per week on job search activities.

In the end, for the offer I accepted, I never actually wrote a cover letter.  I went in for an informational interview, mentioned a job that was posted on their website to ask if I was the type of applicant they were seeking, and was referred to a screening interview from that and went on from there. They met me before I was an applicant.  My second option though, and one I considered very seriously, was a complete cold call online application.  I sent them a PowerPoint in addition to my cover letter and resume addressing each qualification and function listed in the job posting and explaining how specifically I had already succeeded at that task. Maybe that is nerdy overkill, but it worked in that instance.

So, if you are thinking about changing jobs, my opinion based on this process is that you should get a new one before you leave your old one.  If you're between jobs, hang in there.  You are not alone and the situation is not as dark as it seems. Aim to connect directly at the peers and supervisors you would have at your ideal employers and avoid HR and recruiting as much as possible.  (Unless you were also in a sorority, then go nuts).