WHAT DO YOU DO?
I currently juggle a number of different global developments balls. At the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, I’m a PhD candidate in the Language and Literacy Education department. I’m trying to understand the literacy practices of out-of-school children in northern Ghana from the perspective of ten children and their communities. I invited these children to document their literacy through digital photography, and they produced an amazing 4,000 images, which I will use to explore questions of education service provision, complementary education and literacy. In addition, I act as an independent education specialist and consultant for organisations including Plan International, UNICEF, DFID and Victorian Curriculum & Assessment Authority. I’ve provided technical support to projects ranging from education in emergencies and safe schools in Indonesia to the digital assessment of languages in primary schools. Last, I’m the co-founder and Managing Director of WhyDev, an Australian non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting individuals and communities who want to get development right.
HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE?
Similar to most development professionals, I started in a volunteer role. Going back before volunteering, I studied as an archaeologist, working on dig sites in Australia and Uzbekistan. I followed this by entering the teaching profession, acting as a primary and secondary school teacher in China and Australia. While completing a Masters in Development Studies at the University of NSW, I took on volunteer roles at Centre for Refugee Research and ActionAid Australia, while working as a researcher and project manager at Macquarie University. I moved back to China, worked in a microfinance NGO and picked up consulting work on World Bank grant applications. Next, I took on a role as an education officer with UNICEF Ghana, in their field office in Tamale. My support of an education intervention for out-of-school children inspired me to pursue a PhD.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE IN YOUR FIELD?
If you want to work in education, study education. It can be in teaching, research or policy. A firm foundation is a technical one. Then, build on this foundation. Pursue volunteer opportunities that will expose you not only to education, but also to how organisations operate. Find opportunities to build your management skills and experiences. A technical background combined with management experience is a strong resume. This can be complemented through international (field) experience, which can best be gained by a willingness to go where others will not. Last, build an online presence through LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms.