Meet our 2021 Innovation Interns
Young, talented innovators joined our team to support current and future projects. Here are their fresh perspectives and reflections on their experience.
Each Summer/Fall, the UNICEF Office of Innovation welcomes talented interns to lend their expertise in supporting our current and future projects. Over the course of three months, our 2021 interns have enriched our work and culture with their fresh perspectives, unique personalities, and creative ideas.
Instead of keeping them all to ourselves, we'd like to introduce them to the world — they have all the capabilities to make significant contributions to not only our work for children, but also toward solutions that could combat global issues we all face.
Ida Delphine, Full Stack Development Intern (Open Source), Venture Fund
Hello, you can call me Ida. I am currently studying Computer Engineering at the University of Bamenda in Cameroon. I love solving problems with code as well as getting more people into tech. In addition, I love working with a diverse set of people while sharing ideas and learning new things.
On joining the (Office of Innovation) madness: What really pushed me to get this internship was because it combines major interests of mine – web development and open source. I am always looking for ways to improve my web development skills so that I can break into the web development space. In addition, this was an opportunity for me to further contribute to open source and get to experience working in a huge organization like UNICEF. Furthermore, I love children and hope to live in a world where every child is safe, healthy, and able to achieve their dreams. I feel like working with UNICEF which is focused on children is my own little way to contribute to making the world a better place and to put a smile on a child’s face.
My mission: My role was a Full stack developer (open source focus) and I was in the Venture Fund team. I contributed to the front-end design of the UNICEF Inventory, which is a website for Open Source best practices recommended by UNICEF. I also took part in the open source mentorship of Venture Fund companies, attending the introductory calls with the Open Source Technical Advisor, Justin W. Flory.
My game plan: Most of the work I did was on the UNICEF open source inventory repository. The Open Source Inventory is a UNICEF Global Innovation knowledge base of best practices and resources for working and leading Open.
I started by making improvements to the UI of the open-source inventory and added a few minor features. Here are some highlights:
Added breadcrumb navigation at the top of the pages for easier navigation throughout the site especially as the site grows: https://github.com/unicef/inventory-hugo-theme/pull/5
Added Asciidoctor automatic table of contents for articles: https://github.com/unicef/inventory/pull/58
Enabled easy link-sharing of different sections of articles: https://github.com/unicef/inventory-hugo-theme/pull/7
Conducted an accessibility audit of the theme and improved the site’s accessibility: https://github.com/unicef/inventory-hugo-theme/pull/6
Added a button to export an article to PDF format: https://github.com/unicef/inventory-hugo-theme/pull/9
Added syntax highlighting to code blocks: https://github.com/unicef/inventory/commit/f0a8424e2023a956efb72ed8dbb3a29e1951fcba
Added news item to appear at the top of every page unless dismissed by the user: https://github.com/unicef/inventory/pull/66
Launched the UNICEF Drones for SDGs toolkit: https://github.com/unicef/drone-4sdgtoolkit/pull/6
The last and most interesting feature I worked on was the adding of the team profiles. This is simply a dedicated section on the inventory website that shows the innovation fund grantees and their work. The cool thing about this feature is individual teams have the ability to create their own profiles by submitting a pull request to the open source inventory and having information about their startup published on the site.
Check out the profiles of the different cohorts: https://unicef.github.io/inventory/cohorts/
I also had the opportunity to attend most of the open source induction calls which are part of the open-source mentorship program for the incoming blockchain cohort and as a result, I learned more about open source and its best practices.
A challenge I encountered: Initially, I had lots of challenges with Hugo, which is a static site generator and was used to build the site. It’s through this internship that I learned about it so I found myself reading lots of documentation, watching youtube videos, and at certain times I will reach out to the community when I got stuck simply because I did not understand certain aspects of this technology. Regardless, I managed to always figure things out which was so satisfying.
Stand-out memories: I really loved the Thursday deep-dive sessions where colleagues will share with everyone and give more insight about what they are working on.
Five words to describe my experience: Amazing, Insightful, Educational, Fantastic, Unforgettable
What’s next: I plan on continuing my education to get my Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering while working on impactful projects. However, I am open to internships and other awesome opportunities for students.
Kristina Tlusty, Design Intern
Hi there! I’m Kristina. I am a recent 2021 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where I studied Graphic Communications, and had the pleasure of working remotely with UNICEF’s Office of Innovation from my hometown in Minnesota.
On joining the (Office of Innovation) madness: Throughout college, I had various opportunities to apply my knowledge and belief in design to social impact projects. I wanted to continue that work while also learning new design practices and concepts to improve myself as a designer. The Office of Innovation overwhelmingly fit the bill: I’ve had the chance to practice digital product design, think within a human-centered design framework, and explore new technologies, all while contributing to UNICEF's worthwhile, important work.
My mission & game plan: I worked primarily with the Blockchain team as the design intern. I supported the design of various icons, illustrations, and pages within UNICEF’s Juniper, a suite of digital tools that help public sector organizations use cryptocurrency. The visuals are used throughout the tool as users manage their crypto assets and 1) are scalable across the tool and any potentially new pages or functions and 2) are transferable and open source-compliant, so that any graphics or pages are as effective for other organizations as they are for UNICEF.
I also had the chance to design with other Office of Innovation teams to contribute to their initiatives: various Innovation Fund campaigns, Project Connect’s internet-testing application, and Kindly’s testing and data contribution website.
A challenge I encountered: I came into the internship with little experience in digital product design and even less knowledge of the technologies that the Office of Innovation engages with.
My first task in nearly every project was to consult the knowledgeable people within the office (and Google!) to learn about what I was working on: What is blockchain? How do crypto wallets work? How do print design and digital design compare? Are there digital product design best-practices? How do I center the needs of the user in this project? What is technologically feasible for this project’s execution? This internship reminded me how big the field of design is and how exciting it is to always have a new discipline, skill, technology, or subject to learn.
Stand-out memories: Sitting outside a canoe outfitter cabin during a northern-Minnesota-wilderness vacation to access WiFi so I could tune into deep-dives from different people at the Office. I got some weird looks from passing canoers, but I couldn’t pass up such great opportunities to learn from the best!
Five words to describe my internship: Humbling crash-course in design.
Edil Baiyzbekov, Full-Stack Development Intern, DPG Team
Hi, I’m Edil!
I used to work as a video producer and data journalist in Kyrgyzstan. I mostly covered social inequalities, political and environmental issues. Then I moved to Ukraine and rethought my career. Now I am synthesizing my journalism background and software development skills to experiment with visual storytelling.
On joining the (Office of Innovation) madness: I wanted to implement my technical skills for social good on a global scale. And the project in the job description matched my passion for experimenting with data visualizations and storytelling.
My mission: I worked as a full-stack developer in the Digital Public Goods Alliance team. I supported developing an ecosystem for the discovery, development and implementation of Digital Public Goods (open-source software and open data for social impact). My main task was to create a visualization that shows the geographic scope of digital public goods.
My game plan: I developed an interactive, multi-layered, and easy-to-edit map visualization of the implementation of digital public goods around the world.The proposed idea was a simple map but I decided to add more dimensions of data and scrollytelling features. I also improved the validation of data for Digital Public Goods before it’s added to the database and helped the other team to improve its dashboard visualization. During the internship I improved my skills in software development and managing complex open-source code bases with interconnected repositories. I mostly worked on single projects before. But now I am confident in developing complex systems in teamwork.
Stand-out memories: The day I presented my prototype to the team, and everyone was excited!
Five words to describe my experience: Grateful for the exciting, inspiring and unforgettable opportunity.
What’s next: I will find a place in the tech industry where I can contribute to the better world in a creative way while keeping life-work balance.
Rachita Saha, Full-Stack Development Intern, Digital Public Goods
On joining the (Office of Innovation) madness: As a technology student, I was always looking for opportunities to expand my skill-set and get real-world software development experience. That’s how I came across Outreachy, a remote internship program for people from groups underrepresented in tech. I was excited about securing an internship with an open source community since they are extremely welcoming and encouraging and provide an opportunity to gain exposure, and produce quality code that helps people around the world.
After reading about the open source project of UNICEF OOI, I became deeply passionate about contributing to this community as it provided an opportunity to use my technical skills to contribute towards achieving sustainable development. Being selected as the first Outreachy intern at UNICEF was somewhat of a dream come true for me and it turned out to be one of best learning experiences of my life.
My mission: I worked as a full stack development intern in the Digital Public Goods team. During the internship, I developed the Eligibility Form, a web-based form consisting of 7-10 questions to help users quickly determine if their digital solution can be nominated as a Digital Public Good (DPG). If the user is eligible, they are directed to the submission form where they can fill out additional information. If the user is not eligible, the form provides them with pointers on how they could improve their solution in order to be eligible. You can check out the form at digitalpublicgoods.net/eligibility/ and the source code at github.com/unicef/publicgoods-scripts/tree/main/packages/eligibility. I also did some base work on the DPG Ask Project which aims to create a database to store the requirements of the DPGs and enable people around the world can contribute to them.
My game plan: In order to not feel overwhelmed by the amount of work, I broke down the project into smaller parts. I started out by developing an MVP with the basic functionality. I spent a significant amount of time understanding how users might interact with this application and researching best practices on building such forms. I read up on a number of blogs throughout the duration of the internship.
The next step was to integrate it into the existing website and brainstorm additional features to improve user experience. When the first version of the form was in place, I requested the communications team to test the form and provide feedback. This was followed by a number of improvements in the content as well as user workflow. I made it a point to communicate with my mentors every time I was stuck and not hesitate to ask questions, no matter how trivial they seemed.
A challenge I encountered: One of the most challenging parts of the internship was integrating the MVP of the form into the existing public digital public goods website. The codebase was spread out across four different repositories and seemed extremely intimidating at first. It took me almost an entire day only to set up and run the code on my local machine. The key for me was to read the code as many times as possible. I realized that after each reading, it became a little more clear. So after going through it quite a few times, I figured out how the existing code was working after which the programming part was relatively easy to work on. My mentors were also extremely supportive and promptly responded to all my queries.
Stand-out memories: My most cherished memory was the day I presented my work on the Eligibility Form to the entire team. The encouraging and supportive comments of the team made me feel proud of everything I had accomplished, all the knowledge I had gained and the contribution I had made to the open source community and towards sustainable development.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the Intern Onboarding Sessions where I got to interact with people working in various departments in the UNICEF Office of Innovation. Every person I met had a lot of interesting things to share.
Five words to describe my experience: Fulfilling, interesting, inspirational, exciting, memorable
What’s next: I will complete my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science Engineering and pursue a career as a software developer. I will continue to contribute to open source projects and I will definitely keep an eye out for more opportunities to work with UNICEF.