When Do You Stop Being a Newbie?
In a week’s time, I will be completing my first quarter as a Field Manger at Dimagi. Given the myriad of things that I do as an FM, sometimes I feel like an old hand. And then there are times, when I ask questions about the simplest of tasks, like how to load multimedia for a CommCare app on a Java phone. When will I see that milestone that says ‘You are now exiting newbie zone’?
In these three months, I have travelled to Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Three states were for work. Gujarat trip was to meet friends and utilise the ‘work from anywhere’ policy. I planned that just after my maiden field visit. Did the newness wash away in waters of river Narmada?
On that first visit, I experienced the joy of helping an elderly field worker, learn how to type on a smartphone. The process of teaching has deepened my well of patience but, I am yet to be as engaging or creative a trainer as I could be. I empathise and try to explain well, but I still lose the unmotivated audience. You can then see NEW in big neon letters over my head.
In the second week of January, I was sitting in a village in UP, talking to ASHAs about what content will be useful for them besides their app. After the questions were done, the group shifted its curiosity to me. These were women with children and grandchildren, who were amazed to see a young woman like me travelling alone, that too in an aeroplane, to Delhi. How I caught that flight back is a story for another day. While sitting with them, I was as much at ease as I would be sitting with a bunch of college friends. Maybe this wasn’t a foregin environment, because I got acclimatized while moving from health center to health center in Haryana villages last year.
I came back to town and wrote some good reports on my formative research. All that reading in sociology and anthropology and participatory social assessment helped! But then I had to write a concept note about it and I stumbled. My supposedly formal document for an external audience read like a blog post. Bet my manager thought, “Never mind, she’s new”.
In February, my energy got channelled into assisting my manager in programme management. This led to tons of emails and Skype calls with several partners. A colleague remarked, “My inbox is full of you and you haven’t been here 3 months”.
Somewhere in these conversations, will come my epiphany. A ray of sunlight will shine out from the clouds, onto that white marble stone, that marks the end of newbie zone. Or, maybe in my cheer and joy of being on the Dimagi journey, I missed it on the side of the road. Looking for a Good Samaritan to help me find it.
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