Q&A: Interning at Embark Energy

2014-07-28 15.33.56

Embark Energy- Mount Holyoke College interns, Norma Shindika and Eskedar Gessesse

Embark Energy is partners with Mount Holyoke College, a renowned liberal arts college in Massachusetts, USA, that has been educating women for an effective and purposeful engagement in the world for over 175 years. Through the college’s Lynk Universal Application Fund (UAF), it is able to send two individuals to Embark for experiential learning and a taste of the ‘real’ world. During the summer of 2014, Embark was pleased to have Eskedar Gessesse ’15 and Norma Shindika ’16, both students at Mount Holyoke. Here is a short Q&A with each of them about their experiences at Embark Energy.

Eskedar

Eskedar Gessesse, Social Media Intern

I am 21 years old and I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I am a rising senior, majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environment and Development.

What made you choose to intern with Embark?

I first learned about Embark through the Mount Holyoke International Internship Program and was instantly impressed with the organization’s goals and vision. Growing up in a developing country, I have witnessed the horrific effects of energy poverty and lack of access to clean and sustainable energy. When I saw that Embark works with local entrepreneurs in the renewable energy sector, it immediately sparked my interest to work with them over the summer. I also saw it as a great opportunity to learn how business incubators operate and to see the progress of small-scale renewable energy technologies.

What were your tasks at Embark?

My official title was ‘Social Media Intern’ and I mostly worked on Embark’s social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and the company blog. I wrote weekly blog posts on various topics and collaborated with a fellow intern (Norma Shindika) on a few write-ups for videos she was making for Embark. In addition to my regular tasks, I also visited a few local entrepreneurs that were affiliated with Embark and conducted interviews with them to gather information for my blog posts.

Do you feel that you made a significant impact on the local community/for Embark?

I do believe that I made a significant contribution to Embark towards achieving some of their goals. I worked tirelessly on my blog posts to ensure that people interested in issues relating to energy access were well-informed about the progress and challenges of the renewable energy sector. I knew that I had the important task of making sure local entrepreneurs, investors and other stakeholders looking at Embark’s website and Facebook page were accurately informed about what the organization is doing to support local renewable energy businesses. I was also able to shed some light on a few of the challenges in the clean energy sector and to create a platform for discussion through social media. Knowledge is power and I am pleased to have been involved in spreading awareness as much as I could.

What did you wish you knew before going to Arusha, Tanzania?

Before coming to Arusha, I made a lot of inquiries about the place to minimize any untoward surprises during my stay. I asked many people who had been here before about their experience and what they thought of the city. Hence, I arrived with some ideas about Arusha. However, I wish I had come with fewer expectations and greater openness  to challenges, especially during the adjustment period in the first few weeks.

Tell us about one person you met/worked with/an entrepreneur/ fellow intern.

Halfway through my internship at Embark, I had the privilege of meeting a brilliant entrepreneur named Rogath Kimario. He is a young entrepreneur who owns a medium-sized workshop in Arusha that develops cookstoves which are environmentally-friendly, and biofuels from Jatropha seeds. He gave us a detailed tour of his workshop and we saw what he and his co-workers make with simple machinery. Even though his entire tour was in Swahili and I did not understand him, his passion and dedication for his work was very much clear to me. What surprised and inspired me most about Kimario was learning that he had come to Embark not for financial support but to get training on how to run his business. This showed his drive for success and made a great impression on me that I will always remember looking back at my internship experience.

How has this internship impacted your future (personally, professionally, etc.)?

This experience has allowed me to see the challenges of small renewable energy businesses in remote areas. I learned that small local businesses need a bigger voice to compete with larger ones and attract more investors. I now believe that the best way to bring about change in a community is by providing support to the local residents, not in a form of aid, but in a way that allows them to earn their living and pursue their dreams. Interning at Embark has inspired me to pursue a career in the renewable energy sector and to focus on community development, for which I will forever be grateful!

 Norma

Norma Shindika, Video Intern

I am 20 years old and was born and raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I currently attend Mount Holyoke College in MA, USA. I am a junior majoring in Economics and French.

What made you choose to intern with Embark?

I chose to intern with Embark because I wanted to learn more about private financing. I thought this would be the ideal internship especially because it is in my home country and I could learn about the challenges that both entrepreneurs and investors face in such enterprises.

What were your tasks at Embark?

I was a video intern. I had to prepare and conduct a lot of interviews with entrepreneurs and to make promotional videos for Embark to use.

Do you feel that you made a significant impact on the local community/for Embark?

I helped Embark build their profile and promote their brand a little more aggressively. When it comes to the entrepreneurs, I do not think I actually made any significant impact. They really wanted to be financed and that was not something I was able to do. However, I will forever cherish all the interviews that I conducted. It was very inspiring to meet all the renewable energy entrepreneurs and to get to work with great people on the Embark team. I think it would be great for more interns to come and continue the work that my fellow intern and I have done.

What did you wish you knew before going to Arusha, Tanzania?

I had been to Arusha many times before so I knew a significant amount about the town. There were not many surprises for me.

Tell us about one person you met/worked with/an entrepreneur/ fellow intern.

I really enjoyed working with Lillian Ewaldy and Joshua Kabugo who were the Administrative Assistant (Lillian) and the Director of Operations (Joshua). I really liked that they were both young and yet working hard to achieve their career goals. It was nice and motivating to connect with the both of them on a more personal level. I was able to make professional connections and gained a lot of perspective about life and great career advice.

How has this experience impacted your future (personally, professionally, etc.)?

After interning at Embark, I now understand the numerous challenges that private financiers face. I do not think that I would get involved with private financing straight out of college. I would definitely take my time and get a job somewhere in corporate financing, specifically consulting because I would really enjoy it . However, I would love to work with social enterprises like Embark in the future. I think it is a great way to help the environment and communities.