Hello WOW bloggers. A month has past since my last post, meaning that I have, amazingly, already passed the half-way point in my internship with Fundacion Paraguaya. I am very fortunate to say that, in this time, I have found my niche in terms of my work; that is, I have really been enjoying what I have been doing on a daily basis. After switching my area of work from the micro-finance office to a department that focuses on business education called “Educacion Emprendora”, I have been learning in ways that reinforce many of the learning goals that I outlined prior to my internship.
Within the “Educacion Emprendedora” program, I am specifically working with Junior Achievement – an international program that helps high school-aged children in groups of approximately 30 start and manage their own businesses for a year. The students work in groups referred to as the “company” to develop a product or service to offer, sell stock within the company to generate capital, purchase any necessary production equipment, develop a business plan, produce their product or service, execute public relations, and finally enter the local economy to sell. The defining characteristic of Junior Achievement is an emphasis on learning by doing; in other words, the students have the chance to put into practice the theory they have learned in the classroom. The program often an exciting experience, and students come to realize an intimate understanding of the issues executives face throughout the year by personally facing the challenges and questions that arise in various areas of the business such as marketing, production, human resources, etc.
To help guide the students in this process, each company receives a detailed program manual outlined with weekly goals as a guideline to complete, attends a day-long business organization session, and can access support from me and my co-workers whenever they have questions.
One of the aspects I have enjoyed most about my work is my ability to travel. On a typical day I will travel to a high school which can be located in or outside of the city of Asuncion. As one of my learning goals was to experience Paraguayan culture, these trips outside the city allow me to compare elements between urban and rural life. Even seemingly mundane elements such as riding the public transit open my view to larger cultural ideas.
When I arrive at a school, I work with the five elected executives of the highschool’s company and help them realize a detailed business plan. Together we elaborate their company’s fixed costs, costs per unit of production, equilibrium point, sales goals based on earnings per share, and more. By the end of our exercises, the company knows exactly how many units of their goods/service it must sell per month, per week, per day, and per person to reach their goal. While the process sounds complicated, the underlying concept is fundamental in nature; the objective is that each student learns the skill of breaking down seemingly overwhelming and complex goals into smaller, achievable ones, ultimately instilling in him the confidence that he can pursue any professional or personal goal.
Working within the program has been a learning experience for me as well. First, in addition to refining the above mentioned organizational techniques, I am continuing to deepen my understanding of entrepreneurship and managing a business. Second, one of the most important growth factors for me has been gaining more experience speaking Spanish. Through speaking, listening and interacting in Spanish frequently and in new contexts my comfort and confidence in the language is growing. Third, the most rewarding element of my job is feeling as though I am making a tangible difference in these students’ lives, especially after sessions when the students leave saying “I feel that I have really learned.” I am humbled to think that I am giving them some confidence, especially in the case where some children come from difficult backgrounds.
To be learning something new everyday is a gift, and I thank the WOW committee for this opportunity. Until next time!
– Brandon Frank ’14