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Creating Opportunity: An NGO Internship Experience in Ghana

Alex Borowiecki on a canopy walk

Alex on a canopy walk in the rainforest before remembering he hates heights

I spent my summer based in Accra, Ghana working for TechnoServe, an NGO which helps entrepreneurial men and women in poor areas of the developing world to build businesses that create income, opportunity and economic growth.  What this meant for my summer was working with a company, HPW, at their brand new (and largest in West Africa) fruit drying facility that had just opened up about 55km north of Accra replica watches uk.  I lived in a small village by the factory and spent all of my time at the company working on issues related to: operational layout, production scheduling, new sales channels, and accounting/finance.  It was challenging and encouraging being part of a new company that was providing employment and attempting to make a profit in a developing world business context. One of the most rewarding aspects of my time was putting to use a variety of concepts we learned RC year (i.e. product costing, market segmentation, and TOM stuff), in a really simple context (literally we were chopping and drying fruits), and seeing the success of their application.

  What was your position at the company?

Volunteer Consultant, although the people at my company just called me “obruni”, or “white foreigner”.

Why did you choose that internship replica breitling?

My Rwanda IXP experience opened my eyes to the tons of opportunities helping companies in developing worlds, so I applied to TechnoServe, which has a reputation as being a fantastic NGO that strives for results oriented success.  I felt the need to do something different, wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to take, so why not go to Africa?

 

Alex's summer office

Alex's summer office

What was the company culture like?

The company was made up of 85 Ghanaians, a Swiss agronomist as managing director, and me.  It was uniquely challenging to attempt to infuse business acumen in our conversations.

 What was the best part about working there?

Eating fresh mangoes and pineapples with every meal.

What part needed improvement?

No hot water, sporadic power outages, intermittent internets, dietary staples that consist of fermented corn, being woken up at 4 a.m. by restless roosters outside my window, hearing about Ghana beating the U.S. in the World Cup twice in a row.

What did you do before HBS, and how did your summer compare?

I worked for two years in a development rotational program and then spent another two years doing corporate finance at a fortune 500 company.   Needless to say my summer was mildly different.

Any advice for students who may want to follow in your footsteps?

Most NGO type internships are a little harder to come by and will most likely not come to recruit at HBS.   Be proactive and reach out to them.

Anything else?

Reach out to EC’s.  Other than creepily hitting on you at the Euro Retreat, we are good people, were literally in your shoes 365 days ago, and are a great resource for any internship queries you may have.

September 1, 2011
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