I wanted to take the chance to capture a glimpse into the deeply transformative impact our training has been facilitating in the lives of the WeCode women. We get these textures every day, but those who are focused on the back end infrastructure to enable the WeCode project often don’t get to see what is most beautiful (and motivating) about it.
To me the story of Consolee in particular embodies the values we are nurturing in this learning environment (We Seek Excellence, We Love Questions, We Fail Forward, We Win Together). Consolee was in our first cohort in September and October but really struggled because she was starting off from such a low level of English competency. However, she brought a lot of heart competencies to the work (positive attitude, grit/persistence), and as a result we saw great improvement across many of the competencies, as she challenged herself.
We could see that she was really coming alive and thriving in the safe environment of her team, which embraced everyone from different backgrounds and economic means. Consolee, was from a very low Ubudehe economic level. We could also see early on in the training that her low English was really handicapping her.
Although she completed both the Basic Work Readiness and Advanced QA & Project Management training, she failed to qualify to sit the October 15 ASTQB (international proficiency) certification) exam. There are some at that threshold who complain, protest, while there are others who (sometimes through tears) just say, “Next time I will get there."
During the internship that followed the training, Consolee was selected to be on a team that remained focused on ISTQB and English proficiency, and in fact, she was chosen as the Malayika (facilitator) to lead her team of learners during that four month internship. The internship required a high degree of self-organizing from the teams, especially those that were not selected to be on live Muraho client software testing projects but were given further learning objectives to pursue to further prepare themselves.
At the end of the internship, we assessed the teams according to the projects they were on, including the learning projects. Those who demonstrated they were persisting in learning during the internship were invited into the second cohort’s intensive two weeks of ISTQB training and coaching to try for the exam again.
Six of those who did not qualify to sit the ASTQB in October were invited to join cohort 2 Advanced training the first two weeks of March. All six of them qualified and sat the official ASTQB on March 18. Of particular note, Consolee’s marks during the mock exams were consistently at the top of the pile, and her English and confidence were also markedly improved (measured by questions and presentations). She shifted from one of the lowest mock scorers in round one to consistently scoring at the top. When we asked her what she had done during the internship in order to improve so well, she and her team reported that they helped each other set and keep their study goals (e.g. they committed to learn 15 new words every day, etc.). During this second Cohort training, we were constantly seeing Consolee helping newer students in the mixed teams to understand difficult concepts; they looked up to her.
Not everyone who was given that further opportunity of a paid internship after the training took advantage of it, or we would have had 20 from Cohort 1 join Cohort 2 ISTQB training. Some complained they had less formal training structure on internship; some gave up when they were not assigned to projects they wanted to be on, but some hunkered down and did the work together of on-going learning and earned a second chance.
I am purposely reporting this story of Consolee before we have received the results of her ASTQB exam (sometime later this week). She has already proven that it is irrelevant whether she passes the exam (this time). She and all the 6 embody a "not yet”, growth mindset and a fearlessness to fail forward. They’ve also demonstrated that they are worth hiring onto teams without this certification and that the intangible qualities like dynamic ongoing learning is one of the most valuable competencies to train and nurture in WeCode. Creating the safe environment that enables that learning for women is the most fragile part of what we do.
We hear firsthand many of the impediments these women have to overcome and when they do, we celebrate them. I just wanted to share this so you can join us in celebration of these amazing women. If GIZ wanted to give some kind of award for embodying the WeCode values, Consolee would be at the top of my pile, simply because she started further behind than most, climbed, failed, climbed again and got there, and led several up there with her.
Update on March 29, 2019: I can now add that Consolee passed her ASTQB and has CTFL after her name. Her life and opportunities are changed.
Dr. Michael Pucci