Some Thoughts on Teach for America

17 06 2010

So I’d like to let you all in on what it’s like to work for Teach for America.  Even though I’m only an intern, I’ve been welcomed with open arms and my opinions are received with as much respect as a seasoned veteran of the digital team here.

I thought it might be helpful for me to at least let you know of a few things they do here that I think really helps the experience.  First, a few notes:

1.       this is a running list, not exhaustive.  I notice things on a daily basis, but I only want to mention things I think are neat or at all helpful.

2.       while these things make my TFA experience much better, they might not (and probably wouldn’t) work in every office.  Cultures are all different, and it’s my belief that TFA evolved into a culture that suits their mission and purpose very well.

So the first practice is warm fuzzies.  Believe me, I thought this was the dumbest thing ever when I received an agenda in my email and there were 5 minutes given to "warm fuzzies".  WARM FUZZIES!!!  But then they explained it to me: instead of starting a call slowly, with random conversation instead of getting down to business, they found it helps to have a structured "activity" to start the call.  The WFs are normally really basic, like "what was the best thing about your day today".  They do NOT use these on every conference call, but use them where appropriate, such as inner team calls.  Since so much of TFA works remotely, it’s nice to just go around the room, hear what people say, and then once that is over get down to business.  I feel like I have a better understanding of who the people are at the other end of the line, which I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Wouldn’t always work in a large company, with huge teams, but works nicely here.


The second is analytics emails.  What the hell are analytics emails?  Well our chief metrics/analytics person for the marketing team sends along a weekly email that breaks down a metric/statistic, and then explains what that means and how it could be useful for everyone.  This weeks email really caught my eye.  She discusses the percentage of visitors over the last month who subscribed to updates on the 2011 corps group, and the percentage who donated to TFA.  And then she proposes a question: What the heck is everyone else doing who visits the website??  Are they finding the information they are looking for?  She then dives into the "Task Completion Rate" statistic, and ways we might look to improve this.

I thought this email was so cool, since it took me out of the task I was working on, and got me thinking about big picture stuff for a few minutes.  If no one else has the big picture in mind or is thinking of solutions, then you aren't building a "team", you are building a group of people who simply do their task and then send it on it's way (like at a manufacturing plant).

Since I can't attach the actual email, I asked our metrics guru if she had any inspiration for her emails.  She says she loves a blog written by a guy named Avinash Kaushik.  Pretty crazy stuff.


The startup buzz around this place is pretty amazing.  When check to see if things like templates and best practices exist for a project I’m working on, the normal response is, “Nope!  Give it a stab and let’s work it out as a team!”  That type of response is thrilling to hear and empowering to act on.


just some thoughts – enjoy! (or not)


Posted via email from the Jeff Vincent blog




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