My name is Juliana Jacob and I am a Helpdesk associate with the IT Engineering and Operations team. I studied Mass Communication at Kogi State University and I am currently studying to earn my Masters in Public Relations at Bayero University, Kano. Up until January 2018 when I became an intern with the Helpdesk/ Network Operating Center at eHealth Africa, all I could think about was pursuing a career that would put me in the limelight and make me a household name.
Everything changed during my National Youth Service year in 2016. I worked at the Nassarawa Broadcasting Service (NBS) as a Radio/TV presenter but I had the opportunity to participate in a project as a data collector/ enumerator. I visited settlements in very remote and hard-to-reach locations and saw first-hand the deplorable state of health care in those communities. Many health facilities were dilapidated and had no vaccines or medicines. I decided there and then that I had to play my own part to improve healthcare for the people in such communities.
Someone told me about an eHealth Africa internship placement. I was immediately interested because eHA was a NGO and I knew it would give me the opportunity to touch lives in some way. I am not sure what I expected but when I found out that I would be placed with the Helpdesk/ Network Operating Center, I was worried. I didn’t see any similarities between my background in Mass Communications or my prior experience as an on-air person and working in Information Technology (IT). I had very little knowledge about IT or what it entailed, prior to this internship. My only experience with IT was a course that I took as an undergraduate student.
My time as an intern was the most challenging experience of my adult life but it was also the most enlightening. The Helpdesk is perhaps the busiest unit in the entire organization because it supports the delivery of all the projects in some capacity. We make sure that every team member has all the digital tools that they need to deliver their results. The helpdesk also functions as a customer call center and provides support, information, and solutions to eHA staff and partners. Working at the helpdesk helped me to internalize and exhibit the eHA values especially innovative problem-solving. In no time, I found that I had gained valuable skills such as interpersonal communications, and time and task management.
I have become familiar with IT terms and concepts—that I never thought I would encounter. I have fallen in love with IT and what is so amazing that I did not have an IT or tech background. Everything I know about IT and network operations, I learned from my team at eHealth Africa. Not only were they patient with me, but they also recommended several courses and seminars for my own personal development.
At first, I didn’t think that I could really be of any help to the communities with poor healthcare if I was not on the field or if I was not in the medical profession but my internship with the Helpdesk proved to me that everyone can do something to improve the quality of healthcare for vulnerable populations or communities. At eHealth Africa, everyone brings their strengths to the table and contributes their quota to achieve our mission and vision. We have staff who are not medical doctors or nurses but contribute to the improvement of health service delivery through their expertise in software development, logistics, construction or communications.
In February 2018, I became a full-time staff at eHA. One of the things I love most about eHealth Africa is that it focuses on applied knowledge rather than theoretical knowledge. To a large extent, what matters is getting the job done and not what you studied in school. This is why an intern with a Mass Communications background can become a full-time staff in one of the most technical fields in the organization.
My internship experience helped me to discover what I truly want to do career-wise. Even though my masters is in Public Relations, I have decided to pursue a career in IT. I am currently taking several online courses to attain some certifications in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). There are so many intersections between PR and ICT and I cannot wait to explore them.
I am truly grateful to my team and to eHA for this opportunity. If you are looking for an organization with bright, progressive people who are passionate about transforming health systems in Africa, eHA is definitely the place for you.