Meet Hui Wen Zheng (B.A Peace, Conflict and Justice) from Team Mozambique The mVacciNation Pilot
You are the Co-Executive Director of Global Spark. Can you tell us more about the non-profit and the work you do? Have you been involved in anything else since Reach you’d like to share?
At our core, Global Spark seeks to inspire and mobilize university students and young professionals from around the world in multidisciplinary global problem solving. Our international team of volunteers organize experiential opportunities such as Hack the Globe, our annual social impact hackathon which has partnered with the likes of BCG, Google, the WFP, the Gates Foundation, and more. We also seek to expand multidisciplinary education through partnering with university professors to incorporate more global perspectives and case studies (like the ones produced through Reach research!) into their curriculums.
How did your experience in Reach inform your career path [e.g., your case study focused on mVaccination pilot in Mozambique – how (if at all) did this impact you seeking an opportunity after graduating?
Our research on mVacciNation in Mozambique really highlighted the opportunities presented by the public-private partnership model, which is becoming increasingly relevant. Our case study definitely fostered my appreciation for the different roles and comparative advantages of each sector when tackling the SDGs and helped me realize that I could gain valuable perspective and experiences within the private sector that would still be conducive to a career focused on advancing social impact.
What takeaways or skills [personal or professional] did you gain from your Reach experience that you are applying to your work or study?
I like to believe that consulting is ultimately about conducting research as a means of solving a problem. As such, I am finding that many of the research skills I got to develop throughout my Reach experience are applicable on a day-to-day basis in my current role! Skills like how to develop a helpful and detailed interview guide, how to conduct interviews, and how to best code/distill insights from them are especially relevant. Also, seeing how the mVacciNation initiative scaled and gained critical mass in response to COVID-19 really showed me the importance of not discounting ‘failures’ as purely negative.
What is your fondest memory from your experience in Reach?
Though I have many fond memories of working with my team to conduct our research, I particularly loved the process of pitching and deciding on our case studies at the beginning of the year. Getting to research an initiative I cared about in-depth, and being challenged to present it to an audience of peers and faculty mentors in a compelling way was a great skill development and learning opportunity. It was also so interesting to hear about projects others were passionate about and eye-opening to see all the great social innovations out there. The coolest academic show-and-tell experience!
What advice would you give to researchers and alumni looking for professional development opportunities?
Keep an open mind, talk to people who are in interesting roles, and think about the skills you want to build and the experience you want to have! University really helped me define the topics and issues I care most about and want to work on, but what I ended up realizing was also very important is the type of work environment, learning opportunities, and people you get to collaborate with. Speaking to people who held positions outside of those I initially considered helped me gain perspective on what would fit my interests and goals as I began my career.
What tips or words of encouragement would you give to someone who is interested in applying to the Reach initiative?
At Reach, we have the unique opportunity to conduct research with a deliberately multidisciplinary team. I would encourage those applying to lean into your difference in perspective and embrace the unique point of view you are bringing to the team, while also staying curious and mindful of how to collaborate with and learn from the ideas brought by others.
Since Reach, how have you stayed connected with your fellow team members and/or researchers?
Absolutely! We are so lucky to have such a great network of peers and faculty mentors from the research experience, and equally lucky to have a dedicated and warm team of Reach staff who organize opportunities for us to reunite. Though I wasn’t able to make it to the Symposium in-person this year, I had a great time participating in a discussion and cheering on and learning from my fellow researchers as well. I am definitely looking forward to the next social!