Today we spoke with Kayode (Class 39, Nigeria), one of our first Blended Fellows. After applying for the Atlas Corps Fellowship three times previously, Kayode reached semifinalist status in August 2019. His Fellowship looked different from what he had anticipated when he applied as the pandemic changed, but he remained adaptable.
Currently, Kayode serves as a Global IT Fellow for his Host Organization, Evidence Action, which is based in Washington, DC. He contributes security improvements to the team to ensure that the global nonprofit’s IT operations run smoothly.
Thank you so much, Kayode, for your inspiring story about how you navigated the application process and your fellowship while serving remotely!
Name: Kayode Yussuf
Home Country: Nigeria
Host Organization: Evidence Action
Role at Host Organization: Global IT Fellow
Social Issues that you have worked with: Social Entrepreneurship, Internet Privacy, and Safety Online
What was your motivation for becoming an Atlas Corps Fellow?
My motivation to become an Atlas Fellow was because I wanted to give my skills and knowledge to support organizations and communities that needed such skills. I believe that in the process of supporting those who needed my skills, I will get to learn new skills and meet new people who will become part of my network. I also wanted international corporate exposure that would kick-start the next phase of my career.
Back in Nigeria, I ran a tech company that served local customers, and we are getting to a phase where we can start serving the West African region. It was important for me to get international exposure. Finally, I was excited at the opportunity to learn new cultures and understand diversity. I am grateful to now have friends who are from or based in other parts of the world.
How did you start the Atlas Corps application? What are some things potential applicants should research before applying?
My selection process was an exciting year. It started by filling the application form. Funny enough, I had filled this same form for about three years, and I thought this was going to be the last time I would fill the form. It was a pleasant surprise when I got selected for the Atlas Corps interview.
At this point, I started doing a lot of research on Atlas Corps. I reached out to fellows via LinkedIn and thankfully, all of those I reached out to responded to me. All of their responses were similar. A quote from one of those I chatted with was ‘Be prepared to answer questions on what you do, how being part of the fellowship will impact what you do, your achievements, and why you want to be a fellow. The bottom line is to be yourself and own what you do.’
How did you navigate the final stages of the selection process?
Fortunately for me, the interviewer was someone who had visited Nigeria and had good knowledge of Nigerian culture and music, so we had more of a discussion than a tense interview. Of course, my interviewer asked me all the requested questions and I was able to answer the questions easily because I was not tense. I’d say that was the best interview I had ever had. With the flow of the interview, I was certain that I would be a semi-finalist so it was not a surprise when I got the email signed by Meredith, congratulating me as a semi-finalist. This was on the 7th of August, 2019.
One more hurdle to cross, I needed to be paired with a Host Organization. I had hoped to be placed with a Host Organization by January 2020, but as Atlas Corps fellowship slots are highly competitive, there was no slot for me till mid-2020.
How did you end up being paired with your Host Organization?
Finally, I got paired with Evidence Action and I needed to go through a last interview to confirm that I was a good fit for the organization. I remember researching the operations of Evidence Action, where they had their offices, their partners, etc. I also got a pre-interview document that showed the skills Evidence Action needed.
I was interviewed by the Director of Global Operations and my supervisor who is the Associate Director for Information Technology at Evidence Action. Both of them asked about my technical experience and my experience working with a diverse and remote team. I seem to impress them because, after that interview, I got the confirmation, I was going to serve at Evidence Action as Global IT Fellow.
What are you doing at your Host Organization? How did your position and role at Host Organization change based on serving remotely?
I serve as Global IT Fellow at Evidence Action. My role allows me to offer IT support the staff of the organization across the world. I manage the user identity system of the organization, contributing to structural and security improvements to Evidence Action’s systems. I am also working on documenting the IT processes at Evidence Action. This will guide the organization by serving as an on-boarding document for new IT hires.
How have you gotten involved with the Atlas Corps Fellow and Alumni community virtually?
I have been able to meet with fellows and alumni virtually in some coffee chats organized by my Atlas Corps program managers (Lizze and Zach). I am also paired with two of my classmates as accountabuddies. We meet virtually every month to discuss our successes, challenges and to hold each other accountable. The Nigerian fellows and alunmi have also been helpful, we are all connected via a WhatsApp group where we constantly communicate and share ideas. Finally, the Global Leadership Lab has given me the opportunity to meet with fellows and alumni.
When it’s safe and possible to come to the United States, what are you most looking forward to about the in-person part of your Fellowship experience?
I am looking forward to building social relationships and networking with thought leaders in the United States. I also look forward to meeting Atlas Corps fellows in Washington DC and my colleagues at my host organization so as to learn from their diverse cultures and most importantly, building new relationships.
Atlas Corps invites social change leaders from around the world to apply for our Blended and In-Person Fellowships and our Virtual Leadership Institute! Click here to start your application or learn more about our programs.