The inaugural Change.org Fellowship kicked off at the end of October with five outstanding women joining our team in San Francisco.
The Fellowship is a six-month, paid opportunity for aspiring Product Managers and Engineers, specifically for people who have roots in or deep connections with communities that have faced discrimination or marginalization within the tech sector. We’re working to make sure that our workplace reflects the diversity of the communities that we seek to serve because it’s true that we’ve sometimes fallen short of the standards we’d like to live up to. As we continue to build a company that’s aligned with our values, this initiative aims to invest in pathways for a new generation of business and technology leaders.
We were thrilled by the incredible applications we received, which made our selection process that much more difficult (in the best way possible)! Ultimately, we welcomed Melissa Ng, Amy Galles, Emily Pascual, Ashley Zhao and Miranda Evans to our Product Development and Engineering teams.
It’s been four months since our Fellows began their journey with us. They’re up to speed on all things Change.org, having jumped right into their roles and even experienced the journey of a petition starter by creating their own petitions.
So, what else have they been up to in this new program? Well, who better to tell you than the Fellows themselves!
We asked each of them to give you the inside scoop on what they’ve learned, what’s surprised them and what they’re looking forward to for remainder of the Fellowship:
Amy Galles, DevOps Engineering
Maker of things, watches historical films entirely for the costumes
Since beginning my Fellowship position at Change.org in October, I’ve learned a lot about maintaining the kind of web infrastructure you can’t replicate in a school environment. Getting to work on these systems puts me way ahead of where I would be if I’d tried to spend three months studying on my own. And, I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by how seriously everyone at Change has taken the Fellowship. From day one, I’ve felt like a team member, and that feeling of inclusion makes me feel more confident. Especially since I feel like people I’m working with are prioritizing my learning goals, along with productivity.
Looking back, I’m surprised at how much more I understand about what I’m doing than I did when I started, so I’m excited to see how much progress we make towards the goals we’ve set for ourselves in the next few months.
Melissa Ng, Data & Feature Engineering
Perfectionist with a slight OCD on cleanliness, loves Pinterest, hikes for ocean views and waterfalls
Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m working with the world’s platform for change and the hottest topic in everyone’s mind — data. Coming in with no prior real world data engineering experience, I took ownership of a new project that automates spinning up scaleable up-to-date data dictionaries. This quantitative and qualitative analysis of all the data we collect assists in data auditing, can be used as a reference for product managers, engineers, analysts, and data scientists, and can have implications for future machine learning projects. Three months ago, I would not have known how to work with Amazon Redshift clusters, Airflow DAGs, or Splunk error logging, not know how to implement multithreading, or how to write tech specs. I’m extremely grateful for my patient and incredible mentors Erik Ogan and Will Barrett, the one-of-a-kind amazing director of AI and Machine Learning Elena Ikonomovska, my Fellows cohort, my fun fellowship coordinator Caitlin Davis, my always smiling buddy Christian Lowe, and every single awesome coworker that I can’t possibly list.
For the remainder of my Fellowship, I’m grateful to be offered an experience to learn more about a day in life as a frontend engineer. I look forward to continuing my spontaneous learning, and taking on new challenges. Not only is everyone here so capable in their work, they also take fun so seriously. I surprised myself when I said out loud that the mental support I’ve been receiving is almost overwhelming. There is nothing that I can say about the company culture that will do it justice because culture has to be felt; but Change.org definitely raises the bar high. Being a fellow here is truly an extraordinary and rewarding experience. I’ve always been quite fortunate to work for amazing missions. This time, it’s empowering everyone to be the change they want to see in the world.
Emily Pascual, Growth
Loves plants, motion graphic loops are her happy place, likely at a farmers market right now
This Fellowship has given me the opportunity to get to know the amazing community of citizen-activists who make the work I do to improve our tools in Product Growth immensely rewarding. Learnings that arise from community conversations then result in ideations, A/B testing, and directions that are in lock-step with the needs of our users. While our members, petition starters, and supporters have unique experiences on the Change.org platform, they are all motivated by the real-world impact they see happening daily. Listening to, and then iterating from, this feedback has helped inform updates to our digital civic-engagement tools and is a continuous source of learnings!
Ashley Zhao, Product Management
Easily excitable, quite amazing at bad dancing, strong phobia of fingers touching
I’ve been surprised at how many different skills and hats a PM has to wear. I feel like I am sometimes a strategist, project manager, user researcher, or cross-team spy. Then, after a feature ships, I turn into QA or data analyst. I enjoy practicing my ability to stay focused, though, and I think this is the perfect role to do that. I’ve been creating daily priority items, and chunking out my time to accomplish different tasks, so I don’t end up doing a whole lot of nothing, which is easy when you have so many things that can compete for your attention.
I’m excited to ship the first feature I PM’d, a bandit giving us the ability to experiment with many different Whatsapp share messages, and I hope that it is as impactful as I modeled it out to be. I think it would be great to watch our company and users actually benefit from something I contributed to!
Miranda Evans, Security Engineering
Phisher by day, stitcher by night
Over the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about security and coding. I’ve researched common security exploits, such as cross-site scripting, and how they can be used against organizations and users. In setting up a phishing training program for the staff, I’ve used new-found knowledge of SMTP, the email protocol, to send emails through code. One of the most exciting things I’ve learned through reverse-engineering exercises is how to read assembly language. Just a few months ago, it seemed so confusing, but now I can dissect a binary from beginning to end just by viewing the disassembly. Lastly, working here exposes me to a lot of little tidbits of knowledge I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. The onboarding presentations, the DevOps classrooms, and the Friday demos (when folks from the Engineering and Product teams present projects, both work related and non-work related) have been fascinating.
I was most surprised by the level of support given to the Fellows. There are onboarding meetings to get us up to speed on all aspects of the organization- technical, logistical, and cultural, and each of the Fellows has weekly one-on-one meetings with their managers to touch base.
It’s been a very productive and fun few months, and there’s still more to come. Beyond continuing work on their respective projects, the Fellows will be going through some professional development trainings, gain an even deeper understanding of our product, and will culminate the Fellowship Program with a presentation to our entire team reflecting on their experience. It should be an amazing couple of months, and we’re excited to report back here with a recap after the program wraps up in April! Stay tuned…