Friday, 14 December 2012

Employ Me!

[EDIT: It seems Blogger has gone a bit crazy with the formatting on this one, and every time I fix one thing, another thing breaks. I hope it's legible.]

This is written for anyone who might want to employ me. I need a new job. My current job is fun, and it's better than unemployment, but I don't make enough to live independently. I have a plan to cohabit and split costs, but a more secure financial situation would be nice. But more importantly:


Development studies is not particularly well known nor well understood. I (and at least some of my colleagues) like to summarise it as "Saving the World!", but a more useful explanation is that development studies is to the social sciences what engineering is to the physical sciences, or what medicine is to the life sciences. It's primarily about practical application, not pure research, and it relies on a broad, multidisciplinary approach, rather than specialisation. If you've ever played a game from a series like the Civilizations or Master of Orions, you've had a taste of what development studies addresses. You spent more resources on research than tax income? Opted to build a trade center instead of a shipyard? Chose to run your empire as a democracy instead of a monarchy? I'm sure you can't have played games like that without making those choices. Well, why did you? Because you're trying to achieve something, but you can't do everything at once, and unless you just click things randomly, you have to try to work out some rational way of deciding how to proceed one step at a time. Now add hundreds or thousands or billions of people, each with rights and requirements and desires that you can't just ignore with the click of a mouse (in fact, they're the reason for the work, its primary objective, not just an obstacle to avoid), and you've got development studies.

I fell into it through a series of chance occurrences. At one point, I wanted to study journalism, but in looking into that, I happened to spot a politics course, which triggered all sorts of interesting things in me, so I did a BA Politics. I had more or less equal choice of doing it at Wits or RAU, and picked RAU for no better reason than that it was about 5% closer to my house. And by the RAU syllabus, I had to pick as a second major either law, economics or development studies. I had no idea what the last one was, but wasn't too excited at the time about the other two, and so I went blindly into dev. My first year of it sucked and I considered dropping it, because I just didn't get it, until eventually something clicked, and I started loving it. I did better at it in 3rd year than my primary major, politics, and even won a prize for it, and then went on to do my BA(Hons) Development Studies. I was top of my honours class. I was certain I was going to have a great career in that field. And then I never got to touch it again.

My job-hunting skills were poor. I got some "easy," basic jobs via friends and family, just to have something to do, but didn't really push for my ideal kind of job. Then I got headhunted by a company called NMA, supposedly involved in development work, claiming they really wanted master's degree holders, but would accept honours kids as a compromise and a favour to us. Turned out, they were little more than a rubber-stamping agency for government projects, and I was a glorified data-capturer. I was told directly by my boss that they knew a major construction project was a bad idea, but we were getting paid to make it happen, so that's what we'd make happen. I was explicitly told to ignore what people were literally saying and "read between the lines" to make their complaints fit his predefined categories. Today I'd give him serious shit for that, let him know exactly how unacceptably unethical that crap is, but 6 years ago I was shy and unworldly, so I just left. Biggest salary I ever had, and it's been pretty close to all downhill from there.

After some time unemployed, I took the sideways step into teaching. It was definitely worth the experience, I'm much more confident and worldly now, but I've been trying to step back sideways to development ever since. I've also been trying to sort out my master's, but there's a whole separate blog post for that.

More specifically, what really interests me is, 1. education (I didn't go into it for no reason, I just don't want to be a teacher), and B. civil society and non-governmental organisations. Working for an education NGO would be fantastic for me. Put me in a planning or management role and watch me be awesome.

As a more detailed account of my career history, for those who're interested, here's an annotated version of my CV. I feel that while the plain, conventional CV format is good for initial HR bureaucratic processing, it doesn't really reflect the full "me" very well. Consider, for example, that I've never yet gone in for an interview and not gotten the job; I'm hugely impressive. The problem seems to be getting into interviews in the first place.

(Full CV available on demand.)



University of Johannesburg 
MA (Development Studies), still in progress

Yeah, see the other blog post about this one.

2011 (October):
ACTION Support Centre
Certificate in Applied Conflict Transformation

I got this, I think, as a consolation prize for not getting an internship with them. I wrote about it at the time. I think it was very useful as a refresher/update on a lot of the stuff I covered in my undergrad years, plus a chance to meet some very interesting people from the rest of Africa.

2009 (January – August):
TEACH South Africa
Accelerated teacher training prior to and while working at Landulwazi Comprehensive School

I can't say it was the best training they could have given us, but it was enough to make us not-incompetent. We got provisional SACE numbers and everything. The bulk of it was in the first 3 weeks of January, with a reduced dose the following 3 weeks (as we started going into our schools for the first time) and then sporadic extras after that. The best part, for me, was exposure to so many different teachers at so many different schools. It really gave me a good look at the variety of possible styles and effects.

University of Johannesburg 
BA (Honours) (Development Studies), completed. Subjects included:

  • Independent Field Work & Research Report (distinction)

    • Research report titled: An investigation into Alzheimer’s South Africa’s recent organisational difficulties: How to sustain its operations indefinitely

  • Methodology of the Human Sciences
  • Contemporary Development Theories
  • Statistics for Human Sciences (distinction)
  • Management & Planning in Development
  • Key Issues in International Relations

Best academic year ever. I understood more after this 1 year than I did after the entire preceding 3 years. The stats course was the first maths I'd had to do in years, so I was pleased it went so well. Methodology was shared with an anthropology honours course, led by an anthro lecturer, and she really didn't like or understand us dev. people, but I think I still tried my best to ignore her and understand the work she presented. The international relations course was the only unscheduled filler, as all the dev. kids had to find themselves an extra subject from another department, and I really enjoyed being back with the politics kids after a 6 month break.

2003 – 2005:
Rand Afrikaans University / University of Johannesburg
BA (Politics), majoring in Politics and Development Studies, completed. Subjects included:

  • Politics 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D
  • Development Studies 1A, 1B, 2A (distinction), 2B, 3A (distinction), 3B, 3C (distinction), 3D
  • Anthropology 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B (distinction)
  • Sociology 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B
  • German 1A, 1B

Received Merit Award for Best Academic Performance in 3rd Year Development Studies, 2005.

You'll note I tended to do much better in later courses, even getting that merit award, as my performance just got better and better at an accelerating pace. German 1 filled my language requirement, though I had originally tried my tongue at Arabic 1 instead. I might have taken on a wee bit much there. The only subject I consistently disliked was sociology, a tediously dry subject, except when a certain freelance lecturer (who, coincidentally, was the first graduate of my high school I ever encountered doing a real, grown-up job) did some courses with us in 2nd year in a much more interesting and refreshing style.

Potchefstroom University 
Certificate in Entrepreneurial Skills
This was a course offered through my high school. I learned some useful stuff, but it caused me to be pushed into taking business economics for matric, which I hated. It's only recently occurred to me that I might have been pushed in this direction by my dad because he's always wanted to have his own business (and he still occasionally tries to get me to start something up). I couldn't give a shit about that, but I don't mind having learned new things.
1997 – 2001:
Aurora Private School
Matriculated, all subjects passed on Higher Grade, including:

  • General Science
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics
  • Business Economics
  • English 1st Language
  • Afrikaans 2nd Language

Received Silver Award in 2001 National English Olympiad.
Named Aurora College when I started there, and now called Curro Aurora, part of the Curro schools group. It was far from perfect and perhaps not worth what my parents had to pay for it, but still a damn good school, or at least a school that employed some damn good teachers. I'm pleased to say there was virtually no emphasis on formal sports there, which my recent teaching experience suggests to me is a horrible tradition that should be excised from the schools that embrace it. I've seen too many bright kids recently who get obsessed with moving balls from A to B and neglect the important stuff as a result, all with their schools' explicit blessing.

That English Olympiad was a neat thing. I hadn't considered myself a writer at all until some of those damn good teachers spotted and nurtured my latent ability, leaning on my love of science fiction in particular (remind me to post my mini-play "Starship Crucible" here sometime). And that year's English Olympiad, conveniently, had a scifi theme. Never really got comfortable writing conventional fiction, but I'm still blabbing on here, which is nice for me.

1990 – 1996:
Primary education at Rand Park Primary School, except for 3 years spent in Germany at a German-medium school (Grundschule Königstein, 1991 - 1993).
Rand Park was a pretty conventional late- and early post-apartheid government model C school. The  principle was an exceptional stickler for fussy little rules and discipline over anything else. It wasn't a nice environment, but the education was at least good. My years in Germany, on the other hand, were a fantastic eye opener, as my first look at a different way of teaching. Half the reason I went ot Aurora is that it used to be quite like my German school, with little regard for frivolous appearances and sport, just a good, sensible focus on learning. Also, I learned German and we had a castle, so I liked Germany.

Volunteer Experience
2003 – Present:
Alzheimer’s South Africa, National Office, Randpark Ridge
Position: Ad hoc office & technical volunteer
Duties have included basic IT support, writing & proofreading, and the filing & sorting of mail, membership data and the organisation’s private library.

My mom started working for Alzheimer's SA in late 2002 or early 2003, and from about mid 2003, I occasionally went in to fix computers and things, or helped with work she brought home. Sometimes I did it quite frequently, sometimes there were months between these odd-jobs. I think the last thing I did for them was in September this year?

I've done little specks of other volunteer work over the years (half a day with Habitat for Humanity, some envelope stuffing for... can't even remember who now), but nothing big enough that I'd want to include it on my CV.

I've also been around for the formative stages of two different NGOs. First, there was Amnesty International RAU, a branch of Amnesty International SA started by friends in my politics class. Sadly, that didn't last more than a year, and my own contribution was minimal; I bought more gingerbread abused women from their stall that one time than anyone else, but that was about it. Then there was an attempt a year ago or so to form a formal Gauteng Skeptics society, and I tried to contribute more there in the way of ideas, but that didn't get off the ground... yet!

And I suppose my association with the USS Dauntless is technically voluntary, but it's mostly a fan club, not too relevant to my CV. The really good stuff, the blood drives and such, aren't organised by me.

Work Experience
2011 (July) - Present:
XL@Science, Bryanston
Position: Resources Manager
Responsible for organising educational software and online content for students' and other tutors' use, maintaining and organising computer and laboratory equipment, and preparing study and assessment documents for students. This position was created to formalise work I had started on my own initiative in 2010.

2010 (August) – Present:
XL@Science, Bryanston
Position: Senior Science Tutor
Teach small groups of students from various schools, grade 10, 11 and 12 Physical Science, grade 8 and 9 Natural Science, as well as International Cambridge Curriculum Physics and Chemistry. Duties include teaching standard curriculum content, identifying and addressing individual student shortcomings, and encouraging a general appreciation and understanding of science beyond the standard curriculum. Promoted to Senior Tutor, October 2012, with added responsibility of supervising other tutors.

My current job, though you can see it's technically split into two different bits. I'd have to say my current boss is probably the best boss I've had - very encouraging and supportive and a nice guy - aside from the money thing; I could do with more of that. If I had to do this job forever and could afford to live off it, I'd be ok with that, because I love science and I can see I'm making some difference with some of the kids, and it's nowhere near as stressful as real teaching. But I feel I could do more, that I'm wasting my abilities.

2009 (January – August):
Landulwazi Comprehensive School (Gauteng Department of Education), Thokoza
Position: Grade 10 & 11 Physical Science teacher
Taught grade 10 and 11 Physical Science classes. Duties included preparation and presentation of lessons, student assessment, laboratory organisation and maintenance, and exam invigilation for all grades.

The most difficult job I've ever done. Heart-breakingly difficult. I don't want to talk about it again.

2007 (April – June):
Pop! Art and Culture, Randburg
Position: Sales assistant
Assisted customers with purchases, banked daily takings, organised stock and kept shop presentable. Responsible for running shop alone three days a week.
I was luckily able to pick this up again after NMA crapped out so soon, but it got sooooooo boring. Have you ever worked in a comic shop? You finish reading everything pretty soon. Literally everything, but it becomes just a blur of panels and speech bubbles. Then you rearrange everything. Then you have to dearrange it all again, because the boss likes it his way. They offered to promote me to store manager, but it was more responsibility for no increase in pay, and I was already desperate to escape. Retail is not for me.

2007 (March):
NMA Effective Social Strategies, Observatory
Position: Project administrator
Duties included conducting field research and data processing, primarily for social impact studies.
See complaints above.

2006 (December) – 2007 (February):
Pop! Art and Culture, Randburg
Position: Sales assistant
Assisted customers with purchases, banked daily takings, organised stock and kept shop presentable.
Got this through my friend, Scot, who worked there. I missed the main xmas rush, but there was still a lot of business for the first few weeks. Then I got the offer from NMA and moved off, until I came back. This was never intended as anything but a temporary job, a working holiday that I didn't have to leave home for.

2006 (November – December):
Alzheimer’s South Africa, National Office, Fairland (now in Randpark Ridge)
Position: Temporary receptionist
Processed incoming helpline calls and other telephone communication, greeted guests, reorganised office space, filed and sorted mail, membership data and the organisation’s private library.

Having done my honours research on them, I was already spending a lot of time there. They needed a temp to fill in until funding for a full-time receptionist came in, so I had a few weeks' bonus work as soon as my exams ended and this suited everyone very well.

2006 (February – October):
Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park
Position: Student assistant (administrative)
Duties included front desk reception, processing and sorting incoming and outgoing student work, mass production of student documents, exam invigilation and assisting lecturers with library research.
Lots of fun, mixed in with my honours year. My natural orderliness came in really useful.

I see I've left out two earlier jobs. One was with jewelry retailer, Galaxy, as a sales monkey. Retail is not for me, plus they only actually called me in 2 random days a week for October 2002, then nothing at all during November. Really difficult leaving that job. Then there was packing 30,000 pencils and rulers for O'Kagan's Brand Aid in December 2000 or January 2001. It paid for my expenses at Icon 2001, when I found the cash tucked in my cupboard.
 Published Work
Guest host on Consilience: An African Science Podcast, episodes 24, 43, 47, 52, 57 and 61.

Not exactly 'published', but you give me a better category name to file it under. If you've been following this blog, you must surely know about my humble contributions to Consilience, as well as the inevitable driving adventures it causes me. This is the first and so far only thing of this nature I've been involved in.

Several articles in specialist hobby magazine, Diplomacy World, issues 101 – 104, 106 – 108.
That's right, I'm officially a published table-top gaming writer. I originally submitted a piece for a competition in issue 101 and (obviously) won that. After that, editor Douglas Kent asked if I'd write some more, and I did, until I ran out of ideas. I have more for him again, but just haven't gotten round to writing them up yet.

J. van Wyk, L. Kinghorn, H. Hepburn, C. Payne & C. Sham. 2007. “The international politics of nuclear weapons: a constructivist analysis.” Scientia Militaria: South African Journal of Military Studies. Vol 35(1).
My sole academic writing credit so far. Jo-Ansie van Wyk was a guest lecturer we had in Politics 3, who took it upon herself to help the kids with the best essays that semester combine their efforts into a publishable piece. This was the result. Most of the credit should really go to Linda Kinghorn, who did the bulk of the work writing it all up, but I can point out my ideas lurking within it. (My original essay had been quite different, focusing less on actors' perceptions of WMD and more on the actual physical capabilities of different weapons; turns out, WMD is a bit of a junk term, very vague and sometimes unrealistic. Narrowing it from WMD to only nukes made it much more sensible.)

I might also have included here my contribution to Icon 2008, a roleplaying module entitled 'Lead the Way', for the Spycraft system. I gather it was well received, and I'm hoping to have another module done in time for Icon 2013.

Other Skills

  • Extensive general knowledge
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Excellent English
  • Conversational Afrikaans
  • Conversational German
  • Thorough computer literacy

The CV template I started using back in 200X had this section and I've never been entirely comfortable with it, but never cut it out either. My general knowledge really is magnificent. My Afrikaans and German are atrophying.