Terra Weikel, Innovation Partnerships, San Francisco
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m from a very small town in Pennsylvania, in the US. My parents wouldn’t allow us to have a television or toys with batteries – so I’m not quite Amish but almost. I’ve been a high school teacher and a social worker, I worked in TV (editing and producing), and ran a national campaign to raise funds and support for refugees in the US.
What do you do?
I look for ways to get people working in the tech sector to be curious about other contexts, get them excited about UNICEF’s innovative work and intrigued about the role they could play – and then work with them to find ways that their skills, products, money and influence can improve the lives and opportunities of children, youth, and women across the world.
What’s your working day like?
Early morning calls with East Africa; then I cross misty Golden Gate Park to take my kid to preschool; then the long commute to downtown San Francisco while triaging my email; then Skype, phone calls, meetings – the usual – for the rest of the day. If it’s a good day, my team actually lets me write on the white board (I have very bad handwriting).
How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?
I help smart people working here in California connect with smart people doing amazing work in other countries, and they make new things together.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
A psychiatrist, a lawyer or a journalist
How/when did you join UNICEF?
In 2007 Chris and Erica hired me when they were about to launch a project with One Laptop Per Child and Google, and they needed someone to build a wiki. I was initially supposed to make all UNICEF content – wikified!
What are the most satisfying parts of your job?
When I get to talk to one of our country offices and hear about some inspiring new thing they are doing, ways that they have taken existing tools and given them a new twist.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Explaining the ways of the UN to people very far from that world.
What’s your best UNICEF experience/memory?
Traveling to remote and beautiful northeastern Uganda (Karamoja) and just watching how kids use computers for the first time. How quick they are to crack things. One guy wrote poetry, another started to record music – like in the first week. It reminded me of growing up in my own small town in Pennsylvania and how bored I was but looking back I can see that it made me and my friends be so much more creative than I have to be now.
What’s one of the biggest risks you’ve ever taken in your life?
Perceived risk= an “advanced” level hike in the Alps last summer. Actual risk=every time I rode boda bodas in Kampala.
My colleagues don’t know that…
I played D&D in rural Pennsylvania when I was 9. I split my time between being the Dungeon Master and drawing cute outfits for the characters. (Actually maybe all Dungeon Masters do that, what do I know?)