BAIL Banter: Perspectives from Bay Area Internationalists (Jana Melpolder)
BAIL Banter is a series of interviews with San Francisco Bay Area experts and members of the BAIL community. If you’d like to be interviewed or to recommend someone we should feature, please contact Prairie Summer.
For this edition, we are pleased to introduce Jana Melpolder, Media Manager at Inveneo where she manages content for Inveneo and ICTworks. Jana has also worked with Grassroots Change and volunteered with UNICEF USA. Jana is passionate about bringing human rights issues to the forefront through media and technology in the developing world, and she has reported on development programs from several countries including Bolivia, Ghana, Thailand and India. Her writing has been published on World Vision, Beliefnet and Twitter. Jana’s educational background includes a B.A. in Anthropology from West Virginia University and a Master of International Development from the University of Pittsburgh.
BAIL: Jana, please tell us some more about your role and what excites you most about the work you do.
I work as the Media Manger for Inveneo, a San Francisco non-profit that establishes Internet connectivity and disaster relief communications for communities around the world who need it most. It’s an incredible opportunity to take the adventurous work that our engineers do and share it with our readers through the company’s social networks including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
For example, Inveneo is sending a small team of engineers to Accra, Ghana, to support the Ebola response. There they will train aid workers on Google Nexus 7 tablets (which will come pre-loaded with GPS apps, medical apps, and more). I’ll get to share the story of how aid workers will use these tablets throughout West Africa to help Ebola-affected communities and contribute to saving lives. It’s powerful to be able to make a difference like that.
I also run ICTworks with the dynamic ICT (Information and Communications Technology) trailblazer Wayan Vota. His leadership on how to use social media to make a positive difference in international development has been very influential in my professional life. I feel fortunate to have had several incredibly talented mentors throughout my career so far.
BAIL: What is the advantage of being based in the Bay Area?
Being in the heart where some of the world’s most innovative people can thrive is a great advantage! I love the fact that the Bay Area is a place where creativity and new ideas are constantly flowing. For example, I think BAIL’s LinkedIn group and our ICTworks communities grew so quickly because they are positive online platforms that foster independent thought, networking, and innovation. These platforms encourage everyone to participate and connect. I’m always excited to meet new people and writers in the Bay Area. I also love learning from others, so if you have marketing strategies, media ideas, or other thoughts to offer me, please connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter!
BAIL: What is challenging about being in the Bay Area?
I miss structure. The innovative spirit is strong here, but sometimes I miss working for an organization that has been around for a long time and has set procedures. I experienced this while working a few years ago as a web editor in New York City. In that role and environment there were a lot more systems and set regulations in the workplace. I think that the Bay Area could sometimes learn from those models and try to incorporate some of those effective ideas instead of always reinventing or starting from scratch.
BAIL: Favorite spot in the Bay Area?
I highly recommend Berkeley Aquatic Park and Berkeley Marina. I often go to that area to bike or walk with my boyfriend, friends, or even alone. It’s a beautiful view of San Francisco and usually can be pretty empty if you go at the right time.
BAIL: What do you think is missing from the Bay Area international community?
How well we understand the realities of everyday life outside the United States. The people in the Bay Area have such a heart for serving internationally, but some of us (or perhaps this is just me) spend too much time sitting in our offices rather than in the field – offices, cafes, classrooms, hospitals, or even homes in developing countries. That’s what I’m excited to use social media to help change. By conducting interviews, sharing photos, and promoting stories on social media, we can broaden our own understanding of the challenges that communities in emerging markets face. And, even better, we can certainly learn from uplifting stories of empowerment from people all around the world.
BAIL: Advice for people interested in your field of work?
If you are in marketing or work as a media/social media manager, don’t be afraid to fail. Marketing is all about trying new things, and then listening to the readers to see what they respond to the most. Use all the free analytic tools out there and let your audience make the decision on what you should post next. It’s good to try different things, and even when they don’t work, you can learn from that experience.