Sabbatical Planning

I’m doing a sabbatical so what does that mean?  My employer (I often call it my company, but I didn’t found it and I don’t own it, but I feel it is partly mine anyway) ThoughtWorks grants a 3-month sabbatical to people who stay with the company 10 years.  They began the program a couple of years ago, and I have to admit that since then I’ve been anxiously awaiting my time.  I quite vividly remember the run-up to my father’s eventual sabbatical.  His had been delayed twice due to the (from the perspective of his sabbatical) untimely arrival of two of his three children (I believe I might have been one of the offenders, but I am not sure it matters much now).

In a recent conversation with my Dad, we were discussing what a sabbatical was supposed to be.  It is first and foremost an opportunity to advance in knowledge or in a profession in a way that simply isn’t possible within the confines of the current job.  A sabbatical might be about learning some new facet of the profession or even something completely unrelated. It might be about applying the sustained effort needed to write a book or develop an idea.  Attractive as it might sound, simply sitting on the beach reading summertime fiction doesn’t qualify, at least under the official definition.

When I started thinking about what I wanted to do, I came up with three major objectives:  a) Learn something about a completely different culture, b) Do something that improves life for those in need, c) Do something that takes advantage of who I am.  So, something like running cables to help a university in Haiti wouldn’t satisfy the third objective since it doesn’t really leverage my skills.    I felt it important that any undertaking satisfy all three of these objectives.

So, what am I doing?  Through an introduction from Jeff Wishnie, our Director of Social Engagements (and no, this doesn’t mean he chairs the party committee), I will be working with the Technology For Development (T4D) Office of UNICEF in Kampala, Uganda.  I will be focusing on helping to bring some of their pilot projects in individual areas to a national level.  I will also be working to establish ties for their office with the local universities and user groups.  Or at least that’s the initial plan.  Things will become more clear when I arrive.

The travel time from Seattle to Uganda is about 27.5 hours, including stops in New York and then in Amsterdam. I will initially be staying with one of the women at the office in Kampala, with a search for local accommodations high up on the logistics list to sort out.  Wish me luck!

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