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!