BFP: What do you do?
YW: I like to think that I help run the "R&D" efforts of the Global WASH Initiative. I work on new initiatives like microfinance, new product development, new partnerships, and help new country programs replicate the success of our flagship program in Cambodia.
BFP: What is the best part about your job/project?
YW: I love working in such an open space that is the emerging markets . There is so much room for innovation and creativity, which translates into massive impact when executed well. I love going through the human-centered design process, moving from intimate one-on-one interviews with the users, to distilling our observations into insights, and then turning those insights into something that people would want to buy and that would improve their lives. Moreover, I work with an incredibly sharp and fun team of people who never fail to keep me on my toes and my stomach full of laughter.
BFP: What has been your greatest challenge?
YW: Working in the emerging markets/development space comes with its own set of unique challenges. Infrastructure is very poor. Going 5 kilometers can take up to an hour because of how poor the roads are. While the development sector is starting to embrace more market-based approaches, there still remain instances of contradictory efforts that inefficiently use resources due to lack of mutual understanding and coordination. The small businesses that we work with are often used to much different standards of business operations, and helping them improve their business practices can be a struggle in it of itself. However, it is in working through these challenges that make my job so interesting and fulfilling. I wouldn't trade it for anything else at this point.
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges?
YW: Always maintain your sense of curiosity and remember to stay humble. Our efforts are just another piece of the puzzle in our efforts to make the world a better place. We are under no pretense that our work is the silver bullet for development's issues. Rather, it is through constant iterations, intense listening, and the audacity to try and fail that we're able to stumble upon brilliant solutions.
If someone wants to do what you do – where do they start? Mine was a very serendipitous route. I actually ended up at iDE as a result of a fellowship after college. Prior to development, I was actually on track to pursue music professionally as an orchestral percussion. It turns out, it was actually my interests in music that got me the job. My boss Cordell Jacks said that I could come to Cambodia if I joined their band, and the rest is history!
BFP: Finally, What do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
I hope to find a community of support through members who inspire me with their tenacity and challenge me to always improve upon my work.
Thank you to Yi Wei for taking the time to do this interview.
Read previous Member of the Week interviews here.