Interview with Public Fellow Maya Zaynetdinova on Interning with Direct Relief

Interview with Public Fellow Maya Zaynetdinova on Interning with Direct Relief

November 9, 2020

Maya Zaynetdinova is a doctoral student and scholar-activist in the Department of Global Studies. Her research focuses on civil society activism, technologies of advocacy and movement leadership. As an IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellow, Zaynetdinova recently completed an internship with Direct Relief.

What drew you to the Communications Fellow internship with Direct Relief?

The main factors that drew me to the internship are my passion and deep respect for nonprofits and, specifically, the amazing work Direct Relief is doing to provide humanitarian and disaster relief worldwide. The position also presented a great opportunity to grow as an effective communicator and writer while making a difference in the community and around the world. The status of Direct Relief as one of the biggest philanthropic organizations in the United States was yet another reason to apply.

What did you learn from the internship?

The Communication Fellow position provided me with a rich learning experience that helped foster both hard and soft skills. My main task was developing a bi-monthly digital newsletter highlighting Direct Relief’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I had to learn how to use Mailchimp’s templates and design features, how to organize photos and even how to use HTML coding to regulate text margins. The organization operates on the Microsoft suite, which I was unfamiliar with, as UCSB runs on Google software. So, I had to figure out how to use Microsoft Teams instead of Zoom and Outlook Mail and Calendar instead of Gmail, which significantly enhanced my technical skills. The internship also taught me some crucial soft skills, such as effective team communication in the reality of remote work, the coordination of busy schedules and the prioritization of tasks, as well as concise and public-oriented writing.

What was the most surprising or exciting part of this work for you? 

The most surprising aspect of the internship was a sudden shift of focus to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since Direct Relief deals with medical supplies, the organization faced unprecedented challenges of increased demand for PPE while having to continue to response to ‘regular’ emergencies, such as wildfires. I was also surprised by the amount of work that goes into each newsletter – from initial edits by my supervisor and suggestions by the web designer to revisions by the head of communications and coordination with other departments. The most exciting part of the position was the people on the communications team, with whom I had the pleasure and honor to work. The dedication of Direct Relief’s staff to the mission of the organization is truly inspiring.

How did your academic training serve you while doing the internship?

The skillset that comes with being a graduate student is valuable in any work setting. My training in doing research and ability to synthesize large amounts of information, find key arguments and use critical thinking helped me a lot in finding the relevant material for drafting newsletters. Moreover, the ability to stick to deadlines and divide a large task into smaller parts helped me to keep up with the fast-paced work environment.

How did this experience impact your work as a graduate student?   

The fellowship at Direct Relief was very impactful as it taught me effective virtual communication that is crucial in 2020 and inspired me to look for opportunities outside of academia, especially nonprofits. I also learned to adapt to unexpected circumstances and find joy in working remotely for a good cause.

Click here to learn more about the IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Program.