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Advice to Future Fellows

Puerto Rico fellowship team.

Dear Future Fellows,

Welcome! Congratulations! You’re gonna have a great year.

As the 2014 class wrapped up our Fellowship, we reflected on things we didn’t realize at first, things we wish we had thought about more (or sooner), and things we learned along the way.

While you still have time before the Fellowship starts, I want to share with you some of our takeaways. It’s gonna get crazy and it’s gonna be great!

1. Don’t worry

Please don’t waste energy feeling like an impostor. Some of you may be intimidated by the bios of your fellow fellows. I sure was. Don’t worry. You are here for many reasons and you will have many opportunities to demonstrate your unique skill set.

2. Keep in mind what comes after the Fellowship

This is harder than it sounds. This year can lead you in so many places. You’ll have the chance to learn many skills and gain incredible experience in this hybrid gov/tech sphere. And while your primary focus is your Fellowship city project, keep in mind what you want to do after, and strive to focus your energies to support that.

The bottom line is it’s a one-year program. You’ll do something else next year, whether that’s in civic tech or not. The people that you will work with this year will totally understand that you’ll go on to do something else great.

3. You will be super different from your teammates.

The team relationship is challenging. Here’s why: you’re all different! You’re dropped into a close working environment with two strangers and you spend the year working very closely together on an intense project. Friction occurs.

Here are some things you should talk about with your teammates to understand where they are coming from:

  • How you think about the Fellowship. Like a start-up? Like an exploratory experimental fellowship year? Like a regular 9-5?

  • How you work best. Do you need deadlines? Do you need your space? Do you prefer a weekly check-in or a daily touch-base?

  • How you personally make decisions. Do you decide things immediately? Do you make a list of pros and cons? Do you desire a spirited debate? Or do you like to have time to think about it before deciding?

  • What are your work hours. Some people work best from noon to 8pm. Some are 10-6ers. Some are early risers. Everyone works differently.

  • Preferred methods of communication. Email? Text? Trello board? Slack? In-person meetings?

Everyone is coming from a different place with a different history. Like all new relationships, there’s a ton to learn and negotiate and compromise on. Remember that your way of doing things is no more or less right than your teammates’. Be honest about the way you are and be ready to accept your teammates as they are.

4. Invest a lot of time and love in the other Fellows.

That’s the greatest asset of this Fellowship. You will do great work that you will be immensely proud of. But there is no other year of your life where you’ll be around 23 other talented, quirky, big-hearted people with the same crazy hard job as you. You’ll start travelling and going all different ways, so hang out with each other when you can.

5. Take care of yourself

The Fellowship year is an endurance race, not a sprint. It’ll never seem like the right time to take a vacation, but it’s important to take time off and keep yourself 100%. Make doctor’s appointments; stay on top of your personal life. Have other friends. Stay healthy and try to maintain the habits that keep you that way.

Have a great year. I can say without reserve that the work I did with Code for America is the work I am most proud of in my life so far. It was done with top-quality teammates, for a mission I believe in, to address real problems in people’s lives and to improve real processes in the government. It was intense and it was the best.

Always feel free to reach out to any of the alumni fellows. We’ve been where you are and we are happy to talk about this amazing shared experience_._


Ainsley Wagoner

2014 Fellow, Team Puerto Rico