I’m really excited about Tiese sharing a day in her work life with us! Before we go on and just in case you’re wondering how to pronounce her name (as she says many people do!), it’s pronounced /tee-eh-seh/ and is short for Etieseabasi, which means sit down and look up to God. On social media, Tiese is a travel blogger and lover! You will also often catch her dancing to her favorite Latin-American songs on her Instagram stories.
But behind this 25-year-old travel lover, expressive dancer and spicy food (Nigerian and Thai cuisine) enthusiast, with an irrational fear of birds, is a career lady whose day job involves an important world objective—eliminating malaria in Asia / Southern Africa. At first, I thought to myself that I couldn’t possibly have imagined her in that role, but it’s interesting to see how she’s ended up there and what she thinks of it all.
From her morning routine, misconceptions about her jobs, to career advice and curiosities—she shares it all in this feature!
At 6 am. It’s the alarm from the bedtime app on iPhone, a soothing sound that eases me out of sleep. I don’t think I hear it the moment it goes off—maybe 30 seconds into it, I open my eyes, press “stop”, say a “thank you, God” and set another alarm for 6:05 am. to enjoy five more minutes in bed. Once I turn off this second alarm, I start my morning routine. Brush my teeth, wash face, shower, get dressed.
By 6:30, I’m downstairs. I set the electric kettle to boil water that I’ll drink with lemon then prep veggies for my breakfast omelette. By 6:59, I’ve put my packed lunch, water bottle, green smoothie, and snack in my backpack, and I’m out the door to catch the 7:04 bus. My neighbour and I go to work at the same time and have a routine of chatting with each other on the bus ride to the train station. At 7 am, I’m usually not ready to interact with humans, but so far, I enjoy our early morning conversations.
A combination of the train and bus(es). My commute to San Francisco from my home in Oakland is long for me but it’s not unreasonable; approximately 50 mins from door to door. The bus gets me to the train station, the train gets me to the city, and a shuttle gets me to the street my office is on. From there, it’s less than a five-minute walk to the office. The buses and trains run on time and frequently at the time I leave. I hear people complain about the transit system, but so far my issues with it have been negligent.
The group I work for is made up of two main teams who work on several projects across Asia and Africa (Southern Africa to be specific). Our goal is to aid these countries in eliminating malaria. This doesn’t mean that malaria disappears, just that we no longer see new cases of the disease. The ultimate goal is the eradication of malaria, which means no new or existing cases in any given area permanently, but we’re taking it one step at a time.
So how do I fit in? I’m a program analyst/associate responsible for supporting the projects we have in various regions. Right now, my time is focused on supporting our efforts with countries like Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Namibia, and South Africa. I help maintain relationships with our partners in these countries, set up contracts to work with new partners, assist with analysing the data we collect from studies and surveys, and other admin duties (such as maintenance of expense reports, submission of ethics reviews, tracking payments for our foreign consultants, making minor edits to budgets and proposals, etc.)
In college, I flip-flopped between economics and international relations as my degree choices, but finally settled on Psychology.
Then in 2013, three and a half years into my college, I went on my first service trip in the Dominican Republic. It was focused on health (specifically malaria and other mosquito-related diseases) education. I remember returning and thinking “I want to help prevent the spread of disease. I want to help so that fewer people need to go to a doctor for curative reasons.” That September, I signed up to add public health classes to my already tedious college schedule. Later, I studied Global Public Health for a master’s degree. It took eight months of searching after graduation but I eventually found a job in the same field.
I used LinkedIn to search for jobs and it’s how I applied for my current position. It was helpful that I was able to email my resume and cover letter to an actual person not just xyzcompanyhr.net. I noticed that this was when I was more likely to get interviews. For this job, I emailed my resume to my current supervisor and went through two stages of interviews via Skype where I was asked a lot of behavioural questions such as “what would you do in X job-related situation?” but also questions about my public health background and experience—which I always enjoy talking about. I don’t know if my passion, experience, or a combination of both got me the job but I’m still grateful for it.
I get into work at 8 a.m.—before anyone else—for two reasons. 1) The commute is less crowded, and 2) I like having some quiet time to meditate and plan my day before my colleagues walk in. I could definitely do the latter at home, but that means adding more time to my morning routine and potentially being stuck in the rush hour commute.
After taking ten minutes to myself—sometimes longer—depending on my mood, I’ll open my laptop and go through my emails. There’s usually something to attend to since I work with teams across the globe who are just waking up when I’m going to bed and vice versa. I’ll order the emails from most to least urgent, write down my to-do list on sticky notes, and start attending to each item.
Between 8:20 and 10 am, people start filling the office so I’ll get distracted saying hi and holding conversations for a few minutes before going back to work. My days are typically meeting-free so I work uninterrupted at my desk for the most part. By 12:30, I’ll warm up my lunch to eat at my desk. I take several short (5-10 minute) breaks throughout the day to make up for the sedentary work day, and since I don’t take an hour long lunch, I also leave the office by 3:55 pm. I like to avoid the rush hour (5 pm) traffic going home as well.
Definitely getting positive feedback from my supervisor. During one of our one-on-one sessions, she let me know how pleased she was with my performance over a short period. This was about a month or two into the position and I felt like I was struggling, so hearing that positive reinforcement boosted my motivation and encouraged me to work harder, smarter, and more efficiently too. In general, the way my team welcomed me—with genuine warmth—is something I won’t ever forget. I had lots of meet-and-greet sessions with team members, some over coffee, walks on campus, etc.
Working for a large organization means that certain procedures can be painfully long and complicated. This is probably the only thing I don’t like about my job, but thankfully it is not something I deal with every day or even every week.
I LOVE that our team is encouraged but not required to work from home two days a week (typically Wednesdays and Fridays) and I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t use this perk. It’s my favorite thing about the job! They do not equate face time to productivity and I greatly appreciate that.
Some days I’m productive in my bed in pajamas and that’s okay. Our team is also open with and supportive of opportunities that may not be in my scope of work but can benefit from my skill set, and will often share if there are projects that fit this description.
I also like that I don’t have to dress business formal to work. I don’t like ironing.
I’m always traveling for work. This is an easy misconception to have once I mention the countries we work with, but a lot of my work is done remotely. There are occasional travel opportunities but these don’t take up the bulk of my time.
First, be okay with taking on a significant administrative role, because this is what a good number of entry-level public health jobs look like.
Do that, and be willing to learn from the people around you. My team members are some of the most intelligent people I have ever met, and I’ve learned more from them in five months than I could have ever imagined. All of this is adding to my public health toolbox rather than taking away. You don’t need a master’s to work in my position, but having one has allowed me to offer my skill set on certain projects that I otherwise would not been able to be a part of.
Practically, specify your search on LinkedIn. My search terms always included public health or global public health. Try to search for jobs in states where public health is more relevant than others. In the U.S, that’s California, Washington D.C, Atlanta, New York, North Carolina, etc. That said, don’t only search in these states, they are just a good place to start.
Finally, get people who have worked in these kinds of positions to read your cover letter and resume and practice mock interview sessions with you. I recognize that not everyone will have the same opportunities or access to utilise these tips. Please feel free to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to talk further and help where I can.
My favorite time of the day. After work, I change into workout clothes and head back out the door for a run. I do this four times a week, usually during the work week. After a run, I strength train in my room, stretch and then shower before I go downstairs to catch up with my housemates and cook dinner.
Typically, I’ll chat with them, read, podcast, brainstorm for social media / my blog, or catch up on a TV show until 9/9: 30 pm when I try to sleep. On nights before work-from-home days, I’m usually up till midnight or later—this is when I’m likely to stay up writing, having long FaceTime conversations, or just binge-watching TV shows.
I like the structure. I like that after 5 pm, I can turn off “work mode” till the next day—more often than not.
Although I would be hard-pressed to quit my job, I have many answers to this question.
Live part-time in the Italian countryside (Tuscany maybe), travel, and write stories about my travels. Reading and writing are my favorite pastimes and having seemingly unlimited time to do them would be glorious. I’d also like to speak Spanish as well as I speak English, so another short or long term stay in a Spanish-speaking country would be ideal.
I used to love going to watch ballet in college, so I would dance professionally. Dancers (especially ballet dancers) are high up on the list of people whose careers fascinate me. They create art with their bodies. It’s incredible.
How enjoyable was this?! People’s career stories will continue to inspire and intrigue me. I love that she goes in earlier—avoids the rush traffic and has some time to settle in. That’s a helpful tip to imbibe! And if you’re still trying to find the “perfect” job or career path, remember that sometimes it’s not a straight path and could take time.
Interestingly, so far, we’ve had a couple of travel bloggers share their career stories. It’s just so exciting to see what they get up asides the picture-perfect photos on the gram!
What did you think of this?