Blaire Ulrich will soon be taking her interest in marketing and promotion to Africa, where she will help enhance the social networking capabilities of an African cooperatives organization.
Ulrich, a Lampman native who works as a research analyst in the marketing department of Affinity Credit Union's Estevan branch, will travel to Nairobi, Kenya, for a six-month work internship through the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA).
She'll fly to Ottawa on August 26 for a few days of training, education and orientation, and then she'll leave for Nairobi on August 30 to spend half a year as a marketing development officer.
Ulrich learned about the Kenya opportunity through the CCA's Twitter feed. The organization was promoting opportunities for people under the age of 30, who have a university degree and a keen interest in travelling abroad.
One of those gigs was a marketing position.
“Working internationally is something that I've always wanted to do, and there are opportunities through the CCA, but for marketing, they are few and far between,” said Ulrich. “It's mostly lending positions or business development. I got a little excited when I saw the marketing one.”
The CCA assists cooperatives and credit unions in developing countries, she said. The organization that she will be working with is the African Confederation of Savings and Credit Cooperative Associations (ACOSCCA).
“It's very typical marketing things, and extending reach,” said Ulrich. “They're interested in getting more into the youth market, which is very, very common in co-ops across the country – developing a social media strategy, and promoting and raising awareness of ACOSCCA with co-ops across Africa.”
Ulrich said she is willing to be very flexible once she gets to Kenya, and help out wherever possible. She might have to help out with side projects, which would allow her to meet more people and see other sides of the banking and credit union systems in that country.
Six other interns from across Canada are scheduled to travel to other countries through CCA at the same time as Ulrich. Those interns will be travelling to Mongolia, Uganda and Vietnam.
Two interns are slated to go to Rwanda, but strife in that country could shelve those plans.
Ulrich has travelled previously, and so she recognizes the need to learn some of the language before she leaves. Swahili is the primary language in Kenya, and Ulrich wants to know common phrases.
“Our pastor is from South Sudan, and he said Swahili is very easy to learn,” she said, laughing. “I certainly hope that he is right.”
Any social media platforms that she develops will have to be in Swahili, which will pose a challenge. Ulrich said she'll be developing the social media systems from scratch.
She has spoken with some people who have been to Kenya, and has received mixed reports about the country. The daughter of one of Ulrich's former university professors spent a year in Nairobi, and had glowing statements about the city.
The city isn't immune from political unrest and social instability, but the area where she will be staying is reputed to be safe.
“It is close to work, so I can walk to work and still be in a safe environment,” said Ulrich.
Still, there are areas in the city in which she has been cautioned to avoid.
Ulrich will also attend the South African Chamber of Commerce in America conference at the end of October. The event was supposed to happen in Nigeria, but it will likely be relocated to South Africa due to the current political tumult in Nigeria.
“Part of the conference that I'll be going to is doing a presentation on social media, so I'm assuming that their social media is maybe where we were a few years ago – just the beginnings of it,” said Ulrich.
There will be opportunities for sightseeing as well. In fact, tourist activites are the only component of the trip that isn’t covered. The CCA pays for the cost of her flights, her accommodations, her meals and her other living expenses.
Mini safaris are among the short-term options that exist for tourists.
Her parents and her sister have mused about travelling to Kenya to see her at Christmas time, too.
Ulrich has extended family in Kenya to visit at Christmas. A cousin of hers is married to a person whose parents live in Nairobi. It makes her feel more comfortable about going to the country.
She expects that the experience should be beneficial once she returns to North America. There could be particularly significant dividends when it comes to Affinity’s marketing strategy.
“To do marketing on a limited budget, you have to get creative,” said Ulrich.
She looks forward to applying the things that she learns in Kenya to her job at Affinity.
“The two are totally different parts of the world,” said Ulrich. “If you look around Estevan, we have oil money here. There, if you donate a small amount of money, it goes far. You can provide water for an entire village for $500.”
Her duties at the Estevan branch extend to the reporting of loan portfolios and branch portfolios for the commercial lending department, and research for the credit union’s campaigns. She is also becoming more active with Affinity’s member feedback program.
Ulrich will return to Canada in early March. She has a debriefing session in Ottawa on March 9 before she returns to work at Affinity.