What do we use at work? This series of posts interviews the Ushahidi staff about their methods of working and the tools they use. The profile of a different employee will be posted twice a week until we make our way through most or all of the staff!
“Our goal is to change the world by changing the way information flows.” – Erik Hersman
Erik Hersman is the Director of Operations at Ushahidi. He is one of the four original co-founders of Ushahidi, an avid blogger and a well respected visionary. He’s responsible for keeping the team moving in the same direction, partnerships and overseeing the org’s admin needs.
What’s your day to day at Ushahidi like?
A lot of meetings, calls and email responses, punctuated by forays into accounting and document generation for partners, funders, researchers and media. Man…that sounds boring as hell, I almost fell asleep writing it.
How did you get involved in the software/tech space?
My first business was a company that imported stuff from East Africa to the US. It failed after I learned an important lesson in cash flow and inventory management. I then gave up on businesses that had anything to do with inventory, and decided to dive headfirst into the web. I started in the strategy side, dealing with large clients and decided it would be good to know what I was talking about. I picked up some markup and design skills along the way, mostly self-taught. Now I knew enough to be dangerous, and I got into the web app side, thus what I do now. In the end though, I’m a technologist with a mind for business and marketing, so I do best when paired with real designers and programmers.
What are some of your favorite apps for work and how do you use them?
I love our Team Page, running on WordPress and the P2 theme, it’s an easy way to pin an idea, link or open a discussion for our globally distributed team.
I use BusyCal on the Mac. It’s much better than the basic Calendar app on the Mac.
Twitter. I do a lot of communications with the public for Ushahidi, the iHub and myself and I’ve found Twitter to be the best social networking app for this purpose. Closely tied to this is Monitter, which I run in a tab on my browser to keep up with the stream of information on Ushahidi or the iHub.
TinyWings, for when I just can’t do work any longer and I need a quick break. There’s nothing like the need to pull the perfect series of swoops and jumps to break up the monotony of work.
What are some cool projects you’re working on right now at Ushahidi or; What excites you about your work right now?
Huduma is really exciting. It’s this extreme customization of Ushahidi, and it requires doing some of my favorite work, visioning out what the site will be, working with the team in Nairobi and seeing Kenya’s data start to populate the site. I love creating things, and this let’s me be creative again.
The heart of who I am revolves around seeing the future, applying creative ideas to solve problems and building things. I love getting into the details with Caleb on the admin redesign of Ushahidi as much as I enjoy figuring out the really detailed solutions needed to ensure we have long-term sustainability for the organization. I like building things, seeing them go from nothing to something greater than we thought we could do when we started.
What helps you make it through each day?
The team. Seriously, that sounds trite, but it’s true. There’s not a week that goes by (sometimes only days), when I turn around and I see something amazing that someone on the team has done. This truly energizes me and makes me realize just how gifted of a team we have. Our goal is to change the world by changing the way information flows. It’s an incredible feeling to see how this has happened from such humble beginnings 3 years ago in Kenya.
The one thing you can’t live without?
My iPhone. I tried Android, I really did, for about 6 months. It’s just not the same, the iPhone makes my day better and the world a brighter place.