A report on my first ICANN fellowship experience. On the following text I intend to go through my expectations, coaching process, views on the onsite meeting and further suggestions for the Fellowship Program.
Before the application, the acceptance news, and my expectations
I have been working with Internet Governance related subjects ever since 2008 when I started my first internship at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a division created solely for working with Information Society subjects. Throughout my career I had also the chance of being part of the teams within the brazilian government responsible for drafting and submitting to public comment period an Act that was called the Marco Civil da Internet, drafting the Access to Information Act and in the early moments of 2016, the legal debates towards the Data Protection Bill before its sending to the Brazilian Congress.
Due to the privilege of being a part of such representative initiatives for the Internet in Brazil, I was never able to engage in such opportunities as the ICANN fellowship programme and, whenever I had the time I did not quite had the courage to finish the application because I thought my background was not good enough - which was totally a miss conception/lack of confidence. After years of being told to send my application to the fellowship programme, I finally had the courage to do so and I was very flattered after the notification of acceptance (a feeling that was common between us fellows - how did ICANN let us in?).
Regarding my expectations (most likely fears) towards the onsite experience they were the following:
- The subjects discussed would be too complex for me to understand;
- The meeting would be a very rigid/corporative type of environment where it would not be possible for me to network or either have proper conversations with the attendees; and
- The debates held by ICANN would have nothing to do with my work experience;
For the record, all of the above were either miss conceptions or not very rational fears!
My assigned coach was Israel Rosas, a colleague from the Internet Society Special Interest Group called Youth Observatory whom I fortunately had the chance to not only meet but to have as a fellow-fellow..
Throughout the whole coaching process Israel was very helpful and available for answering each and every single doubt or silly questions any of his newcomers would have. From the day we had our teams assembled, Israel guided us through the upcoming weeks until the Icann meeting with weekly skype calls, a whatsapp group and suggestions of courses at the Icann Learn platform which he thought would be more adequate for each of us.
Having said that, it was a real privilege to have been placed in a team like mine where all of us were willing to get acquainted with each other and learn from the diverse backgrounds each of us holds. Also, the availability Israel had for us newcomers made me more comfortable and secure during the days that anticipated the event.
Last but not least it is also important to note that, during the days of the event, Israel has demonstrated interest on whom we would like to meet and also arranged us a meeting with Rodrigo Parra and Daniel Fink, in order to assure our engagement.
Sessions attended per day:
The variety of sessions offered by the meeting could be appalling, even though I had already seen or read anything related to DNS, DNSSec, the relation between TLDs and Intellectual Property or even had the chance, in my years as an intern at the MInistry of Foreign Affairs, to see the development of the position of the Brazilian Delegation inside GAC, I felt as if I was not quite as ready as I wish I could have been. Fortunately we had the newcomers day and all the fellowship sessions that made it possible for us newbies to have a better understanding of ICANN.
Having said that, I have to mention some sessions that caught my eyes such as the Opening Ceremony, where the key subject of the ceremony opened by Mr. Jean-Jacques Sahel, was transparency. By addressing this topic, Mr. Steve Crocker mentioned its importance to ICANN itself and to the Board, who is engaged in a pilot programme to become more open through its sessions. Another important thing mentioned by Mr. Crocker is that ICANN will continue to pursue its main goal which is to continue strengthening their technical orientation and the security of the Domain Name System.
Another interesting moment was the Public Forum, even though it may sound repetitive for the already initiated at the ICANN Community. It was very unique to observe individuals engaging (or not) with the speakers and to witness the whole dynamics and if I may say 'democracy' of the forum, where every single person that was present was allowed to go to the open mic and bring concerns to the audience.
Apart from the general moments, as a fellow, I can state that every single session dedicated to show the alumni the intricacies of every working group, constituency or part of ICANN were very enlightening.
Also, due to my previous work experience (as a legal advisor working with Internet and Human Rights subjects) I was advised to follow the sessions within the NCSG agenda, what made me feel very accomplished towards the subjects discussed.
Fellowship Programme and Suggestions
As an overall overview of the fellowship, if I am allowed to do so, it is of utter importance for me to mention the impact of the whole experience. Being a young women from an "underserved" region attempting to thrive in the tech field, It was and still is an honour to have been considered for this programme and to have seen so many women fellows having the opportunity to have their voices heard.
Also, having the opportunity to be amongst so many inspiring people, from my fellow-fellows to our coordinators and coaches and also the Internet rockstars, and having the chance to engage and talk with these people is definitely one of the highest points of the whole programme. The way that the community welcomes the newcomers made us all feel more confident throughout our journey.
Having said that, I have a few suggestions :
- Newcomers day should try to hold as man meetings with the different representants and constituencies as possible, there were a lot of sessions that I did not get the chance to attend due to a mandatory session.
- Apart from the breakfast, I missed bonding opportunities with the other fellows. Due to the everyone's personal agenda within the meeting, the fellows which I have bonded the most were the ones interested in the same sessions that I was interested in. Therefore I think there should be another exclusive, maybe off-site, moment for the fellows to bond, apart from the sessions and the breakfast.
- The Fellowship programme should incorporate IcannWiki in some way, the capacity building potential of the tool should be used as part of our learning process, amongst Icann Learn. Maybe, as part of the learning process, the fellows could write articles on every single fellowship session in order to create more memory regarding the experience.
In conclusion, the whole experience turned out to be a very good opportunity and experience, all the knowledge acquired and friends I had the chance to make will forever represent a milestone in my career that I am proud to portrait in my curriculum. And, without the fear of sounding any more obvious than any of my fellow-fellows, I am very grateful for the opportunity that was given to me and am anxiously waiting on the chance of coming back and engaging everyday more at the ICANN Community.