In the first of a three-part series, Dexis shares stories from staff who think critically and embrace big challenges, all while embodying the Dexis values of ingenuity, integrity, and investment in people.
When Rachel Wilder returned to the United States after a year working in India, she was having a difficult time finding a job that would help her achieve her career goals. She wanted to work in development and government contracting with USAID, to grow her project management and budgeting skills, but she was unable to find a position that she qualified for on paper.
“I had experience working on domestic social impact at Georgetown University. In India, I worked for a nonprofit organization focused on improving the lives of adolescent girls. I was job searching widely in the sector, but it was hard to get my foot in the door with USAID because I didn’t already have USAID experience,” Rachel explains with frustration. “But then I found Dexis. It was a big enough company that I felt like I would have lots of people to learn from, but small enough that I felt I would be able to make an impact. And I liked that there was a clear emphasis on learning and applying evidence to the work that they were doing.”
Mihir Desai, CEO of Dexis, agrees with Rachel’s view. “At Dexis, we intentionally screen people for their behavioral type rather than their institutional affiliations. Rachel showed that she is solutions-centered. She didn’t need the institutional experience when her background already demonstrated a real focus on solving a problem for clients and program beneficiaries. Hiring candidates whose behaviors show us that they can do the work is part of what makes us such a successful international development company.”
Dexis saw the strength of Rachel’s experiences and brought her on board for a role that would additionally give her the skills she wanted to learn. “Dexis provided me with the training I needed to tackle the steep learning curve of government contracting,” Rachel said. “They really invested in me.”
After nearly a year of working at Dexis and gaining the knowledge she needed around project management and financials for business development, Rachel was given an internal opportunity to grow even more. A project associate in Dexis’ Center for Global Security and Stabilization (CGSS) was transitioning off Dexis’ social listening project (SOLIS) and Rachel had the chance to step into that role.
When Rachel joined SOLIS, it had just exited the prototyping stage and the team was about to begin real-world implementation in a Spanish-speaking country. “I studied Spanish in college and did an internship in Peru,” Rachel says, “so those language skills came in handy.”
Rachel was eager to learn more of the deep technical and data analysis skills relevant to the project and she dove right in, conducting intensive research around the topic to which they were applying the social listening product by using her knowledge of Spanish to look at the existing data around conversations on social media. Based on that analysis, she was able to determine which questions the team could explore using the tool, and her direction yielded rich insights.
Additionally, her guidance of the research process—how to approach and troubleshoot issues, and ensure that the team was producing results that would stand up and be useful for the client—resulted in Rachel becoming a point of contact for the project. In the end, she was the one who drafted most of the project report for the client.
“We presented a lot of compelling insights to them and proved success,” she says, “but it wasn’t just me. This was a group effort. Social media and data science were new to me. The team is really great and I learned a lot.”
In addition, Rachel says of her colleagues, “I think everyone at Dexis has a love for exploring the world. There are a lot of internationally-minded people who get excited about working in different opportunities and different contexts, about travel and different cuisines they enjoy. And we love making a social impact through work that is meaningful.”
This international mindset is one that she identifies with. “My mother is from India. I studied Spanish throughout high school and college, and I’ve also studied Hindi, French, and Mandarin. My internship in Lima was in the Economic section of the U.S. Embassy with the Department of State. These are my people!”
Last autumn, Rachel was offered the opportunity to work on the social listening project full time: “I was really excited about that because it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done at work.”
She is looking forward to continuing to build her skills in data analysis and data science and to apply those in the development space. Now, as the full-time coordinator for the project, she is able to do exactly that. Dexis is further supporting her continued learning by funding a MicroMasters® in Analytics through edX/Georgia Tech.
When asked whether her experience at Dexis provided the skills she had been hoping to gain, Rachel confirms, “the first year at Dexis absolutely met the goal. I got a real crash course in project management and budgeting, and government contracts and USAID. It also exceeded the goal because I got to apply my background to more technical areas. The leadership at Dexis really follows up on their commitment to professional development. They take a sincere interest in helping employees grow.”
Based in Washington, DC, Rachel Wilder joined Dexis a year and a half ago in the monitoring and evaluation division. She is now a project coordinator and analyst for a Dexis social listening project. Rachel graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in international studies and economics and a minor in statistics.