Skip to Content
My internship with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

My internship with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

September 27, 2019 at 12:05pm

Name: Sandra Kiplagat

Hometown: Methuen, Massachusetts by way of Nairobi, Kenya. I was born and raised in Kenya for 16 years.

Where did you intern?What did you do there? I was fortunate and humbled to intern with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) in the summer of 2019. During my internship, I worked with the Maternal Newborn Child Health Discovery and Tools (MNCH D&T) team on creating a maternal burden compendium deck on maternal morbidity and mortality.

How did you get your internship? Through a recruiting process, a BMGF employee came and talked to FIU Stempel College students about the internship overview in October 2018. I submitted my resume as the part of the application process. The recruiters came back on campus to interview us, and we then were selected for phone interviews in Feb. By early March, we were notified of our acceptance.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? I would advise students to consult with the career office at FIU. Lauren Cavicchi from Stempel College was helpful in critiquing my resume and providing feedback. In addition, I conducted a mock interview with Lauren. I would also seek advice from former interns to provide perspective on the internship process especially when it relates to the specific program, my PhD program.

What projects did you work on? During my time at BMGF, I examined regional and global trends of maternal morbidity and mortality, explored the methodological process for maternal morbidity and mortality, and lastly, created the maternal burden compendium deck, which was my deliverable. I also consolidated a database to identify data sources for maternal morbidity and mortality estimates. Other projects I worked on included creating draft recommendations for the formation of the Africa Community Group based on qualitative and quantitative interviews.

What is your major? PhD in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology

How did your internship connect back to your coursework?  The internship did not relate to my coursework but to my research. My dissertation focuses on predictors and impact on preterm and low birth weight among infants, so it was interesting to examine the research through the lens of pregnant women. I examined the trends of maternal disorders contributing to maternal morbidity and mortality.

What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? The coolest thing about internship was we got to hear from Bill Gates and Dangote, the richest man from Nigeria. In addition, as interns, we had weekly meetings. It was cool to listen and learn from the executive and senior leadership focusing their work on improving the health and education outcomes in the global south.  

What did you like most about your experience? I really enjoyed working and collaborating with my team on Maternal Newborn Child Health. It was great to find mentors from my team, and across the foundation who are willing to continue to serve as mentors as I navigate my personal, academic and professional life after my internship. In addition, I enjoyed collaborating with fellow interns on “The Intern Cohort Special Initiative” to promote cross-functional collaboration across teams within the foundation.

What did you learn about yourself? During the internship, I learned to believe in myself. Though it always seems easy thing to say, it can be difficult to practice. At times, I encountered “impostor syndrome,” and did not feel like I could always contribute. I started challenging myself to ask a question to meetings with executive leaders and over time, I became more comfortable. I know I can be an asset to my team and the foundation.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? Yes, this internship has helped increase my professional confidence. As a new intern, it was challenging in understanding the projects (i.e. acronyms, etc), but over time, I could contribute in meetings and ask questions whenever I did not know the answer.

How did you expand your professional network? I am fortunate to have had a great team and an amazing and supportive manager. In addition, people outside my teams have been awesome in providing support, guidance and mentorship. It was great having one-on-one meetings with people despite their busy schedules. Employees were generally happy and helpful to meet with interns.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?”  It was amazing to be among caring, hardworking, motivated and driven team members. During my time there, it reinforced the importance of employing research to drive real world work, particularly in improving health outcomes.