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FFL Congratulates Channing and Cynthia

Funds For Learning congratulates Channing Estep and Cynthia Pham on completing their summer compliance associate internship. We asked Channing and Cythia to reflect on what they learned during their summer internship and here is what they had to say:

My time interning at Funds for Learning has been well spent! Being able to be interact with and observe other professionals is an invaluable experience with several benefits. I have spent the last several years of my life developing hard skills, but I have never had a playground in which to feed my soft skills. Working at FFL has allowed me to develop my professionalism by regularly communing with clients and co-workers in a few different platforms. Growing up, I hardly ever used landlines, so I had to learn to transfer calls, check my messages, and dial outside of the building. FFL uses a lot of different software. I was familiar with some of them like Zoom and MS Teams, but other programs were entirely new to me! Having new applications for software has really helped me to better understand their capabilities. Similarly, using new software has challenged me to be able to organize information in a new way. Knowing a broad range of ways to organize data is important to inspire creative solutions for data management. I really appreciate having had an opportunity to be able to practice professionalism and use various programs in new ways.

The ECF filing window is something new for FFL. The company was tasked with guiding clients through a system that it had never seen before. I had previously worked on a project in which I was tasked with improving a pre-existing process, but I had not worked on a process in the making until I worked at FFL. Instead of starting completely from scratch, my manager took inspiration from FFL’s pre-existing process for E-rate. Having a basic structure allowed us to focus more on the details and ensure that our clients had a pleasant experience. There are still a few things that we were and are unsure of because our process is reliant on external processes. Working on this project, I learned that keeping records as neat and tidy as possible is crucial to being able to quickly adapt to change. One thing that became very important for the ECF team was status updates. These were sent to every client semi-weekly to ensure that the clients knew exactly where they were in the filing process and how to move to the next step. Though these reports were time consuming, they helped me to find parts of our process that were ill defined and to fix them. Since starting the status reports, the storage of pertinent client information has changed to make information more accessible and standardized. This project has given me a better understanding of how to create and implement new processes.

I definitely feel like Funds For Learning places an emphasis on quality client service as well as professionalism and proper etiquette when dealing with clients. A big thing I’ve learned here regarding clients is how to walk them through things when they get confused, as well as how to behave around them. Mostly, I’ve assisted them with Form 486 certification walkthroughs. After my first month here, I started attending calls with clients and seeing how my FFL colleagues interacted with them. Even though some were difficult or weren’t good with technology, the FFL E-rate Guides were always cheerful and thoroughly helped them every step of the way. Being in these meetings gave me an idea of how an FFL member should act towards their clients. Not only that, but seeing the same steps being done over and over made it easier for me to go off and do Form 486 walkthroughs on my own without additional help, which was a big step for me. Observation and practice made things easier, so I’ve been able to do Form 486 walkthroughs with and without Zoom.

Interning at Funds For Learning also taught me phone etiquette as well as how to use an office phone in general. I’ve become more comfortable using a phone and calling people while I’ve been interning here. When I first sent out emails reminding schools to certify their Form 486s, in my email signature, I had accidentally put in my personal cell phone number instead of the FFL office hotline number. The next day, I got a bunch of calls from schools asking for help on certifying their Form 486s. Having to answer all these calls forced me to adapt quickly on how to answer clients on the phone when they call asking about something. I think if this didn’t happen, it would’ve taken me a longer time to become comfortable with answering the phone and talking to clients, since I wouldn’t be forced into those situations.

To wrap it up, everyone was really friendly, helpful, and welcoming, which helped me ease into this new working environment and become comfortable even though everything was unfamiliar. I’m very thankful for all of the experience I’ve gained here!

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