We interviewed Bryan, Program Manager at RWD Berryessa and RWD Hillview, on his past three years with RWD, the transition to online learning, and volunteering with cats!
What has been your past experience with RWD? Were you ever a learner or tutor?
I started in 2019 as a tutor at RWD Berryessa, and became a coordinator for the same branch in 2020.
How was the jump from tutor to coordinator to program manager for you?
I think the jump from tutor to coordinator was a bigger jump compared to the one from coordinator to PM. Tutors don’t really see everything that goes on in terms of what happens on the backend. When I jumped from coordinator to PM, I had to rely a lot on the leadership team when I started as program manager. Pictured above:
Bryan and a cat named Akat!
What made you decide you wanted to be a program manager?
During the 2020 season, my program manager and co-coordinator were talking about what would happen next. We were all interested in staying within the program. Me and my co-coord were thinking of staying as coords, but things ended up changing. My program manager went into the RWD leadership team and I ended up becoming a PM to replace him. Luckily the tasks I did as a coordinator overlap a bit with what I do as a PM.
Have you ever had a similar kind of role to the one you have now? Or is this a foreign experience for you?
Being a PM is a little different from being a coordinator, because I’m playing more of a supportive role now than going in and actually doing the stuff. Sometimes I still help with managing the docs and doing tech support stuff (even though I shouldn’t really be doing that stuff). Other than that, I was a volunteer and shift lead at Fanime! The main difference is age demographics — everyone there is in the workforce, has a family. In RWD, I deal with fellow students.
At Fanime, are you usually the youngest volunteer there?
Could you briefly describe your role and some of the biggest tasks you are accountable for as a program manager?
My role is to support two of our branches (RWD Berryessa and RWD Hillview) in their operations, along with whatever else the coords need! I specifically help out a lot with the technical side of Read Write Discover's online operations.
What are some of the difficulties you encounter in your role?
I have to make sure everyone is on top of things, and try to remain supportive and do things in my role as PM. I try to make sure I’m not overreaching into coords’ roles and other tasks I’m not supposed to be doing! Occasionally we conduct interviews — they’re not hard, I just have to adjust to how they’re structured.
You were a part of RWD before the pandemic hit — how did you adjust to the transition to online learning? How did you feel before the start of the last summer's program and after?
Before I heard the program was going online, I thought “Is the program actually going to happen?” Once it was finalized, the focus was completely on “how are we going to handle everything?” For the first few months, it felt like we were behind on some things, but there were other things we got a head start on as well. We had to think more about the technical aspect of things, prepping as best as we could for the new environment, and trying to prevent things that could hinder learning. It feels a lot more different, like there are more tasks as opposed to in-person tutoring.
Did you ever feel the dreaded Zoom fatigue?
I felt Zoom fatigue the first time I ran two meetings at the same time! Since RWD Hillview and RWD Berryessa have their sessions at the same time and on the same days, I have 30 minutes in Berryessa’s session until I have to check in on Hillview’s session!
Is there anything you wish you could say to yourself before you started as PM?
I actually want to say this to myself before I started as a tutor: don’t back out of the experience!
As a PM, who do you interact with most on the team in order to get things done? Would you like to shout out anyone on the team?
Val, Ashley, the other program managers and of course my program coordinators, I do a lot of work with them!
You’ve been known to share photos from Mini Cat Town in our org’s Slack channels every now and then — how did you end up volunteering there?
It’s a funny story! Every time I went there as a customer, I would get confused as a volunteer. On the 5th or 6th time they asked me: “Are you a volunteer?” “…No.” I ended up getting recommended to join the team. Now I’m a shift lead!
So you’re a cat person.
I’m a catdog person. Like the cartoon.
Bryan and a cat named Akatu!
Since this is for the blog, would you like to make a book recommendation to finish off the interview?
Alice In Borderland — I watched it on Netflix first, it’s a good adaptation. I can confirm that because I read it after.