What Do We Do?

By dirkkelly

Friday, Feb 6, 2015

Today I spent a lot of time working on the business domain of the organization, a project I’ve undertaken that will help us better define how we do things at InterExchange, in turn helping our Participants and Hosts understand the regulations surrounding the Programs we offer.

In this post I’m going to spend some time defining what I think we do at InterExchange, a sort of brain dump from the thought sessions I had today. This is not InterExchange’s official definitions, you’ll find those here. It is just some of my thinking, that I hope you’ll find interesting.

InterExchange

InterExchange is a not-for-profit organization that is designated by the [U.S. Department of State] to issue forms outlining our Participant’s eligibility on the [J-1 Visa Program]. We’ve abstracted how we deal with the regulations for different programs to our Departments.

To compliment these U.S. inbound programs, we also offer outbound programs to Americans, allowing them to enjoy the same experiences that international participants have in the U.S.

Departments

We have 6 departments at InterExchange, 4 of them deal with the [J-1 Visa Program], the other 2 deal with outbound participants.

U.S. Inbound Departments

Au Pair USA

Placing international Au Pairs with U.S. Host Families requires considering both the professional and personal aspects of each match.

This team works to ensure that the Au Pairs are absolutely qualified to assist families, and that the Hosts are able to create the environment necessary to host this young person in their home. They also ensure the au pairs get out in their local communities to improve their english and take classes.

Camp USA

Matching International Students with Camps requires taking into consideration the skills and personality of the Participants and matching them with a Host that is an accredited U.S. summer camp ready to facilitiate a cultural exchange program at their camp.

Camps work on a strict seasonal basis, meaning we have a specific window to help them fill the vast amount of roles they have.

Career Training USA

Giving students, recent grads and young professsionals a chance to learn about U.S. business practies while at the same time ensuring that an International Participant is going to learn on a placement and has the necessary qualifications is a complicated process. The programs Career Training deals with often have longer placements.

This department works hard to ensure that Hosts and Participants alike understand the learning requirements of this program, going so far as to visit the employers on site to ensure they will be creating the necessary environment.

Work & Travel USA

This department focuses on programs that give international college students access to temporary work in an environment where they’ll be immersed in U.S. Culture. These programs are more about the life experience than they are the work experience. Our participants have a fantastic summer vacation and are able to supplement their adventures with a basic income in U.S. dollars.

We need to ensure that the roles that they take on conform with state employment laws, that the participants will have appropriate housing and that ultimately they’ll be given the opportunities to experience the culture, not just work.

Our vetting team works hard to ensure Hosts are providing these features, they regularly travel the U.S. to visit Participants at their Jobs and get their honest feedback on their experiences.

U.S. Outbound Departments

Working Abroad

Our primary Outbound department covers the same range of programs that you’ve seen above. Thier focus is on educating participants on the vast range of Programs available to them abroad as well as the impact the program will have on their lives.

This department is situated across the hall from me, so I guess I’m most in tune to the questions these Participants have and the challenges they’ll face. Our team is highly versed in the visa requirements of the different programs, as well as the cultural aspects of the destination countries.

My favorite conversations to overhear are those relating to how Australian lifestyle differs from life here in the U.S.

The Foundation

I have the least to do with this department, their process is still not a completely integrated into the systems we build, having said that, this is the department we’re all working to support.

The Foundation provides various grants to U.S. Participants looking to engage communities abroad with programs that the Participants themselves define, as well as grants for those undertaking a Working Abroad program.

The ultimate responsibility of the department is to review applications and determine which Participants will have the greatest impact from their grant. I can’t wait to work with them closer in the future.

Engineering

We now get to our team, the behind-the-scenes group that builds the information systems that support the Staff, Participants, and Hosts of these programs. Our responsibility is to understand how these Departments and Programs are similar, and different. In turn we strive to build solutions that will benefit a wide range of them.

Often this requires thinking about what the Programs offer in a more abstract sense, removing ourselves from the variations in regulatory, employment and seasonality requirements to come up with concepts that can be shared.

A common example of this is how an Au Pair USA Host Family is similar to a Work & Travel USA Host Employer. In both cases our Staff are looking to ensure that the Host is able to create a safe environment with plenty of cultural opportunities, and in turn that the Participant is qualified to assist the Host, and fully aware of the responsibilities they have to their placement during the time that they’re in country.

Dirk Kelly

I find this to be the most exciting work I’ve ever had. Previously I was a consultant for many years, engaging in projects for clients in the Education, Housing, Retail, Risk Management, Marketing, and Religious industries. I would often quote that my love for consulting came from the vast range of technical and business challenges I was faced with across the projects.

I joined InterExchange after consulting with them to build the Participant Application system for Career Training USA, Working Abroad and Camp USA. I had learnt that the diversity in these departments was often times necessary and was excited to take on the challenge to see how they could be similar.

I’ve now been with InterExchange for 18 months, marking it as one of the longest non-stop roles I’ve ever taken on. Since joining I’ve also worked with the Work & Travel USA and Au Pair USA teams, continuously learning about how they relate to the rest of the organization.

The Future

We’ve had some great successes with the systems we’ve built, from an API that allows our International Partners to send us their Participant Applications in bulk, to a Placement tool that allows Hosts to directly review Participant Candidates.

In the years to come, these tools, among others will be extended to allow them to be integrated with other departments. Ultimately these projects will guide us to better understand how we can extend our business while remaining true to our Vision and Mission.

InterExchange is at an amazingly productive point of its Information Systems life cycle, so much of the diplomatic and infrastructure work has been completed, positioning us such that we can build amazing tools for all of our departments.

We’re currently looking for [Software Engineers] to join our team, our roles require an absolute love for other cultures and an open mind to solving the challenges of international exchange programs.

If you’re a compassionate engineer with a flare for web application development, you’ll find that we’re one of the most progressive software engineering teams in the world, and you’ll probably love working with us.

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