My name is Derrick Gervin and I currently work as a Lead Evaluator at The Evaluation Group (TEG) in Atlanta, Georgia. I work with school systems and nonprofit organizations to improve student achievement. After completing my first six months as a full-time evaluator, I would like to share some tips with other newcomers to evaluation.
- Look inside: Identify your strengths and how they may be used in the evaluation. I realized early on that the field of evaluation was too diverse for me to know everything so I chose to pull from my strengths as a social work practitioner.
- Relationship building: The more you know about your client and their work, the better you can meet their evaluation needs. I’ve taken to doing a Google search of both the client’s organization and key people in the organization – going beyond just their website helped me to uncover valuable information to assist in my work. Also, I take advantage of opportunities to interact with clients during special events (i.e., career fairs, book festivals, and trainings).
- Build trust and be accessible: Make commitments and keep them. Ask clients for their input. Set aside time to be available to clients and return calls and emails as soon as possible. I have monthly evaluation meetings to discuss successes and challenges. Also, I spend as much time as possible on site meeting with project staff and observing processes.
- Get Organized: Find an organizing system that works for you. Also, plan to do as much project management as direct evaluation work. Especially, when projects are at the beginning stage. I’ve found a need to take continuing education classes in time management and the use of Microsoft Excel. I’m constantly searching for ways to maximize my time and work more efficiently.
- Conceptualization: Explore techniques to assist in conceptualizing planned work and expected outcomes. I regularly visit AEA365 for helpful data visualization tips and conceptualization resources. I really like DoView for creating logic models.
- Professional Development: Take advantage of opportunities to increase evaluation knowledge and skills. Know your limitations and consult with mentors and other evaluators in the field. I’ve found my co-workers to be a great source for answering and/or talking through challenging evaluation related issues. I participate in monthly lunch and learn sessions, as well as, group conference calls where we discuss and receive feedback on our evaluation projects.