From Casual Presenter to Head of Programs (and beyond!)

A reflection from our outgoing team mate, Dani Weber <3

Posted on July 20, 2021 by Lucy Thomas OAM

This week at PROJECT ROCKIT, our longtime friend and team member Dani Weber (aka DW or d-dubs) ran their final school workshop. Having started out with us as a casual presenter 4.5 years ago, DW has played an integral role in the evolution of PROJECT ROCKIT and the growth of many young presenters during this time. Before we let DW head off on their next chapter (we wish you well d-dubs!), our cofounder and CEO of Impact, Lucy Thomas, sat them down for one last yarn about their experiences working with PROJECT ROCKIT.

Selfie taken of Lucy and DW sitting at table. There is a bowl of hot chips in front of them and they both are posing with thumbs up

LT: So DW, how did you come to join PROJECT ROCKIT and what are some of the roles you’ve held over the years?

Photo of DW presenting a school workshop with a co-presenter. They are both standing in front of an audience of school students who are putting their hands up enthusiastically.DW: I made a post on social media saying that I was looking for a job, and that my skills included public speaking & workshop facilitation, engaging people on issues of social justice, and being ridiculously motivated and enthusiastic. Some people I know teased me saying that my post was too broad and that I wouldn’t find a dream job like that. But then, a new friend of mine said I should check out PROJECT ROCKIT. They said “not sure if they’re hiring but this is a really awesome org!”… and they WERE hiring!

I started out as casual presenter, which I loved so much. So many different trips and schools. It also was awesome for me at that stage of my career as I had a lot of passions and side projects, as many of our casual presenters do.  After a year and a half, I became Head of Programs. This was my first time managing a team, and I am so grateful to PROJECT ROCKIT for growing me so much. I went from running around at schools all the time to ensuring smooth team functioning and strategy.

Towards the end of my time at PROJECT ROCKIT, I dropped down to part time hours and took the portfolio of Training & Workshops Coordinator, to focus on improving our new COVIDsafe and revamped offerings, and using the knowledge I’d had from the 4.5 years at P-ROCK to train up the new team and have them as ready as possible.

LT: Of all of these experiences, what have been some of your highlights?

DW: Being flown to Auckland, NZ to speak at a conference representing PROJECT ROCKIT was pretty awesome! I loved learning about all the different initiatives to promote online safety. I also loved learning that there’s other like-minded organisations around the world. I spoke on a panel with people from other youth organisations and my heart swelled when I saw them nodding along to what I was saying – I am so proud of PROJECT ROCKIT’s approach to empowering young people, and seeing them as capable, compassionate users of the online world.

Another highlight is being part of a dynamic, friendly team. There are not many jobs that send you to such a variety of locations with some of the most interesting people ever as your coworkers. It is so cool working in the space of social change and combating hate and prejudice, because it attracts such passionate people.I loved taking a tiny (regional) plane for the first time when visiting Moree, NSW. Driving through Bega, NSW and thinking “ahhh, this is why everyone says it’s so beautiful here.

Photo of DW on set for filming the digital ambassadors workshop, with their co-presenter. They are both smiling. DW is wearing a black, pink and green jumper, they have splashes of purple in their hair.And finally there was the launch of our partnership with Facebook and Instagram at FBHQ in Melbourne, and also delivering the Digital Ambassadors workshop at Sydney FBHQ! It was so snazzy and I loved the fact that these important messages were going to reach so many students around the country.

LT: What have been some of the most difficult or challenging parts of this work?

DW:

Well first of all, it’s really fast paced. We are a small business with lots of bookings and trips and a big shiny brand but only a small team behind it. We all work so hard and with so much passion and that can be draining at times and very stressful because we all want to do such a good job and the subject matter can get sensitive at times.

Another part that’s really challenging is honestly just thinking about bullying, hate and prejudice all the time. Yes, I am so so so proud I have been able to make a dent in these issues, but they’re also heavy topics. We talk about them in positive, strengths based ways, but it can get intense when my main focus in life has been “how do we combat (cyber)bullying in schools, and how do we deliver our messages in a way that will be interesting and impactful? How do we help our presenters to be confident and effective, and also be safe and supported when discussing these big topics?”

On top of these big questions, the reality is that we’re only visitors to schools. It’s awesome to come in and (hopefully) make a high impact, however we don’t get to deeply understand what’s going on in a school and can’t always get through to every student, even though we try.

LT: What advice would you give to your younger self, or someone starting out in tackling bullying, hate & prejudice?

DW is posing with three school students who are framed within large cutout of an Instagram post. They are holding a sign that says "you belong." All are smiling.DW: I really appreciate having joined an organisation that had been around for so many years. There were so many lessons learned already and strengths in approach, that I felt able to make such a big impact each day running these types of workshops in schools.

My advice to my younger self would be that it’s awesome to pioneer your own initiatives and projects (I did plenty of those before joining P-ROCK!), and also it can be awesome to join forces with others and make a team. And also to learn from people who are more experienced. If it’s starting to get painful trying to reinvent the wheel and do things on your own – get support like a mentor or joining a company or group already doing something. The energy of a team is amazing :)

LT: As you’re moving on from PROJECT ROCKIT this week, which of your contributions are you most proud of?

DW: I’m proud of the people I’ve hired and trained. Each and every one of them is so amazing. I remember interviewing them and thinking “wow, you’re going to make such a positive impact here in your own special way” and it’s so true. I’m especially proud of being able to train and teach them strengths-based, entertaining, and open minded ways to tackle these issues.

I’m also just proud of… every single workshop I was able to run. It is such a dream to spend my time thinking and talking about these topics, even if it’s challenging at times.

It’s all about trying to help humanity progress and figure itself out – how do we be kind to each other, how do we stop abuse and power struggles, how do we promote inclusion?

Dani is standing in front of a projector screen with the PROJECT ROCKIT logo on it. They're wearing a blue top and hooded jacket and smiling. The photo was taken at their last PROJECT ROCKIT school workshop.

Photo taken at DW’s last PROJECT ROCKIT school workshop

And I truly believe every time I had that microphone, I was able to make some kind of difference, thanks to the way we do things at PROJECT ROCKIT – vibrant, hard hitting, and real. Just wow!

I also loved contributing to PRTV, because those videos will last forever, both the ones I’m in and the ones I helped write.

Dani, we wish you the nothing but the best for the next chapter of your career. We’re so thankful for the wonderful ways that you have shaped PROJECT ROCKIT’s impact and the lives of so many school students for the better. Once a P-ROCKer, always a P-ROCKer ;)