What is your background?
I am a Programme Analyst with the JPO Service Centre in Copenhagen and I am funded by the Government of Kuwait. Like many individuals you meet at the United Nations, I have a very multi-cultural background. I grew up in the UK and Kuwait. Before moving to Copenhagen for this assignment, I had been living in Canada working as a researcher in the areas of public health and child and youth mental health for several years.
I graduated with a Masters in International Development Studies from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Shortly after, I completed an internship in Hanoi, Vietnam where I played a role in establishing an Entrepreneurship Centre at one of Hanoi’s leading universities. That was a fascinating experience which will always remain with me. Vietnam is such a vibrant and culturally rich country! I then returned to Canada, and worked with an amazing team of researchers for several years at the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University where I collaborated with a wide network of youth advocates, social workers and health professionals to explore the concept of resilience in young people.
What was your motivation for becoming a JPO?
When I saw the position advertised for a Kuwaiti Junior Professional Officer with UNDP, I saw it as an exciting opportunity to re-direct my career towards the field of international development which is what I had initially intended to do when I began my studies. I also saw it as a strategic entry point into the UN system which is an institution I’ve always admired for its humanitarian values and its commitment to sustainable development. Working as a researcher in the social sciences gave me some excellent project management and analytical skills, but I was starting to crave new experiences outside of academia, and wanted to challenge myself. Taking the JPO position seemed like a natural next step to further my career in international development and I was so thrilled when I was notified that I was accepted for the position in Copenhagen!
What is your current role at UNDP JPOSC?
I work closely with the team at the JPO Service Centre where we specialize in delivering high quality human resources services to JPOs and SARCs. My tasks are so diverse and interesting that I can safely say there is never a dull moment! I have an active role in supporting the strategic partnerships and resources mobilization team to develop and get funding for innovative talent management and learning initiatives for young professionals. I am also a focal point for the UNDP JPO Mentoring Programme that matches JPOs and SARCs with mentors in the UN system. Finally, I am very involved in the communications work of the centre where I have been working on social media outreach, developing communications materials and researching career development tools and resources for young professionals.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your JPO assignment so far?
Where do I begin? As someone with such a diverse background, working at the UN feels like I’ve finally found my place! On a daily basis you meet people from all walks of life who bring fascinating stories, insights and perspectives. The respect for diversity and the collegial atmosphere that you get from working here is such a draw for me and it is definitely a big part of what inspires me to continue a career with the UN. In terms of my specific career interests, I’ve found that my work on building strategic partnerships and innovative projects has been particularly rewarding as I get to apply some creativity and strategic thinking towards causes that really matter to me. For example, I’ve been actively involved in developing an outreach strategy to secure private sector funding for a programme that will build the transformational leadership skills of young men and women from the South. I’m also helping to mobilize resources for a programme that will support young people with disabilities to work in international development. I’m so happy to be part of this important work!
What has been your biggest challenge?
Learning how to express and share my ideas with more confidence in a team setting was a real challenge for me at first. I am an introverted person by nature and at the beginning, I found myself going past my comfort zone to overcome my shyness of speaking in public. As time went by I thought what’s the worst that could happen? So I started gradually speaking out more and realized – hey, this isn’t that bad at all. I’ve got to thank my very supportive colleagues for this too. We work in a very open and collaborative environment here at the JPOSC and that has really helped a great deal.
What kind of advice would you give to JPOs who are just starting their assignment?
Accept each day as a challenge and as a learning experience and welcome new experiences with a positive and open mind. I try to continuously remind myself of what a privilege it is to be doing this kind of work and try to make the most of each day I have. If you see a learning opportunity for yourself or a chance to collaborate on a new project – go for it and ask if you can get involved! It not only shows initiative on your part, but it can be an excellent way to network and get exposure to new skills and experiences.