2012 - Donato Serena, JPO currently funded by Italy, shares with us his experience and insights on his assignment with UNOPS in Senegal.
My name is Donato Serena, and I joined UNOPS in November 2008 as JPO, funded by the Italian Government. I have a Master in Education obtained in the University of Milan, in Italy. Before joining UNOPS, I worked for International NGOs in Rwanda, Burundi and DRC on educational projects funded by the European Union, the Italian Ministry of foreign Affairs and UNICEF. I have been working in Africa since July 2003.
Since I joined UNOPS, I have been dealing with the environmental Portfolio managed by SNOC (Senegal Operation Centre); I’m based in Dakar, but I supervise 6 complex regional environmental projects in Western and Central Africa.
The projects involve the main countries in the Region (Senegal, Mali, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Chad, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon and one project on Climate change adaptation involving 20 countries in overall Africa).
Almost all the projects deal with biodiversity and protected areas conservation issues; one project in Mali is dealing with water infrastructures and as I said above, one of them is the AAP (African Adaptation Programme – Climate change).
This work experience in UNOPS Senegal Operation Center is very interesting to me for two reasons:
- The projects are very complex (politically and operationally), and for me this is a big opportunity to learn by the field, by the different situations, by the colleagues. As a JPO, I know that the senior staff gave me many responsibilities, by asking me to manage this Portfolio, and for me, as said before, it is a great opportunity to learn.
- In these almost 4 years in SNOC, I started to deal with operational issues within these projects and since 2011 I am dealing more with Programme issues (activities, reports, relation with partners/donors, etc.). This gave me the opportunity to have a complete picture of the projects and it will be very useful for my future employments.
I am very happy also with my duty station: Dakar (Senegal); Dakar is a modern large city, there are no particular issues regarding security; Senegalese are very friendly people. In almost 4 years of assignment, quite frankly, I never had problems in my daily life.
As mentioned above, this is my last year as JPO; my contract is going to expire in November 2012; this experience motivated me once more to build my career in development field. The experience with UNOPS was very positive, and I would like to continue working with them or with the UN family in the future as. I think that this is the maximum you can reach (in terms of career) in the development field.
The JPO experience gives the possibility to enter the UN system and to assimilate the rules and procedures of the system, which is essential in order to develop a career within the UN.
I should say that I was very lucky, because since the beginning of my assignment, my supervisor assigned many responsibilities to me (as mentioned I was the Portfolio Manager for 6 complex regional projects) and this helped me to increase my skills in negotiation, communication, management, leadership, conflict resolution.
In my opinion, a JPO experience is a unique possibility and I always encourage all the people I meet, who are interested to work in the development field, to apply.