Second Secretary (Development) at the Canadian High Commission to Mozambique
Education & internships
BA in International Development and Globalization, University of Ottawa; MA in Conflict, Security and Development, King’s College London. A trip to Guyana with Youth Challenge International; placements at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) on the Sudan Program; research internship with the Democratic Progress Institute in London, UK.
On the job
Currently I’m on post at the High Commission in Mozambique working on our development assistance to Mozambique in the education sector. I’m a field-based development officer, so I’m doing day-to-day project management, but also a lot of field level coordination and monitoring of our programs out in the provinces. As a sector team, my colleagues and I review new proposals and think strategically about where Canada can make an impact through its development assistance. In any given week I might have a mix of meetings and workshops to attend, reports and studies to read, memorandums to write, and corporate requests to respond to, so it’s a very dynamic environment and there’s a lot of variety in my day to day.
Working in a new language is definitely one of the most challenging aspects of my job. It can be frustrating to feel as though you can’t express yourself as eloquently or diplomatically as you would like because you lack the vocabulary to do so. It can also be hard to know if you’re reading a situation properly when you’re not sure if you’re picking up on the nuance correctly. Fortunately, I have Mozambican colleagues who are able to support me in this regard while my Portuguese improves! I think the Department recognizes this challenge for development staff, and is increasingly providing training solutions to ensure we’re prepared for our jobs at post.
Work travel has given me unique life experiences. Travelling with Global Affairs Canada has found me eating fish with the local chief along the Red Sea coast in Sudan, dancing with South Sudanese women only a couple of months after independence, and serving up school lunches with volunteers in rural Mozambique. But what these experiences really represent are projects in coastal livelihoods, adult literacy for women, and school feeding that Canadians can be proud of.
Words of wisdom
1) Seek out relevant work and volunteer opportunities while you study. Hopefully we will see an increase in paid internships in development, which will make it easier for students to address their financial pressures and still gain relevant work experience. In my case a co-op program made a huge difference.
2) Spend time developing your second official language, and if it’s available to you, hone your skills in another ‘UN’ language. Bilingualism is a necessity for a long-term career in government, and when you’re overseas, it really gives you an edge to be able to interact with people in their first language. For myself, this is one of my professional gaps I’m trying to address.
3) Break the millennial stereotypes! Demonstrate humility, a willingness to learn, and a genuine dedication and commitment to the work. Avoid overtly self-referential conversations with the people who can influence your career; genuine interest and curiosity in your field will leave a much better impression.
4) Lastly, always be kind and build good rapport with the people you encounter along the way. You never know who might turn out to be your next hiring manager.