Having clear goals and a vision of sustainability in mind when building local relationships is crucial.
|Name: Anders UechtritzMain country of residence: Australia||Current Position: AnalystOrganisation: Social Ventures Australia|
|Qualifications (and University): Bachelor of Commerce (University of Notre Dame); Master of Development Studies (University of Sydney)|
|Years of experience (development/overall): ): 1 year in the field (2012) / 1 year studying (2013)|
|LinkedIn Profile/Website Address: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/anders-uechtritz/57/107/aaa|
|Languages (and level of fluency): English|
What is the nature of the organisation you currently work for?
Social Ventures Australia (SVA) is a non-profit organisation that helps to create better education and employment outcomes for disadvantaged Australians by bringing the best of business to the social sector, and by working with partners to strategically invest capital and expertise. SVA Consulting shares evidence and knowledge to build social sector capacity, while SVA Impact Investing introduces new capital and innovative financial models to help solve entrenched problems.
When did you first start working in international development and what was your first role?
I started working in January 2012 for an international organisation called Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD), which is a broad parent organisation with offices spanning several continents. I applied to intern with FSD, which then places you with a local organisation in the area you end up in (in my case, Kenya). So, in this sense, the first organisation I worked for was FSD, but I worked day to day on the ground with a small microfinance NGO.
How did you obtain your first development role? Did you apply for it, and if so how many applications did you submit to get your first role? Was the role paid or unpaid?
I applied for the role. My first application was accepted but then there were two follow-up interview processes I needed to pass. The role was specifically designed for postgraduate students, and looked to take on only those that wanted to go abroad to work, not for a post-university holiday. The role was unpaid, however we received a weekly stipend to cover some living costs, as well as potential funding for projects we initiated.
Do you consider field experience important in obtaining your first development role?
My current role is in national development, but my time in the field internationally (working with a microfinance NGO and later an agribusiness community-based organisation in Kenya) definitely contributed towards obtaining this role. The experience I gained from working on the ground was priceless.
I think field experience is important if you’re considering going into a long-term career development role, but not so much if it is a 1 year or less type of role. If you are going into a career-defining role, you should definitely have an idea of what you’re signing up for. There is no replacement for spending time on the ground, and once you are there you have to fully immerse yourself in it to have a chance of having an impact. Conversely, if you’re going into a shorter role, then it is all about getting that field experience to get a feel for development and if it is for you.
How important do you consider networking to being successful in your field?
The more time goes on, the more I see the importance of networking. Many projects I was part of in Kenya were only successful on the back of a relationship I or someone else had and could leverage off. The upside of this is that I’ve found within development circles that people are generally very like-minded and want to build a relationship with you if you’re willing to give them the time.
What do you see as the main advantages and disadvantages of the work you’re engaged in?
When I was working abroad, one of the biggest difficulties I found was building relationships with the locals. It was often hard to get them past their perceptions that I was just another ‘white knight’ who would come in to the town for a few weeks to undergo a feel-good project that would subsequently disintegrate when I left town and leave them no better off than before. Having clear goals and a vision of sustainability in mind when building local relationships is crucial.
What advice would you give to somebody interested in pursuing a career in international development similar to yours?
The main insight I can offer is that if you want to take on a career in international/national development, you just need to get into the field and get in the door with any role you can. Once you are over there and amongst it, your situation will change day to day. I was not aware of what local organisation I was to be working with until 1 week before moving to Kenya, and then once over there I changed organisations and roles a few times. After starting work in the field you quickly begin to meet similar people and make connections that you could not make from home. If you’re willing to be over there and meeting these people face to face, they will already form an opinion of you that would otherwise be impossible to convince them of from the comfort of your home.
Image credit: (c)NEIL PALMER PHOTOGRAPHY