UN Office Matters

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  • "So, how good are you with Excel?"

    My second networking meeting at UNICEF during my volunteer days was with the Data and Analytics Section. The person interviewing me was from Colombia, with a sympathetic heart for fellow Latin Americans - a rare sighting at that time at headquarters. 

    The chat went very well: we mostly talked about Rio de Janeiro and soccer, which greatly helped establish the tone for a promising work relationship. But the meeting wasn't for career advice only, as I had previously anticipated. He was actually looking for a consultant (serendipity calling!).

    He explained the terms of reference for the consultancy, which would be soon advertised through a competitive process. It was a four-month gig to develop a comprehensive mapping of data in education from multiple sources for all countries in the world, and write an accompanying policy report. "Are you good with Excel?," he asked me. "Absolutely," I said with a slight tinge of remorse... 

    I was eventually offered the job and went on to spend four excrutiating months managing complex data sets side-by-side with an enourmous Excel bible I had got from my local library. Granted, I wasn't necessiraly 'good' with Excel at first. But I never thought it was hard to learn it, especially if you have the discipline, the determination and an Engineer father-in-law willing to help. And, boy, did I want that job?...

    Turns out the report was quite well received, particularly by the Global Chief of Education. I was subsequently invited for a longer consultancy to expand on this work and develop a more complex mapping, support costing exercises and write a comprehensive policy position paper for UNICEF in relation to secondary education. I was over-the-moon happy, until a staff from a UNICEF Country Office told me, "you know nobody reads these things in the field, right?" 

    Way to kill my vibe, lady...