As we continue to honor women working in some of the most important international organizations in the world. We are delighted to share another exclusive employee spotlight interview.
Meet Beatrix Lahoupe, Head, Implementation Support Branch at The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
Please could you tell us a little about yourself and your professional background?
I began my career in the private sector, working as an engineer on multinational construction and research projects. Yet, I had always been curious about how the international system “works”, and how security, diplomacy, peace and development are interlinked. So, I decided to start over, embarked on this new path and never looked back.
Prior to joining OPCW, I coordinated the delivery of the IAEA’s technical development cooperation programme; advised on integrating radiation medicine into national cancer control strategies; formulated the mandate implementation strategy for the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Sudan; and coordinated the programme planning of the IAEA’s Department of Safeguards. Earlier, I held appointments as a special assistant and research coordinator at DG Energy of the European Commission, and coordinated projects under NATO’s “Science for Peace” initiative.
I hold degrees in Nuclear Engineering (M.Sc.) and in International Politics (M.A.).
When and why did you choose to work for OPCW?
When joining an international organization, it is important that I can relate to its cause, that the organisation’s “why” becomes mine, too. OPCW’s purpose of eradicating chemical weapons and the threat they pose is more important than ever. It is also one of the few international organization with a mandate right at the nexus of peace and security, multilateral diplomacy, and technical development cooperation.
What do you believe is/are the most important skill(s) needed to work at a mission-based intergovernmental organization such as OPCW?
For an organisation like OPCW, I believe that skills related to Teamwork and Networking are key. The successful delivery of a task or project depends on smooth and effective cooperation within and among multiple teams. Another important skill set is connected to Communication, in particular, the ability and willingness to really listen with the aim to understand and not in order to respond.
In fact, there are numerous other technical skills and competencies which are essential for working in an organisation like OPCW. And most can be acquired, trained or improved. What is more important in my view for fitting well and performing at your best in an international organisation, is the mindset and attitude that you bring along to the work as an international civil servant.
What according to you, is the most effective way to address gender parity in the workplace?
Organizations that have adopted a policy for gender parity and diversity should move to the next level and follow-through in implementing their policy.
Tapping into the world’s entire talent pool requires reaching out beyond traditional target groups and employing new means of creating awareness about job opportunities. For example, finding ways to communicate the exciting and inspiring essence of a seemingly “dry”, technical job could enhance interest in applications from a more diverse background.
Do you have a personal habit or trait that has been critical for your success?
I cannot say, whether these habits contributed to my career …. I am naturally very curious, I like to ask why we do things before asking how we do them.
And, I always try to see the “bigger picture”, and to adopt a perspective that is global, long-term and outside of my knowledge zone. For OPCW, I imagine - what would the world look like today without OPCW? And what will the future look like when OPCW’s mission is accomplished?
What decision accelerated your career the most?
When I decided to a work as a Strategic Planner with the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Sudan, that was a huge challenge. Going to the “field” and having little prior knowledge or understanding of UN peacekeeping was a literally step into unknown territory. I returned with broader, more solid experience in strategic planning and a wealth of experience that I benefit from still today.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
Not to try to “plan” my career, as there are way too many unknown variables in the game. Actively create opportunities to network and be prepared to seize the moment.
We know that many of our audience would like to hear some advice on how to pursue a career with an international organization like OPCW, do you have any good tips to share?
Get to know as much as possible about OPCW. Find out what inspires you about OPCW’s cause and how this relates to what you want (and can) bring to the organisation.