Bee Bee moved to Geneva, Switzerland from Malaysia 25 years ago. She learned French and obtained a Bachelor in Computer Information Systems from the University of Geneva. For the past 20 years she has worked in the United Nations system in the male-dominated IT field. She is currently a Senior Database Applications Officer at the Communications Division of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Read about her fascinating career story and advice on how to grow an IT career in international organizations.
“I’m very positive about the role of women in the IT field. The IT world is very demanding and women are often in the minority, but, I know that women who show results and are willing to keep learning can have an exciting and fulfilling career in IT.”
Why did you want to start working for an international organization? How did you get your first job in this area?
“During my last year at the University of Geneva, at the time of the first Internet boom, someone from the International Labour Organization (ILO) contacted the University looking for new talent to help build their first website. I applied for the position and was the only candidate selected due to my ability to speak several languages.”
“I worked at ILO for three years and then I felt the need for greater challenges through a new working environment. At that time there were many job opportunities in international organizations for people with web skills. I heard that WIPO was looking for IT specialists with my profile so I applied and got a job. I’m very happy here which is why I’ve stayed at WIPO for over 17 years.”
Is there anything about working in this field that you did not expect when starting?
“I didn’t expect that working in IT could be so exciting and challenging. Technology is constantly changing so you can keep learning new things in your field. I’m motivated by the fact that based on my knowledge I can develop applications and web solutions on a daily basis that benefit the Organization and have an impact on people.”
“I enjoy the challenge of building things that need to work on multiple platforms and in multiple languages which is key to international organizations. Everything we do needs to be very effective and accessible worldwide.”
“Another thing I didn't expect was that there would be so many opportunities for personal career development, this is especially true at WIPO. I’ve had the opportunity to choose whether to specialize in development, project management, technical writing, user training, web assessment, or digital marketing. In IT, career development is really infinite. You just need to have a strong base in programming languages and be keen to always learn more, and then you can specialize in whatever interests you the most.”
Do you have a personal habit or trait that has been critical for your success?
“I’m multilingual fluent in Chinese, Malay, French and English. I’m also flexible, very organized and good at multitasking.”
“I have perseverance and am good at implementing. When I’m given a problem or a brief I always go for a simple, realistic and reusable solution. I also follow industry standards, which makes life so much easier and works very well.”
“Finally, I enjoy working with other people and work very well in teams. I follow-up with colleagues after meetings and always return calls.”
What is it that you do in your role? Can you describe a typical work-week, or month?
“I’m a programmer and I’m very passionate about programming. In my previous roles at WIPO I built websites and created web applications. Now at the Web Communications Section I focus on creating web solutions, managing the content management system, implementing responsive web design and other web-based related matters.”
“My daily duties include maintenance, monitoring of web applications, troubleshooting, and providing support for my team members. I’m also the liaison between Web Communications and the IT department. A good portion of my time is also dedicated to software development and coding, which I really like. I like to improve things and come up with solutions and enhancements. In IT every day is very different. I’m passionate about web technology and enjoy learning new programming languages and technologies.”
What is the most exciting part of your job? Can you give us example of the types of challenges you face in your job with WIPO?
“I really like my job - it’s intellectually challenging and really exciting to see the results and impact of my work.
“It’s a privilege to work at WIPO. We are given the opportunity to be creative and learn more. I talk a lot to my supervisors and we evaluate what I want to do and what I’m good at. We get a lot of training in the IT area and there is plenty of space to evolve. We have also a lot of fun and organize social activities such as lunches with colleagues from other divisions.”
Tell us the story about what you consider as your biggest reward during your career?
“My proudest moment was when I was the first-ever Communications Division staff awarded at the WIPO Recognition Awards. I think I got the award because I show results and my colleagues and clients appreciate me. I’m very happy when our users are satisfied.”
What are the most important lessons that you would like to share with anyone who wants to pursue an international development career?
“It’s good to have experience. To have a career in international organizations you need to have a solid background. Everything that we do has an impact - we are contributing to the United Nations and the world. We need really talented people.”
“You also need to be very passionate about what you do and believe in the organization that you want to work for. Adaptation is also very important because the environment is very multicultural. If you get homesick, then working in another country can problematic. I try to go home to Malaysia twice a year. Getting to know your colleagues over lunches is also a good tip.”
Looking at WIPO, where you currently work. Why did you choose to work for them?
“WIPO is a great Organization, especially for career development opportunities. There are plenty of paths you can go but you need to prove yourself and show results first. You can contact the Human Resources department and talk about what you want to do and what kind of training you need to get there. It definitely helps you to move your career.”
“I have also had very good managers, like my current manager, who always encourages me and supports me to take advantage of training opportunities and learn more. It’s a very healthy work environment. We are surrounded by good people and we have fun. That’s why I have chosen to stay for 17 years.”
What do you believe is the most important skill(s) needed for an international career? For WIPO?
“Showing results is important. By showing results you prove yourself. Multilingual skills are also good to have. To work for the UN, I think it’s best to know three of the six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Communication skills and good team spirit are also important. Since we are working in a multicultural environment you need to have respect for different cultures.”
We know that many of our followers would like to hear some advice on how to get a job with WIPO. Do you have any good tips to share?
“Go online to WIPO or Impact pool and subscribe to job alerts. Before you apply take your time to build a good profile online and keep it up to date. Be honest. Make sure you match the required qualifications for the post. Use the right keywords.”
“Having a presence on social media like LinkedIn would also be helpful.”
Photo: Ms Bee Bee Moret-Tan at the WIPO Headquarters Office in Geneva.