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WIT4Impact: Working for UNOPS in infrastructure

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United Nations Office for Project Services

“The reason behind my projects and why I want to succeed is to improve people’s lives“, says Genevieve – Housing Project Manager, UNOPS Nepal.

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"After the earthquake in 2011 in Haiti, a friend of mine, working there for UNOPS, informed me that there were positions opening in the disaster risk reduction department. This was completely new to me, I had never worked in relief efforts and did not know much about IDP camps, but I did want to gain more experience related to my field of work, which was by now, works related engineering and project management. So I started a 6 months contract in the IDP camps doing Disaster Risk Reduction. I knew little about the UN and how it worked, even less about UNOPS. I joined to gain experience and to see what UNOPS was all about. My initial 6 months contract has turned in to 7 years of working for UNOPS in infrastructure in three different countries."

How has it been your career journey?
"I graduated from l’École Polytechnique de Montréal (Canada) in 2004 with an engineering degree in Geological Engineering. During my studies, I did four different internships in climate change research in Canada, a cement plant in France, humanitarian sector in Togo and mining in Canada right after graduation, I started working for an engineering consulting firm in Canada where I conducted small-scale environmental studies (Phases I and II) and geotechnical studies. Working for a Canadian Engineering company in Haiti, I got the chance to touch a variety of engineering projects. I quickly learned the local language and dove into building construction, drainage, borehole drilling, studies and proposal writing. I loved every second of it, but after 6 years, I needed to explore again and broaden my experience. That is when UNOPS came along."

How is a typical day of your life in UNOPS?
"In UNOPS Nepal, my work is mostly managing project coordinators, meeting with donors and government counterparts. I go out to the field once a month and visit the projects and beneficiaries. My focus is trying to meet the deadlines for reporting, ensuring that we are delivering quality and that our donors are happy, but most importantly that the services we provide through our projects are answering the needs of our beneficiaries. That is what I care most about; the reason behind my projects and why I want to succeed is to improve people’s lives, whether it is through housing, health, education or transport infrastructure." 
"When my workday ends, I go back home and manage my other projects: children and family. Being a mother, wife and engineer is rewarding and requires energy. I strive to have fun at all my roles, each one of them is rewarding."

What key attributes make one successful in your role and in UNOPS?
"The number one key attribute to being a successful female project manager/engineer in infrastructure is to have endless energy! Energy gives me the courage to plan my day, meet with my direct reports and work with them on the goals they have to achieve for our projects to be successful. Energy allows me to keep an open mind when meeting with difficult partners and to keep my focus on listening and trying to understand.
To be successful in this role, being able to see the big picture is also important. Often times, we will be catch up in deadlines, pressure, etc. and stepping back is essential to understand the real issues. Stepping back allows us to make better decisions."

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