" I consider myself a “cross-pollinator” in that I’m naturally inclined to break down silos, encourage a holistic way of seeing and analyzing challenges, and favor cooperation. I see everything and everyone as being connected; almost without realizing it, that sentiment has been central to the way I approach my work.
Throughout my career, I’ve gravitated to three areas in particular: good governance, public health, and environmental health, consistently through a policy-making lens. Early on, I grasped the importance of practical, on-the-ground experience to round out and inform my interests in policy and strategy. The opportunity to design and implement programs in my main areas of interest helped me to gain a firm foundation and has been of fundamental importance to my career path. "
Why did you want to start working for an international organization?
Personally, I love to immerse myself in new ways of living, thinking, and doing; to learn from the unfamiliar, and to bring the best from everywhere with me. This way of being, seems to have naturally led me to international organizations, and, specifically, to Geneva. Geneva is an international crossroad and a wonderful mix of cultures and histories (not to mention languages!).
Another thing that attracts me to international organizations is the potential for large-scale impact. Although multilateralism has suffered over the past few years, it has the potential once again to play a role of paramount importance in addressing global challenges (climate change, food security, and global health, to name just a few). Look at COVID-19, for example; the world is once again turning to its multilateral institutions for a coordinated response.
When and why did you choose to work for WIPO?
I’ve spent most of my career working in different facets of public health (program design & implementation, monitoring & evaluation, community engagement, governance, policy & strategy, etc etc). After 20 years dedicated to a specific topic, I lifted my head up a few years ago and asked “what’s next?” I knew I wanted to continue working in health, but I also knew I wanted to branch out and find new inter-linkages.
Human health, economic activity, and the environment are inextricably linked; they are like three parts of an equation, you cannot solve for just one variable. I saw a job advertised at WIPO that combined global health, food security, and climate change and immediately thought “that’s what I want to do next!” And the rest, as they say, is history.
What is your job description? Can you describe a typical work-week or month?
From my experience, the higher you climb, the more vague your job description becomes as your remit expands and you’re trusted to handle a broad set of challenges. No two days are the same for me, I’m constantly stimulated and challenged to problem solve, help and support others, and think creatively about what comes next.
One constant is the time I spend supporting my team and its members. I believe strongly that a manager’s job is to create and sustain a safe, supportive team environment; it’s the team’s foundation. Rule #1 for me (and my team has this memorized by heart!) is “never throw your teammate under the bus.” This is a figure of speech, of course, but the message about not tearing down others is very important. I’m not interested in knowing who is “the best”, I’m interested in having a strong team comprised of people who enjoy their work and feel supported to succeed together. This represents a significant and sustained investment of time and leadership, but it's one of the parts of my job I love most because it has a direct, visible impact on people’s lives.
What’s special about working in a specialized UN Agency?
For me, the work environment is incredibly stimulating. Not only are we lucky to work on interesting and challenging substantive issues, we also have a window into the world of diplomacy, negotiations, and international relations. I also really enjoy working with colleagues from around the world. In my Division alone, we have colleagues from every continent (apart from Antarctica!).
What according to you is the most effective way to address gender issues in the workplace?
I’ve seen some “best practices” and some “worst practices” over the past 20 years in a number of organizations. In terms of best practices, I believe it's paramount for organizations to walk their own talk. If you’re going to talk about the importance of gender balance, then you must make it a reality, including within an organization’s senior levels. Disaggregate as much as possible the statistics on male/female gender balance in different layers of the organization and you’ll learn a lot. Often what you’ll see is that women have gained ground in the middle-management and upper-middle management layers, but the closer you get to the top, the more gender imbalances persist.
Also, women have different ways of expressing themselves than men. When composing working groups, or high-level strategy groups, this must be taken into account and actively addressed or we risk losing the richness of women’s contributions to discussions and thought processes. The “worst practices” are a story for another day; unfortunately, I’ve seen and experienced many.
We know that many of our members would like to hear some advice on how to get a job with WIPO. Do you have any good tips to share?
Be passionate and genuine. Apply for jobs that excite you and it will shine through. As a hiring manager, I’m looking for enthusiasm, motivation, and a clear expression that the candidate really wants to work in my team. Do your homework before applying and coming for an interview. Make the effort to understand the organization and the Division or Department in which the role is based. Try to imagine the challenges the hiring manager may be facing in their work and how they would want the role to help them alleviate or address them. Show that you understand, care about, and are motivated by the work. The rest will fall into place. View current job opportunities at WIPO
What can be done at the country-level to ensure access to skills training for young women and girls?
Many UN specialized agencies have programs that specifically aim to support young women and to equip them with the skills they will need on multiple fronts. The programs exist, now perhaps it’s a matter of informing countries what’s on offer and who to contact. I wonder if UN Women might be interested in pulling together a UN-wide “menu” of capacity-building programs aimed specifically at women so that the Member States can take advantage of the offerings. I realize it’s rather cheeky of me to suggest a work item for another UN entity, so I’m happy to get the ball rolling by suggesting WIPO’s newly launched initiative to support women innovators in the field of green technologies: Women in Green.
Photo: Switzerland with the family
Do you have a personal habit or trait that has been critical for your success?
I believe that empathy, humility, gratitude and a good sense of humor have served me well. I try to bring my whole self to work and to approach professional relationships as a personal commitment. I’m also a very open person, which I think, more than anything else, has helped me to learn and grow.
Out of your own experience, what are the three top things that you would suggest a talent highlights in their application?
- Intellectual curiosity, creativity, and intrinsic motivation
- Commitment to the role and to the organization
- A team-oriented, supportive mindset
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
Love what you do. And remember: you are successful because people (parents, teachers, colleagues, mentors) took the time to invest in you; never lose sight of the role they played in your journey. Be grateful for, and humbled by, the trust placed in you and the care given to you. As we rise, so too must we lift up others.
This article was a part of Impactpool's Striving Towards Gender Parity month-long campaign, supported by WIPO - curated to shed light on gender parity in the International Public Sector and empower women with career resources, job opportunities, and employee spotlights.