Embracing opportunity: my journey with UNDP in Kazakhstan
June 16, 2023
All my conscious life I have been thinking about what I want to devote myself to and what my calling is. About five years ago, I realized that it was time to act instead of sitting back and waiting for something to change. I wanted to do more than just go to work; I wanted to get involved in something that inspired me to take action, improve myself, develop leadership skills and achieve inner balance.
Back then, I was working as a financial analyst at a local company. I had my own office and a decent salary. In addition to my education and experience, I had a pretty good command of English and solid communication skills. After reviewing my resume I began looking for job opportunities in international organizations where I believed I could achieve my full potential.
My search ended when I came across open positions on the UN website. It turned out that my knowledge in the area of management, procurement and financial reporting were key requirements for project assistants. So I applied to several vacancies in Kazakhstan.
It is worth mentioning that the most important thing for me was getting the opportunity and experience of working in an international organization; the salary level and position did not matter. And most importantly, my family fully supported me in this.
The first group interview was held online, and I do not think I was able to fully showcase my skills at that moment, but they noticed me. I was asked the standard question about why I applied to the UNDP. My answer then and now is, "I want to change this world for the better."
I went through several stages, but in the end I did not get the job. Thanks to this experience, I was able to determine my future job search strategy.
"No big deal!" I thought and continued to work at my old place. After some time, I received a call asking if I was interested in a vacant position in one of the UNDP projects in Kazakhstan with a six-month contract. “Six months! Why not, actually?”
That day changed my life forever.
What is the UNDP?
In Kazakhstan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is one of the UN agencies, and for 30 years now it has been implementing programmes and projects aimed at improving the lives of Kazakhstanis. UNDP implements projects in the social and economic spheres with the goal of improving of the public administration system, as well as in the areas of ecology, energy, and environmental protection, all of which align with the Millennium Development Goals, previously in place, and the Sustainable Development Goals currently underway.
Thus, my entry ticket to the UNDP became the project "Support for the Development of the Public Administration System of the Republic of Kazakhstan”. I must say that I was particularly impressed by the organizational culture, values, and ethical behavior of people in the UNDP.
During the first month, I had to take two types of courses: introductory and mandatory. The introductory courses helped me to get familiar with the business processes and internal procedures. The mandatory courses were very useful for understanding the organizational culture, ethical norms and values, as well as the UN policies. This way, as a newcomer, you get all the knowledge you need right away.
The six-month contract ended, and I started looking for a job again. Since I already had experience, I applied for similar positions. I sent many applications and received just as many rejections, but in the end, I succeeded!
My new journey began with the project on improving monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV), policy making, preparing for reforms and strengthening the country's climate change capacity. This project has defined my future.
How is UNDP changing lives?
For three years now, I have been working as a project assistant on several projects, but mainly with the portfolio of energy and environmental projects. All of my colleagues are highly qualified professionals, each of whom brings their expertise to the project. At the same time, we help and support each other whenever needed. This collaborative and supportive management approach creates a positive working atmosphere.
Over the years, I have started to devote more time to the substantive aspects of my work, such as greenhouse gas emissions reporting, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and renewable energy issues.
In addition, the UNDP offers unique opportunities to participate in thematic events and attend trainings and seminars. I have participated in numerous trainings on climate change and even received my first international certificate in greenhouse gas inventory!
UNDP has inspired me to continue moving forward. All of a sudden, you realize that you are part of a big change and are contributing to solving the country's environmental problems. Every day I gain new knowledge about the development of the environmental sector in Kazakhstan, climate change, and the impact of human activities on the environment, including new technological solutions for its conservation.
Ecology and climate change issues fascinated me so much that I decided to pursue a higher degree in this field of study. After a few months of thorough preparation, I received a scholarship for a master's degree programme in environmental protection and natural resources at a national university. It is not easy to balance work and study, but it is incredibly rewarding!
It is worth mentioning that at the university we are taught the theory, while at work I have a unique opportunity to discuss the newly acquired theoretical knowledge with subject matter experts in the field of ecology and environmental protection. Moreover, each of my colleagues shares their experience and we have free access to international practices. All of this inspires me to learn, explore and research even more!
In the hope that my example inspires those who are still searching, I would like to offer five simple pieces of advice:
Stop doubting yourself. Be confident that the whole world will turn to help you achieve your dream.
Look for opportunities not only in your surroundings, but also in places you never imagined. Think outside the box.
Act now and look far beyond the horizon. Both tactics and strategy are important.
Start exploring new areas and seek out new knowledge.
Never give up.