Embracing the Unexpected: A Surprising Journey

By Felicite Dusabe

September 7, 2023

Felicite Dusabe is a Human Resources expert working with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Rwanda.


With the unemployment rate in Rwanda at 17%, young people need to be flexible about the type of jobs they seek. I know this from experience, for where I am now has little relationship to where I began. On this journey, my expectations of myself, my goals, and the things I value most in my work have all changed.

Nearly 16 years ago, I found myself contemplating leaving the bank in which I had worked for 10 years. During that time, I also completed my bachelor’s degree in economics. Yet, despite my qualifications, professional background, and skills, the possibility of internal promotion seemed unlikely.  Meanwhile, it was getting harder to provide financially for my children, siblings, cousins, and numerous other relatives.  I, therefore, embarked on a quest for a new job that could cater to my needs.

I wanted a job in the area of my expertise--accounting and economics. After nearly two years of intensive searching, I finally secured a position as a logistics officer at a pharmaceutical procurement Center. The job offered substantial compensation and, more importantly, a heightened sense of fulfilment due to increased responsibilities.

From the outset, I was enthusiastic and dedicated, and I could perceive the approval of my superiors in their expressions. As I diligently fulfilled my duties, my supervisor began involving me in human resources-related tasks, commencing with payroll management and reconciliation. 

Initially, I had no intention of assuming a role in personnel management. Like many others, I held negative stereotypes about this profession. I believed individuals in this role lacked empathy, exhibited a strict adherence to rules at the expense of employee well-being, and prioritized organizational interests over colleague relationships. They were often perceived as antagonistic figures, lacking popularity. 

In essence, the human relations profession was deemed undesirable.

But rather than dig in my heels against change, I embraced expanding HR responsibilities, motivated by career growth and my supervisor’s mentorship.

The transition was not without challenges. I began to prioritize company interests over personal sentiments, resulting in a more rigid stance. I found myself engaged in frequent conflicts with colleagues. I felt a sense of frustration when colleagues started avoiding me.   

In situations like these, I often recall the wise words of my grandmother. She ingrained in me the importance of getting back on my feet whenever I stumble and forging ahead. With her guidance, I understood that surrendering would only be detrimental to my own growth. Therefore, I chose to persevere and rise above, utilizing that moment as a valuable lesson. 

Realizing the importance of theoretical knowledge in the field, I pursued a master’s in business administration with a Human Resources (HR) Management specialization. This educational journey enlightened me on the significance of balancing organizational and employee needs.

Meanwhile, my supervisor’s tailored guidance encouraged me to explore HR areas, gaining hands-on experience and valuable insights. His constructive feedback and unwavering support were pivotal for my professional development and confidence, leading me to succeed as an HR manager.

As time passed, although my supervisor was clearly satisfied with my performance, I struggled with discontent. My profession seemed to lack certain elements that I yearned for – a chance to interact with clients with a smile, and to be recognized for my role rather than being overshadowed by organizational structures. Then, as I aimed to advance to the next level, a restructuring plan was announced, and it appeared likely that I would be demoted due to my relatively junior status.

To counteract the potential disappointment, leveraging my four-year experience in the field of human resources, I stumbled upon an HR Associate job opportunity at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 

I applied without much interest, but to my surprise, I was selected after a written test and interview on the same day.  As I understood more about UNDP’s mission, the prospect of working in such an esteemed institution was beyond my wildest dreams. 

I have many fond memories of my initial days at UNDP and the personal guidance from my supervisor even before my start date.

She played a pivotal role in my early success. Despite an age difference of 9 years, our synergy was remarkable. Her expertise, analytical mind, and linguistic proficiency made her stand out. She imparted to me the importance of conveying messages effectively and emphasized the value of cultivating lasting relationships. This begins during the recruitment process, where the presence of kindness is crucial. 

Eleven years later, navigating diverse expectations remains complex. Balancing organizational objectives while nurturing trust and a collaborative environment is my daily pursuit, aiming for a gratifying experience despite inevitable challenges.

For young people navigating today’s tight job market, complexities abound. Despite misgivings or preconceived notions, it is important to be open to change and grab available opportunities.  The key is to approach every job with enthusiasm, dedication, and a willingness to learn, as this can lead to unforeseen success and personal development in the dynamic job market. 

We each have our own career journey, and each comes with surprises. I have been grateful for mine.

Felicite Dusabe is a Human Resources expert working with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Rwanda. She uses her skills to contribute to Rwanda's sustainable development and economic growth through the recruitment, training and coaching of talented individuals.