How have you found joining Itad during lockdown?
It has been a confounding few months. I was delighted to join Itad and excited to work in the development sector, the culmination of a lot of hard work. Simultaneously, we’ve seen rolling worldwide news about thousands of people becoming ill and dying or pushed into economic insecurity.
My first day in the office was the same one it closed. I had a brief IT induction and then went home to complete all my onboarding remotely. Although I have no comparable experience to measure my first few months against, the induction process and training have been relatively seamless. Successfully moving an entire onboarding process online in a matter of days is no mean feat and is a credit to all the staff involved.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
First and foremost, it’s incredibly gratifying to work for an organisation, where everyone shares a common interest and enthusiasm. Everyone I’ve met so far has been completely invested in Itad’s work and the part they play in trying to make a difference. In terms of the project officer role itself, there are lots of different elements to learn, some of which I have previous experience of, others (such as contracting and subcontracting) which are new to me.
There’s plenty of variety. We also work with different teams so I get a holistic view of the company and its work.
How did you get into the field?
I have always been interested in the sector from afar but had a very circuitous journey to Itad. My undergraduate degree was in English at the University of Sussex, more years ago than I care to remember. I then worked in the private sector, for a large financial services company in a variety of roles. In 2018, after a trip to the occupied Palestinian territories, I applied for a master’s in conflict, security and development at the University of Sussex. I graduated in October 2019 and have been building up my experience in the sector since. This has included research work through UN Online Volunteers for the UNDP on the synergies between tobacco control and the Sustainable Development Goals in Sierra Leone, as well as volunteering with the anti-poverty charity War on Want. Finally, I’m an enthusiastic member of the London International Development Network, occasionally writing their weekly roundup blog.
Early on in the role, colleagues in the project management unit assured me that after a few months, the many different strands would eventually cohere and things would miraculously make some kind of sense. I must confess that I doubted this at times, but stuck with it.
Whilst I haven’t had a ‘eureka’ moment, I feel much more confident than I did when I started, which is a good feeling, and something I can continue to build on.
What new innovations/methods have you noticed in your sector?
As this is my first job in the sector, this is a somewhat difficult question. Something I’m very engaged with is the movement to decolonise international development and the intersections with Black Lives Matter and other global anti-racist movements. It has been fascinating in recent weeks to see many development and aid organisations reflecting on the complicity of the sector in racism and eurocentrism. I hope the movement leads to meaningful, lasting change.
How do you think the pandemic will impact your work going forward?
The impacts are starting to become clearer now. Some of the projects I work on have adapted to COVID-19 by introducing elements like remote stakeholder interviews instead of face-to-face in-country meetings. Others have seen little appreciable impact. But thankfully my day-to-day work is not impacted, as I don’t travel.
What is the most interesting question you’ve been asked recently?
“Do you know why I sound like a chipmunk?” We’ve been having regular family Skype calls throughout lockdown and my Aunt sometimes joins. Every time she comes online her audio plays up and makes her sound like a chipmunk. It’s hilarious – in fact, I almost hope she doesn’t find out what is causing the issue, so it continues!
What are you most looking forward to about the office reopening?
Mainly the human element. The chance to meet my colleagues in person and forge friendships in the ‘real world’.
It will be great to hold conversations without wondering whether technology will last the distance!
I was facilitating a meeting for my team last week when my wi-fi network completely dropped off. I thought it might help to restart my laptop and then got stuck on a loop for 45 minutes as it rebooted multiple times with Windows updates. By the time I was able to get online again, the meeting was long finished!