I migrated to the United Kingdom in the last few days of 2006 and saw an Itad advert looking for a Senior Consultant in Health and HIV & AIDS – little did I know that I was on the verge of making history as the “First African Employee” at Itad Limited. I told myself “this is my job”, and I put an application together and sent it.
I was invited for interview and was determined to do well and get the job. I ensured that I made all preparations required, made a good presentation to the panel, and defended the pre-interview proposal I prepared. If I remember well, it was a proposal to evaluate a HIV programme in Lesotho for the World Bank. During the presentation and interview, I responded to all the questions to the best of my ability. The trickiest question I responded to was from Derek Poate, as the question sounded clearly that it was from a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) guru. As at then, I had very limited experience (or expertise) in M&E as a core sector, aside from the monitoring of programmes or participation in annual output-to-purpose review of DFID-supported programmes.
Following the assessment, I kept reassuring myself that I did well and I should get the job. Eventually, I received a call from Julian Barr on that fateful Friday that Itad had decided to offer me the job. It was a day in March 2007 that I would never forget. I screamed and told Julian, ‘you made my weekend’. An opportunity had come to make me a wholesome professional in development programmes, having worked to implement and manage programmes for years. Then my milestone as the first African to work at Itad as a full time staff became real. So, what next?
I started work in April 2007 to face the challenge of working in a consulting firm with a focus on M&E of Development programmes. How do I prove my worth? How do I excel?
Anyway, the challenge started. My line manager gave me a bid to work on. It required that I developed a proposal on the “Evaluating Norwegian Response to HIV & AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa”. I put in my best and got the proposal submitted within the stipulated time. I was convinced that I submitted a good proposal, and when at last, the bid results were out, and Itad performed well and won the tender. Proposal won – first hurdle crossed. The next challenge to face was implementation to achieve as projected in the proposal.
With trust from the Itad programme management, I was asked to lead and manage the evaluation, under the tutelage of Derek Poate. All evaluation activities were executed and our performance resulted in our client’s decision to expand the contract to cover global evaluation of Norwegian response to HIV & AIDS. The outcome of the evaluation influenced policy on how things should be done differently. As a way of appreciating Itad staff, Derek sent me an email congratulating me for the findings of the evaluation which resulted in influencing an existing policy. I was amazed and told myself that, if I could be commended for good performance in M&E by such a calibre of an expert, then, Munirat, you are getting there.
This experience became a turning point as it motivated me to feel that I could face challenge and do better than I thought of myself. My experience at Itad helped me to understand M&E components of project/ programme management cycles and its practical applications. It gave me courage and motivated me to continue to face challenges in proposal writing which usually rely on the understanding that two bids are never same.
The reality is that I found Itad the most-friendly place I have ever worked – trusting, caring, family-friendly and supportive. So it was not surprising that I returned to work at Itad again not even two years of my departure. I am most grateful to Itad for the international exposure and their support to me to ensure success. I also think the history of the process of British residency for my family would be incomplete without the support of Itad – I am also appreciative of this.
Congratulations to the founders of Itad (Derek and Mike), to my line managers – Julian and Dane who have kept the flag flying, and to all past and present colleagues who made and still make my work-life at Itad an eventful and interesting one.
Congrats to Itad at 30 and LONG LIVE!!!