Could you briefly trace your career path?
On the eve of the Global Financial Crisis, I began my first job in eastern China as an elevator engineer. Disappointed by corruption and fuelled by the financial stimulus, I left my job and signed up to become an HIV/AIDS prevention volunteer in Malawi, where I immediately fell in love with development work and decided to study at the Institute.
While studying in Geneva, I was lucky enough to intern at the World Trade Organization and a climate-focused think tank. However, upon graduation I had little success in entering the humanitarian world – with which I felt a calling. Following advice from Jacques Forster, former Director of the Institute, I headed to Yemen to gain exposure, learn the language and look for career opportunities.
A year in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, brought me abundant friendship, know-how in humanitarian work and a bit of Arabic. I left the country before the full-fledged war began in 2015 and moved to Beijing, rebooting my career exploration. After two experiences remotely related to international development, on engineering for the Belt and Road Initiative and globalisation research, I was pulled back to the “Geneva orbit”, where I joined the ICRC in 2017, first in Beijing and now in Nigeria.
How did your studies at the Geneva Graduate Institute help you in your career?
First, I am grateful to the Institute for my admission – several programmes that I applied for did not accept students with an engineering background. The academic formation at the Institute not only enabled my career switch but also afforded me membership to a global network of over 20,000 alumni and alumnae.
Secondly, I appreciate the wide range of courses and the freedom to shape one’s own learning at the Institute. Its interdisciplinarity philosophy helped me approach the complex world in a comprehensive manner.
Finally, one is totally transformed simply by being immersed in such a diverse, cosmopolitan student body; I believe I learned as much from my peers as from my professors. Upon leaving the Institute, I found I was much better at respecting differences, conducting constructive debate and putting trust in humanity and collaboration – qualities that have been tremendously helpful for operating effectively in an international, rapidly changing and collaborative environment like the ICRC.
What advice could you give our students?
• Do not be afraid to take risks as long as they are in line with your passion, curiosity and belief.
• Planning for the future is generally good, just do not overthink.
• Career “derailment” happens. Keep calm, focus on solving problems (or find alternative paths).
• Step out of your comfort zone, and develop diversity in your career and competencies.