“Keep going, don’t give up!” – Meet Worknesh from UNOPS

March 8 2017 by Global Careers

Name: Worknesh

Nationality: Ethiopian

Organization: UNOPS

Role: Director

What is your background? What did you do/study before working for your organisation?

I studied Business Administration, and I have an MBA from the University of Liverpool. Before joining UNOPS as the Director of the Ethiopia Hub, I worked for over 20 years with International Non-Governmental Organizations (Save the Children, World Vision and ActionAid International). I managed large multi-sector programmes in the fields of health, education, food security… As the Deputy National Director for World Vision Ethiopia, I was responsible for the oversight of the operation of a programme with over USD100M annual funding portfolio.

What drove you to choose your current position?

I believe I was ready and capable to take on a new challenge and I aspired to become the Director of a large office to be able to influence even more strategic directions and to lead teams to deliver excellent results for the partners and beneficiaries we work for. I was also very happy to continue serving the Eastern African region, where I am from. I am passionate about development and UNOPS offered me a unique opportunity to pursue this passion at the service of populations, especially marginalized communities.

What single fact would surprise people the most about you?

I love to write poems and make music and dancing. Colleagues look surprised as they are used to see me in professional settings, but I just like to celebrate life with my family and friends!

What do you look for in candidates?

Passion and commitment! I believe without passion for and commitment to making an impact for a global inclusive and sustainable development, people cannot surpass themselves and find the energy to overcome the many challenges that development workers can face. Technical competencies are important of course, but they can be learnt. Whereas passion and commitment come from the heart and from one’s personal vision and the cause one believes in.

What first attracted you to this organization?

UNOPS vision, which was recently redefined, of a world where people can live full lives supported by appropriate, sustainable and resilient infrastructure and by the efficient, transparent use of public resources in procurement and project management.

I chose to apply to UNOPS, because, maybe a bit like NGOs, UNOPS is a very operational and innovative organization that always strives to introduce the changes that will make it stay relevant and efficient. It is the only UN self-financed organization so it has an obligation to be excellent and efficient! Beyond the job itself, UNOPS offer me the possibility to serve the cause I believe in.

 What’s the best thing about working for your organisation?

It is a very positive and agile organization: to every problem, there is a solution! And I find this spirit in my team as well. They always try to respond and even surpass our partners’ needs and expectations. People come excited to the office every morning, and this created It is a very inspiring work environment!

What are your proudest achievements with your organisation?

Growth and diversification of my office activities. I am really proud of the growth of the Ethiopia hub: we have created new partnerships and are now serving a very diverse range of partners, we also developed our project portfolio and funding sources. We now work in Darfur, just started a programme in Djibouti, with a lot of new opportunities in the pipeline. We were able to conclude a very successful year in 2016, surpassing our targets. This means concretely that we are now able to support and respond to the need of more people in the region, by responding the humanitarian and development needs.

Nicest fact/surprise about your organization/employer?

What surprised me, if I compare with the organizations where I work before, is the fewer number of women at the middle level and in senior roles. UNOPS is enhancing its effort to improve its gender balance and I strongly encourage all qualified women to visit our website and get more information about UNOPS, and of course to apply to our open positions. I was recently invited to be part of the new Gender Advisory Panel, comprising of senior management from across the organization. The Panel is tasked to make concrete recommendations to enhance and sustained gender balance at all levels. This initiative is very exciting and I look forward to contributing to it in the coming months.

There are also other initiatives that I find very positive in UNOPS, like the development of internal talent pools that offer personnel more career opportunities or the fact that a large group of managers and leaders across the organization (the Global Leadership Management Group) is involved in the decision-making processes.

What advice would you give other women interested in following in your footsteps?

Keep going, don’t give up! I meant it from my heart because there have been moments, as an African women, as a career women, as a mother, where I almost gave up,  because I needed to spend more time with my son, because I did not get jobs I wanted… You need to be confident, keep believing in yourself, in your capacities.