Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why is the last week always the busiest?

I am nervous and excited all at once. This week marks the end of my internship and a final presentation to the Chief of Human Resources (so high in the organization she a diplomat).

The last few days I have been analysing survey results, summarizing interview themes, and putting together a cohesive yet short (less than 5 minutes) powerpoint presentation. I hear the chief likes to ask detailed questions so I have to be ready to answer everything! At the same time I also have been testing products by language firms and negotiation packages should we move forward to enforcing WFP policy and outsourcing that function to language experts. Finding a firm that can handle the volume and also can be available 24 hours a day. We have it narrowed down to 2 firms and I will also be presenting my findings at this meeting.

This summer has been great. I have learned a lot and gotten to get involved with the major projects described here along with smaller more immediate ad-hoc requests. Due to time I was unable to get into the social networking aspects of the project but hopefully the next intern can pick up where I left off.

Though not the functional area I wanted to be in, working at the WFP has solidified my desire to stay in international development. Now to parlay this experience into a full time position in financial services in development... :)

In the meantime

Monday, July 27, 2009

In Full Swing

I can't believe I am more than halfway through my 8 week internship!

About a week ago I was finally able to meet the other interns working throughout the organization in logistics, nutrition, policy, and project management divisions. These interns come from around the world and are taking anywhere from a month to a year off to serve. To be eligible for an internship one must be a full-time student in good standing and be willing to work for US 700/mo. Needless to say you won't get rich in this position but you will be exposed to one of the largest UN organizations and see sophisticated supply chain management first-hand. Yes our system even includes unconventional methods like elephants and camels to get food to the worlds 1 billion starving people.

My boss is in Japan to check on our liaison office as well as recruit Japanese staff. I am currently managing a large survey and interview project to identify the key reasons staff are unhappy an ultimately leave the organization. The WFP (and many international development organizations for that matter) is unique because it expects its workforce to be completely mobile. Over 90% of the workforce is expected to be available to work in any country the organization serves. There are three types of positions/posts:

  1. A posts - Non-hardship posts. Places such as Rome/Japan/New York fall into this category. Staff can only stay in places up to 4 years before they are forced to move to a B or C post.

  2. B posts - Non-hardship posts but don't have the amenities of A posts. Places such as Bangkok/Nairobi/Panama City. Staff can only stay in B posts up to 3 years before they must transfer to an A or C post.

  3. C posts - Hardship posts. Most of the time staff live in primitive quarters such as tents or other easily constructable dwellings. 90% of WFP staff are posted in this environment given this is where services are rendered. Staff can only stay in a C post up to 2 years before they must transfer to a B or A post. Staff are unable to bring any dependants to these posts.

Attrition from the organization is high and the Office of the Executive Director is determing if there are steps the organization can take retain staff (especially women with children) within the organization. Theoretically, over a 20 year career, a staff member will be stationed at more than 7 locations and only be allowed to have family at 2 or 3. Staff members typically spend the beginning of their careers with WFP but leave once they decide to settle down and start a family. Through an exhaustive 100 question survey I am one of many staff tasked with statistical analysis of results and summarizing of key points obtained during the interview process.

That is all for now!


Saturday, July 4, 2009

2 Weeks In...

Time is moving quickly since I arrived in Rome 2 weeks ago. Learning a new job, a new language, a new city, and finding friends has proved to be exhausting but exhilarating.

I am finally in the swing on the internship. My direct supervisor has been great. She has carefully laid our my marching orders. My internship will consist of 4 key tasks:

1. Research implementation of the Agency's language requirement for new hires and compare against UN and WFP policy.
2. Conduct cost/benefit analysis of outsourcing language assessments to international language firms.
3. Manage interviews and surveys of current staff (Indefinite Contract and Fixed Term employees) to get feedback on WFP's current mobility policy and staff attrition from the organization.
4. Research social networking opportunities for the firm's recruitment efforts.

After figuring out where the commissary is and where to get office supplies, I began my research. The interesting thing about WFP is that the organization is governed its own policies but also at the macro level by the charter of the United Nations. This requires all new policies to be in line with the United Nations. Needless to say, I am spending a lot of time understanding the macro-frameworks of both organizations.

WFP staff serves communities around the world, therefore, needs a workforce with diverse language skills. WFP's policy requires all staff to speak English and one additonal language: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, and Chinese. Since these policies were put in place 10 years ago it is likely they don't reflect the current needs of the organization. In implementation, nearly half of staff hired in the last 5 years do not meet this requirement. It is my job to determine if this policy is working and if not, how the policy can be amended to meet the firms current needs. I will blog again next week to let you know the results of my research and recommendations.

This summer will go by quickly given my workload. A couple of classmates from the MBA class of 2009 (Zach and Kristen) stopped through Rome on their way to Greece for a couple of nights. We went to Campo DiFiori for dinner the first night and had a home cooked Italian meal the 2nd night prepared especially by my Italian roommates. Given the economic climate back home and the strength (or weakness) of the dollar I don't expect to see many other familiar faces until my family comes in August. It is nice to know that even though I am 10,000 miles away from Davis I can still see familiar faces. :)

Ciao for now


Monday, June 22, 2009

First hours in Rome

So I just arrived in Rome, Italy yesterday from San Francisco and was trying to get some sleep before the first day of my internship with the World Food Programme ( The WFP is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance - food - in the world. It is an agency of the United Nations and its mandate is to assist nations after emergencies (like the Tsunami) or ongoing conflict (like in the Sudan). Since my background is in development assistance, an internship with WFP is a natural first step in my career path post Davis MBA. I have been offered a post in the recruitment division of an agency employing 10,000 professionals (from nutritionists to procurement professionals) to ensure that millions of people worldwide have access to nutritious food. The WFP operates programs such as school feeding and cash for work to create healthier minds and stronger communities.

On the personal side, though I am excited, I am also a bit overwhelmed. I have 4 roomates who don't speak English (I ran out and got an Italian dictionary immediately). They smile a lot and are as helpful as can be without a common language. I hoped my Spanish would be of more use but it appears verbs in Spanish and Italian are pretty different. They helped me buy all the basics for my room including sheets, toilet paper, and an expresso maker (not necessary listed in the order of importance!). They have also tried to point out where I can catch the train to work, the bus downtown, and the local tabacchi. Many services that are accessible online in the US are done in person in Italy. I realized that without the internet and a cell phone I would go nutz here in Rome so we trapsed around Rome getting these items for me.

Anyway, I will write more later. For now I hope I can make it through my first week of work without falling asleep from jet lag :)