07 Aug 2020

Intern Blog #2: Settling in

Posted07 Aug 2020

Intern Blog #2: Settling in

I have now been interning at LEI and living in Wollongong for two months. Despite the coronavirus continuing to linger on the Southern Coast, I have had plenty of opportunities to explore some of the Illawarra’s beautiful coastline and enjoy both the local beaches and pubs, maintaining a healthy social distance of course. As a keen, albeit still-learning surfer, the winter storms that have hit the south-central coast in the last couple of weeks were exhilarating. It’s a different level to the surf back home in England, and I have no shame in being terrified by the monster swells rolling in. However, I am proud to have had a paddle out in what were the biggest waves I’ve ever been in and even more pleased to have made it back to shore in one piece!

This month at the office in Wollongong, a lot of effort was focused on preparing a bid for a new potential project in Timor-Leste. Part of my input for the bid submission was to produce a cross-cutting themes document as well as writing and formatting the CVs of the potential project team. Working on the bid demonstrated the importance of emphasising the specific weighted criteria as set out in the tender although, this process also uncovered some drawbacks. For example, this particular bid emphasised that the participants have intermediate level English language certificates. This seemed like a reasonable request; however, English certification was not commonplace amongst the national consultants, and it’s possible that many good candidates were overlooked due to this criterion. This highlighted the challenge of allowing for ‘on the job’ capacity development whilst ensuring the best candidate for the work. To see the process of bid composition as a whole was also invaluable for me. Experiencing first-hand the amount of work that goes into bidding for a project, and being able to offer my own contribution, makes the process a lot more tangible. I am also becoming much more proficient in my use of acronyms!

The experience of working on bids for future projects is a fantastic way to really get to grips with the bidding process and the overall business model of the company. The work on potential opportunities fits well alongside writing articles about past projects, another point of focus for this month. Last week I completed my first Impact article, concerning land rights for ethnic minorities in Vietnam, which you can check out here. My process in writing involved not only desk-based research and reading of project reports and evaluations. I held zoom meetings with previous and ongoing project managers in Laos and Vietnam, helping to clarify my understanding of the projects. The virtual meetings also allowed for the most up-to-date information on where the projects were today, beyond the exit evaluation reports. Additionally, they provided the experiences of the on-the-ground project impacts, allowing me to bring the articles to life in a more relatable way.

One benefit of working in an office full of technical experts who have an in-depth knowledge of the development sector is excellent careers advice. I am planning on returning to University in the future, and my colleague’s experience has been helping to guide my decisions for future study. One nugget of knowledge bestowed upon me was to consider the potential benefits of studying to be being a specialist rather than a generalist. Or, if the course of study is a broad one, to focus through a research element on a specific theme or region relevant to the desired area of employment post-study. Through my continued experience working at LEI, I hope to pinpoint these areas to shape my future studies.

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