UNOPS

Voices: Advice from a Junior Professional Officer

"When I think of my experience as a Junior Professional Officer (JPO), I think of all the friendships I fostered, all my colleagues working in the Dakar office and managing projects in the field, and the approximately 15 new countries I visited during my missions." - Donato Serena, Portfolio Specialist

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​"​​​My work with UNOPS began as a JPO in 2009, when I was assigned to the office in Dakar, Senegal as an Associate Portfolio Manager. From the very beginning, I took on many responsibilities: I managed seven regional environmental projects in western and central Africa, funded by key donors such as the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility.

"Since the end of my JPO assignment in 2012, I have continued to work for UNOPS in Dakar, as a Portfolio Specialist. I continue to manage projects and provide support for business acquisition and knowledge management. I also coach new colleagues and help staff access training opportunities.

"My JPO assignment has definitely shaped my career – I continue to apply procedures, tools and competencies learned during that time. When I think of my JPO experience, I think of all the friendships I fostered, all my colleagues working in the Dakar office and managing projects in the field, and the approximately 15 new countries I visited during my missions. My best experience as a JPO was providing solutions to operational issues encountered during projects. For example, to improve the effectiveness of projects under my portfolio, I helped decentralize certain processes, giving more responsibilities to project personnel in the field.

"Working at UNOPS has been very rewarding – it has provided an excellent platform for learning and developing professionally. The organization is composed of very young and motivated personnel, projects are carried out without delays, tangible results are achieved, and we serve our partners and the most vulnerable people in an efficient manner.

"I would gladly provide the following advice to current or potential JPOs:

  1. Carefully observe situations before taking action and providing final opinions. You should use your first few months in a new duty station to evaluate the various contexts in which you are working and living.
  2. Try to befriend locals. While it may be convenient to mingle with the expat community, it is crucial to understand the culture of the country by socializing with locals, including reaching out to local colleagues in your office.
  3. Learn through senior staff and through your supervisor.
  4. Talk to your supervisor if you feel that your work is not rewarding or your time and skills are not fully utilized.
  5. Don't hesitate to bring your unique attributes to your job. JPOs are young, dynamic professionals with diverse and highly sought after skills and experiences, which in many cases have been garnered outside of the UN. These attributes can all help improve the UN system."