We were notified of an opportunity as an International Development / Business Administration graduate with WYG International – the international development consultancy arm of the WYG Group. I took a chance to talk to them about their work and the role they have on offer.
Firstly I just couldn’t help asking why they were based in Nottingham. Ján Michalko, one of WYG International’s Business Development Executives told me, “The location isn’t that meaningful for us because our operations here are just part of a global network. We have offices in several countries and regions including South Africa, Turkey, the Balkans – and, yes, Nottingham”
Having cleared that up I asked Ján about what lay behind the creation of the advertised post. “We already operate in a wide range of sectors – education, public finance, governance, and many more – but we are consciously expanding and diversifying our pool of donors. We have recently successfully become a supplier to DfID in various frameworks. So we really need a good applicant to help support our work in developing bids. We are bidding for work with donors such as the European Union, the World Bank as well as government departments”.
I asked about some of the ‘Job details’. Particularly about the element involving ‘strategic decision making on which projects (WYG International) should bid for’. I asked about what kinds of things are considered in this decision making. Ján was keen to reassure me that the successful graduate would be part of a team making these kinds of strategic decisions and that their contribution would be very much in a support capacity. “We would expect them,” he said, “to be conducting research about other likely bidders, for example. Or to review what resources, in terms of expertise and staff, we have available to help us deliver the work. Their contribution will be significant but it will be in conjunction with, and guided by, our experienced team.”
In a similar vein I touched on the element, ‘drafting of text and diagrams for bids’. Again Ján was clear that this did not mean the recruit would be writing entire bids but, rather, they could be asked to be draft or write sections or to source diagrams and pictures. “This could include using Excel to produce charts, for example,” he said, “but we have designers to make the documents conform to our standards. It could mean, for example, providing data that analyses a previous project. Items such as where money has been spent, what is the gender balance in the people impacted by our projects, recording measurements of success – a whole range of data, including numerical data.”
I asked Ján what he would be looking for when he reviews applications. “Confidence and some experience around dealing with data and solid analytical skills. This needn’t have been through previous consultancy work but would probably be more than just academic experience. Our bids don’t just involve researching material externally but we have an archive of material from previous bids. Having, in other words, the ability to review and retrieve pertinent information and integrate with other material. Other qualities we are looking for include ‘independence’, flexibility (especially when we are trying to meet tender deadlines) and research skills.”
I also asked Ján whether developing country experience was necessary. “We are an international development consultancy but the role has a dual aspect – business administration as well as international development. Developing country could be helpful but it isn’t a requirement. We are much more focused on the analytical and research skills. The role isn’t an international one – though we have a global network of offices and you may be called on to work overseas and meet clients when you have more experience. Mainly, though you will be office based. Having said that you will definitely need people skills – our bids are developed in teams of consultants and experts and in conjunction with other partners. So being able to get along with others is an important element.
Applicants are encouraged to submit applications as soon as possible although the nominal closing date is May 17th. Details from http://bit.ly/17eYqxK
Africa Governance Initiative – a Graduate Scheme February 22, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, Graduate recruitment, development consultancies, international development, politics , add a comment
I was delighted to hear from Jo Evans. I first met Jo when she was involved with putting on the Oxford Forum for International Development (OxFID) while she was a student at Oxford University. She is now the second graduate to take part in AGI’s graduate development programme, and part of her role is to help recruit her replacement. I spoke to her about AGI, about the scheme and, along the way, picked up some useful tips for those considering the sector.
Firstly, Jo, what is the AGI? AGI was established in 2008 by Tony Blair and is one of the three charitable foundations that he set up after leaving office. Essentially it’s a not-for-profit concerned with improving governance in Africa through providing practical support to African leaders and their governments to help them deliver on their own priorities. We work at the centre of government, with Presidents and their priority ministries and all of our teams are embedded in the offices of our counterparts. We support them by giving practical advice on how to get things done and to deliver policies effectively for their people, which as you can imagine is hard in any government, let alone in developing countries where capacity can be low and the challenges are so great. Because AGI works with the leadership of countries, we have an explicitly ‘top down’ approach to bringing about change, which makes AGI different from a lot of other organisations in the sector that may be more focused on the grass roots, or on a combination of approaches.
How do you measure success? When the governments we work with plan and implement a programme that increases the productivity of small farms, creates new jobs, or connects two cities for the first time with a paved highway, the credit is all theirs; but if we can identify in that our contribution to the development of the skills and systems that enabled it to happen, then we know we’re making a difference. A more basic measure of our success is the growing number of countries that we work with; starting with Rwanda back in 2008, we now work with seven African governments, with more likely to follow in the future. Another great measure is the ongoing endorsement we receive from our partner governments for the work we are doing – a number of the Presidents we support have publicly complemented the support that AGI gives them and their teams, and some have even recommended our work to the leaders of other African countries. A typical example of how we have tangible impact can be seen in our work to support the government of Sierra Leone to launch free maternal and infant healthcare. This has immediate, real-world results – the number of children in hospital dying of malaria has fallen by 80%– but through the process we have also helped to put in place the long-term systems that will enable the government to deliver large healthcare reforms in the future.
What inspired you to work in this sector? Well, I have been engaged with development for about 5 years, ever since attending the student organised OxFID (Oxford Forum for International Development) conference. In fact I came along to one of The Careers Group days on ‘Getting Into International Development’. I had previously worked for about 4 years in the arts sector but decided that I wanted to dedicate myself to working on poverty reduction. I undertook an undergraduate degree as a mature student at Oxford, and while I was there I got involved in running OxFID 2010. Throughout my degree, I also interned and worked in the sector. I became interested in this ‘top down’ approach after spending some time in Pakistan where I observed the efforts of aid organisations in helping the country deal with the terrible floods that occurred in 2010 and 2011. They were doing great work – and saving lives – but it was clear that they were substituting for the proper role that the government of the country should have been taking in protecting its people and preparing them for disasters. So I found myself wanting to work to help governments deliver for their people. So when I saw the AGI graduate development scheme being advertised I was very keen to get recruited, and of course, the chance to spend time in Africa working on one of our projects was very exciting.
How does AGI’s Graduate Development Scheme fit in? Well the scheme aims to provide professional experience and personal development to someone who can become a leader in the international sector. At the same time the graduate Programmes Officer will make a practical and important contribution to our work in a number of ways. They will get exposure to many of the different functions involved in running a small dynamic NGO and will get involved in a whole range of our activities. Broadly speaking, the scheme is split into 3 sections.
During the first year of the scheme, the focus is mainly on operations. We are a fast paced and ever-changing organisation, so the new graduate may work on different areas to me, but to give a sense of my experience, I’ve been working on:
• Supporting our Recruitment: The organisation depends on recruiting high calibre people and running this not only links the graduate up with many different parts of the organisation, but also offers them a great chance to understand how organisations think about recruiting people. I’ve found this invaluable for thinking about my future approach to applying for jobs, and about the kinds of skills I want to build.
• People management: In addition AGI regularly recruits interns and I am responsible for line managing them. Again we think this is a key skill that the graduate will need to be able to develop their career in the longer term.
• Event Management: Every 6 months we hold big internal events which bring all of our staff together for cross organisation learning and training. I work closely with the Senior Mangement Team to design, plan and deliver these events which have built on my event and project management skills. At the same time it’s a great chance to meet and spend time with all of the people across our organisation who I think are extraordinarily talented and interesting. You can learn a lot from being around people who are dynamic and full of ideas.
• Research: During my time here I have had to deliver research in lots of different areas. The topics change all the time but examples could include researching for a briefing paper on the background of a leader who has expressed an interest in working with us, or researching an issue around agriculture that a partner government wants to focus on.
In the 2nd phase, the graduate will spend time working on a distinct project in one of our Africa programmes. This is a great opportunity to understand first-hand the challenges that our governments face and to develop the competencies set out in the job advert around influencing, coaching and delivering change through others, and building and maintaining strong relationships.
In the final year of the programme, the graduate’s work will be much more focused on supporting the projects, working alongside the Director of Projects and Performance. This work will also include working on our monitoring and evaluation processes. This will be invaluable for anyone who wants to work in international development in the future as effective reporting to donors and constant self evaluation to ensure that you have positive impact is a hugely important part of any development work.
What are you looking for in candidates? Well the job specification sets out the key skills and competencies we’ll be looking for, but in addition to this I can say the following.
The work focuses on international development, governance and public policy. Applicants will need to have a track record and an interest in at least one of these – or even all of them! Realistically we would expect these interests to have been demonstrated in a practical way. In my case I was interested in development and could point to my experience with OXFID as well as my work experience and internships with Christian Aid and Oxfam. One thing my recruitment experience with AGI has given me is an awareness of how often people claim a passion for something like international development without having any tangible evidence of engagement with it.
We hope candidates aren’t put off by the list of competencies we look for. For example we look for ‘Strategic Planning’ and ‘Leadership’, which it isn’t really fair to expect a graduate to have. What we are looking for is the potential to develop these – we don’t expect people to have already done it at a professional level. Even having run a student society or delivered an event could provide exactly the right evidence we need for a particular competency.
We are really looking for the scheme to develop potential, so people who have already had significant training or previous professional experience in the sector might find the programme wouldn’t be able to benefit them. On the other hand we want to encourage people that might not fit the ‘standard’ graduate profile to apply – mature students (like me!) can apply, non-traditional students can apply and both recent undergraduate and masters students can apply. As long as you have the capacity to benefit from the programme and the potential to become a future leader, then we’re interested in hearing from you.
Full details of the scheme, as well as occasional internships, are available on AGI’s careers page – http://www.africagovernance.org/africa/pages/careers
The deadline for receiving initial applications is March 15th 2013
Africa Governance Initiative
Consultants for Eldorado May 17, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : development consultancies, international development , 2comments
I was kindly invited by Saana, an international development consultancy, to observe part of their recruitment process during their search for two paid interns in May 2012. I joined a small group of 5 Masters students who had been invited to visit the offices to find out more about the company and to take part in a case study exercise which would help Saana in the selection process
Here are a few observations that I made
- Be punctual. A couple of students turned up late. We know London transport is an unreliable system but take responsibility for managing how you navigate it. In this kind of small group lateness is really noticeable. The offices aren’t especially close to Wood Green and if you are used to central London that might take you by surprise. Not me of course. I got there a full two minutes early.
- Create connection. One of the students had done her homework and recognised the introductory speaker from a Youtube video about Saana. When she mentioned this it wasn’t done in a ‘aren’t I keen’ way but was done with a light touch. Before the process had even started she had demonstrated a capacity for quickly establishing affinity.
- Customise your applications. One of the senior consultants told me afterwards that they had received lots of applications from people from less immediately relevant areas of international development. Saana are very focused – distinctively so – on their key areas of expertise – International trade and competitiveness ; trade and regional integration; aid effectiveness. Consequently applicants with a development health background needed to make sure they point out the transferable skills they would bring and also account for their switch in direction.
- Customise your applications even more. Saana’s application process was really simple – a letter and CV. No real excuse then for submitting a cut and paste application with one company name replacing another. It’s not that difficult to do that bit of research that will demonstrate you are making a serious application. As one of the candidates demonstrated there are even YouTube videos that can help but Saana also have informative web and LinkedIn sites. I realised afterwards, incidentally, that I have a couple of LinkedIn contacts in common with Saana staff. These could also have been useful sources of background
Having said all that the Open day included a case study exercise that was more challenging than all of the above. The case study was useful for demonstrating the range of work their consultants could be involved with and the skills they need to be effective.
It required the applicants to make recommendations on how to spend $1.5 million from USAID on a fictional south American country called Eldorado. They were presented with a short list of projects and had to agree as group in 30 minutes what they would spend the money on. Options included spending $750,000 on a coffee export marketing project; the provision of workshops to ensure that members of the Eldorado government are up to speed about World Trade Organisation agreements and negotiations; the provision of international trade advisers.
The Saana consultant observing the group said they were very good – I thought so too – though what do I know. They made perceptive comments about needing to be cautious about sinking money into a depressed coffee market, about not spending USAID money on an EU focused project and were concerned, as their clients would be, about making maximum impact for the money on offer.
Now we have established contact with Saana we hope we can let our students know about future opportunities with this distinctive organisation.
Accenture Open Day for Careers Services July 1, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Graduate recruitment, consulting, development consultancies, international development, recruiters , add a comment
*** Update March 2013. Applications for summer 2014 internships open on September 1st 2013 ***
Every year Accenture have an open day for Careers staff to update them on their recruitment situation. This year it’s at the National Theatre. A trip to the NT usually involves me paying £12 and leaving at the interval but Accenture have promised us an exciting day –so I’m sure I’m going to be here for the duration
The host for the day introduces us to Royce – a Senior Executive. Royce gets me on board by saying he cycled from London to Paris in 24 hours to mark his 50th birthday. His career has taken him all over the world but started at Norbury. It also included developing Accenture’s relationship with the National Theatre. Because it’s Accenture, Royce says, they focus on ‘innovation’. So no ‘Noel Coward’ and lots of ‘Warhorse’. And the National Theatre will soon be coming to the iPhone. A shiver passes through the audience. Anyway, a lovely urbane introduction.The Recruitment Process The morning session gave us some insights into Accenture’s recruitment process. Beginning with
First round telephone interviews – staff making these initial calls follow a consistent method. Almost a script really. Members of the recruitment team role played a call for us. Calls cover three areas.
- Career focus – eg why consulting and why Accenture?
- Case study
Here are some tips flowing from the role play starting with my tip about the tips. Don’t just copy the phrasing you read here but take on board the principles being outlined.
Why Accenture? Looking for specifics – less ‘you are a big company’ and more ‘you work with such and such a client and offer this and this’.
What does an analyst do? Less ‘using PowerPoint and doing research, probably’ and more ‘Well, I’ve seen the video on your website and see there are a range of things. For example…..’
Competencies – The facilitator stated that they explicitly ask for answers structured on the STAR system and the role-playing interviewer reiterated this to the candidate.
Case study – “How might you help a call centre reduce staff churn?” Do provide specific suggestions. Don’t say “er…look at what the competition is doing?”. Be ready to be pressed for more detail on your suggestions. Heaps of case studies online on their website which Accenture feels gives you everything you need to get through the process.
Second Round – The second round consists of an assessment centre comprising an in-tray exercise, a case study, a one to one interview and a group exercise. Concluding with another individual interview.
The group work exercise involved 4 analysts hamming it up as stereotypical
Candidates creating a plan for a school in Africa on behalf of Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP being Accenture’s international development arm). This was all instructive and fun. In this exercise recruiters are looking for key competencies
Drive and Motivation
A key distinction was drawn here from other consultancies that place an emphasis on ‘Leadership’. Underlining the importance Accenture place on team work. In brief – Don’t talk over people, ensure everyone is included, be proactive and make sure you keep to time and keep to the brief.
I managed to ask a question that included a reference to ‘The Apprentice’. I contrasted the ethos of that programme (one person left standing on top of a pile of bodies who’ve been stabbed in the back) with this exercise that could see all candidates come through. The host said it was a really interesting point, so there. Encouraged, I start working out how I can get in references to ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Godfather’. They’re going to love ‘em.
Lunch – the thunderstorm held off long enough for the balcony barbecue to go ahead. Top lunch as well – kebabs followed by an excellent chocolate pastry and ice cream. After lunch the rain came….spectacularly. We are in a glass sided building high up above the river like an aviary of nervous canaries.
Post Lunch – Some key figures setting the context for the 2011-12 campaign
500 graduate analysts needed
Summer Interns up to 250 annually by 2013 and 120 in 2011-12
Accenture considered as a top 10 employer at 14 universities
Is at number 9 in The Times Top 100
Current Share price at an all time high
The Analyst Consulting Group (ACG) – Emma Cooper, a Senior Executive, talked about ACG group that hs been created for all new graduate entrants. Whether they are recruited for Technology or Management Consultancy. ACG is designed to provide a chance for new entrants to get broad experience before choosing a specialism. It is the home for new entrants typically for two years. Accenture is a big organisation – 223,000 worldwide and ACG is a smaller family within that. Within ACG new entrants join one of 15 sub groups. These form the main conduit for social and training events.
Support. The support and training package includes Career Counsellors who act as mentors for new entrants during their time at ACG. Counsellers have ‘non-corporate’, supportive conversations that help junior analysts find their feet and direction.
Training – While Accenture do not offer a professional qualification they do provide a comprehensive training package (4 to 5 weeks in total). Elements of this include a 2 day induction covering Accenture structure, housekeeping and a discussion on the founding Accenture values. The training includes an international element. This is to one of their international delivery centres, possibly Chicago or India.
The second year of the support programme covers more generic skills. Encouraging analysts to consider what they are known for and what they stand for as individuals. Encouraging reflection on their personal brand. The ACG also provides a focus on Performance management and scheduling into their first projects.
Project experience during the ACG period covers the full range of analyst activities everything from training to analysis or developing training materials and providing impact assessments.
Question and Answer Session As we were a little slow off the mark Accenture recruiters leapt in with some questions of their own to the panel. This was helpful and they were excellent questions. But, correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t they know this stuff already? Anyway some of the things that came out included.
Postgrads enter at the same level as those with undergraduates degrees if they don’t already have consulting experience. Accenture is a meritocratic organization so they are able to progress faster if they are high performers.
International Students Tier 1 post study can apply but this is going from April 2012 (closed by the UK Government). Tier 2 is remaining and applicants are considered on a case-by-case basis
Technology roles are not for geeks, nor do they involve coding. Some of the exciting technology that is creating work for analysts include mobile phones, sustainability, iris and facial recognition (facial technology is being deployed now that can tell identical twins apart).
Internships are being expanded. Because they both improve performance across a range of indicators and help Accenture establish relationships with potential applicants.
International Development Consultancies (again) August 23, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : development consultancies, international development , 1 comment so far
Thanks to Iain a consultant working for PKF in Kabul for pointing us to a list of consultancies when he read a recent post (http://thecareersgroupgid.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/where-do-i-find-a-list-of-development-consultancies/). Ironically it was one on an archive site of ours that we had forgotten about. I’ve checked it out and rather than re-issue it I am going to make sure the consultancies are linked to from our ‘careerstagged.co.uk’ site – search on development consultancies. In the meantime one of the links on the list is still extant produced by Insead the european business school http://www.insead.edu/mba/clubs/indevor/careers/IntDevConsultants.cfm
Where do I find a list of development consultancies? July 28, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : development consultancies, international development , 6comments
Good question. Here’s what an experienced consultant told us. “I haven’t come across one as such. And I wouldn’t be surprised if one does NOT exist. The amount of ‘consultancies’ that would have to be listed on this database would make it terribly overwhelming and could render the service rather obsolete. It would have to include local consultancies as well, and take Kenya for example. In Kenya alone there is probably more than 1000 businesses calling themselves consultancies, and NGOs are starting to call themselves consultancies too. If you are looking for development consultancies in particular, DevEx is a good resource and the UN procurement database has a list of all UN suppliers”
Working in an international development consultancy July 22, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, Intelligence and security, development consultancies, international development , 2comments
Alison Hoskins completed a Masters in International Relations at King’s College in 2009. She completed the MA part time while continuing to work as a teacher. She now works as a consultant in the London office of Africa Practice a strategic communications consultancy that works with governments and corporate clients in Africa. I spoke to Alison about her career change and about her successful experience of applying to the Civil Service FastStream.
Why did you stop being a teacher? It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy teaching. I did it for six years but I found myself increasingly interested in politics and international relations and there isn’t any outlet for that in school teaching unfortunately. So I completed an MA in International Relations part-time over 2 years, which was funded by my teaching work.
That must have made it hard to do the internships that seem to be so important? Well, I think you are right about it being important but I think the fact that I’d worked as a teacher counted for something. I couldn’t afford to commit significant periods of time to internships, but I did do a couple of related periods of work experience. I got a place on the BBC’s work experience programme at the World Service. That was four weeks unpaid but really useful and interesting. I also worked one day a week for six months at Dod’s Parliamentary Communications. This helped as well. I got some improved admin skills – there was lots of database work, but they are also a well recognised name So all that together with a good academic track record and the fact that I spoke French helped me get interviews.
You also applied to the FastStream. Tell me about that. Actually I applied twice and it was because a speaker at the War Studies Alumni event said that he had applied again after being unsuccessful first time round that I also applied again and this time I got offered a position, although they have had to defer it for a year because of the budget cuts.
What tips do you have for people applying to the FastStream? Well do apply again if you need to. My performance at the Assesment Centre improved second time around. I would also say do practice for the numeracy tests. It’s more difficult to improve your verbal test scores but numeracy definitely improves with practice. On the E-tray exercises which are all about decision making and prioritising in the arena of policy recommendations, my tip would be to work through with a bit of velocity and don’t deliberate too long. You have 30 questions to get through in 45 minutes and not answering them can cost you more than submitting less than perfect answers. I resisted re-reading the material you get presented with on which your decisions have to be made. Occasionally I consulted it when I knew exactly which document I needed, but in general I trusted my memory of what the issues were. There is also an assessment centre – which is pretty awful really! This included interviews. There are no big surprises here. They tell you they will be asking about the core competencies such as ‘Learning and Improving’ and ‘Building Relationships’. Questions typically start with things like, ‘ Can you think of a time when…’ or ‘Can you give us an example of a good team you have been in?’ They will then drill into what you say. ‘What was good’, ‘What was difficult..?’, ‘What would you do differently?’ You need to be ready to defend what you did or did not do in situations.
In the meantime you also applied to Africa Practice. How did that come about? Well it was after I came to the careers office I read about them and sent them a speculative letter. It wasn’t straightforward but they said they might have something but they were seeing a few people and they had the possibility of some short term work coming up. I went along for what seemed like an informal interview but in the end they offered me some paid work with the possibility of continuing work if they secured more contracts.
What are you doing for them? Well, the client they were talking about was the African Union but since I’ve started I have also been doing some work for the government of Gabon. In Gabon a new President has come to power after 40 years. Because he is the son of the previous President he wants to make sure that his Presidency involves a shake-up in government communications internally and externally. This involves us advising on transparent internal systems, reshaping the way Gabon is perceived externally, particularly to investors, and a separate stream of work involves creating and supporting the First Lady’s role of meaningful philanthropy. The world doesn’t know about Gabon’s biodiversity initiatives and it’s work to counter climate change through protecting the Congo Basin. Regarding the African Union, we are supporting them in their major project of making 2010 the Year of Peace and Security in Africa. It’s a significant push to end conflict on the continent. We’re creating for them a communication strategy that will help them reach out to new partners in building peace, and reach out to ordinary Africans in a way that they’ve never been able to before.
What kinds of work does this involve? For example I have had to draft a number of speeches for the Chairperson of the African Union. I’ve also had to write shorter speeches for Heads of State – including President Zuma of South Africa. The speeches have to be politically and culturally sensitive and generally positive. You have to be aware of the political context and the specific messages that need to be conveyed.
I have to put together events. For example we have arranged a meeting of people the AU have enrolled as ‘Peace Ambassadors’, including FW De Klerk and Archbishop Tutu. This area of work includes working up what are virtually job descriptions for the role and putting together a prospectus together for the first meeting, for example how the meeting will be organised and what the topics are and how things get taken forward. One of the ideas is to have the Ambassadors make certain ‘pledges’ about what they intend to contribute. We are going to record these and seek advertising space for them, and I’ve been involved in organising that.
I’ve had to learn a lot very quickly about media relations. Trying to make sure our client’s messages get aired in the media. For example, contacting Africa correspondents of newspapers and the BBC and persuading them that the stories are worth telling.
I’ve some really interesting experiences: I’ve already been out to Addis Ababa to go work at the African Union, I went to see the Ugandan Ambassador to Ethiopia while I was there, and I’ve just met Mo Ibrahim at his office in London.