My first job provided me with huge exposure and knowledge

Pooja Sharma, Country Director, Practical Action

My first job was around 20 years ago with a consulting firm. As a fresh engineering graduate from India, I was not too aware of the job market in Nepal. If I may say, the job market was not too ‘happening’ at that time. In India, MNCs visited universities and colleges already in the third year to acquire talent through campus placement opportunities which I felt was a gap in Nepal back then. At Delhi College of Engineering, where I studied, job placement was above 90%, whereas, here I had to explore and apply tediously when I came back to Nepal.

My first job provided me with a huge amount of exposure and knowledge on how as an engineer I can contribute to improving the quality of life for people in Nepal, with improved access to electricity services. Prior to that my knowledge was confined to theory while the job provided me with the practicalities of the same. The sector was largely male dominated in India and the situation was very similar in Nepal. I can confidently say that I became more resilient and confident. Having realised the same and with my gathered experience, I together with my other women friends in the energy sector of Nepal initiated an informal group named ‘power the women power’ which encourages young women to be engaged in Nepal within the energy sector.

It helped me understand the intricacies of the sector which helped me manoeuvre around in the later years. I had an opportunity to interact with very senior officials of Nepal Electricity Authority and an international development consulting and their leadership team. My networking skills definitely got enhanced as I got an opportunity to connect with diverse stakeholders, as well as interact with different streams and experts in the office, etc.

In the early 2000s, the burgeoning IT sector held a powerful allure. Despite my background in electrical engineering, I was drawn to the potential of technology. However, my passion for energy and its role in development remained strong. As I delved deeper into this field, a powerful drive to make a bigger impact emerged.
I feel there is much more that I still need to do but I have always prioritised being more closer to the communities, prioritised locally led development and making the organisation the “Go to” organisation for like-minded partners and potential contributors to achieve our change ambitions and the overall development goals of Nepal.

There is a shift towards encouraging national leadership in several international NGOs. The market has also become more competitive than before with the shrinking and diversion of development funds. Social change is complex and requires systemic and long-term approaches. Therefore, INGOs are bringing a lens of a systems thinking approach and responsible partnerships. I am happy to see INGOs are critically challenging themselves, avoiding duplications and maximising the impact through collaboration and coordination.

I value our people and focus on enhancing equity, diversity and inclusion within the organisation. We have a flexible work environment to nurture our employee wellbeing while we lay emphasis on safeguarding all our employees and people who come in contact with our work. In recent times, we have upgraded our Learning and Development offer to build capacity of the people in the organisation.

I have been engaged with consulting firms, bilateral agency, NGOs, private sector and INGOs. My experience has been great in terms of working in the INGO sector with a lot of learning and a space for innovations. The role of INGOs has been important and recognised in ensuring inclusive growth and development of the society.

There is still a greater need for development and anyone who would want to develop their careers within the INGO sector should be passionate for the cause. There is so much that still needs to be done and I feel the need for a human touch in today’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) world remains a necessity.

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