Carrie Baptist graduated in 2009 with a BA in International Relations from UBC. Currently, she is based in London, United Kingdom, where she works in International Development. Here are some of her insights 6 years after leaving the IR program.
Q: What is your fondest memory from your time in the IR program?
As an undergraduate, I remember having difficulty deciding on a major as I was interested in many disciplines and I struggled to narrow my interest into one area. I love the multi-disciplinary nature of IR, as it allowed me to take a rich variety of courses – from Russian feminist literature to African Security and Politics (a particular favourite, taught by Katherina Coleman).
Q. Could you tell us a bit about your current role including what you do, what you like about it most and what some of the key challenges are?
I am an evaluation and research consultant at Coffey International Development, where I evaluate large-scale international development programmes, primarily for the UK Department for International Development (DFID). I love the variety and challenge of it — I get to work with many different large and small scale NGOs, working across a number of thematic areas (particularly governance, gender, civil society and education), which gives me a great ‘bird’s eye’ view of the sector. I have the privilege to travel frequently and conduct research in Africa and Asia, while working within a talented, multi-cultural team based in London. Being an evaluator requires a unique mix of methodological expertise and inter-personal nouse, to navigate the politics and pressures of development, and as a consultant one must be quite self-motivated and willing to take initiative.
Q. What was your first job after university, what helped you get that job, and how did it lead to your next one?
My first job was as a social worker in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, which I got based on experience I developed as a volunteer with an organisation which helped people with a disability fill out applications for income assistance. While working in the DTES, I realised that while I cared deeply about poverty and development, my interests lay further afield. So, I used that job to save up funds to move to Mumbai, India where I got a job working with SPARC, an NGO which is part of Slum/ Shack Dwellers International. In my role there I assisted in the office and helped conduct research on housing and infrastructure in slums.
Q. What do you wish you had known when you were graduating from IR at UBC?
The value of having basic project management and software skills; early in my career, I found my employers were more interested in hearing about my ability to use excel, MS project, power point, SPSS/STATA or NVivo/ Atlas than what specific courses I had taken while in university.
Q. Do you have any words of advice for students interested in pursuing a career in International Development?
Internships can be valuable, but make sure you are gaining real skills and not just making coffee. And go overseas! Why work in international development if you’re not interested in travelling? Working overseas provides great experience, as long as you’re doing something substantive, and can be a great way to get a foot in the door.