Eleonora - South Asia Department
What made you join ADB?
I always wanted to work internationally and in development. My career as a diplomat in the Austrian Foreign Service brought me to Mexico and Indonesia in the 1990s, where I observed first-hand the fragility of economic success being threatened by global financial crises. At the same time, I was taken aback by the political oppression, extreme income disparity, and widespread poverty in the countries I worked in. These realities reawakened my interest in development work that had begun while I was studying political science in Vienna. When the opportunity arose to work for the Asian Development Bank in 2004, I embraced it as it provided me with an opportunity to marry my personal interests with a compelling mission and cause.
What do you enjoy about working at ADB?
No matter where you work in ADB you know that you are contributing to a larger cause. ADB’s mission is very compelling. When I joined the bank in 2004 in the Office of Administrative Services, I was tasked to build a community outreach program. It was a modest program but it gave me an entry point into working on larger corporate social responsibility matters, which then led to ADB’s first Sustainability Report in 2007. Even though I was part of a support department at the time, I was able to contribute to the bank’s core mission in a meaningful way. And this is what I value most about ADB: the opportunities it provides for professional growth and continued learning. Most colleagues enter ADB as specialists. I, on the other hand, was a generalist. I embraced the opportunities that I was given at each level and gained a wealth of new skills and knowledge, which helped me build my competency and reputation in a wide range of areas.
I also thrive in the diverse work environment at ADB. I find the cultural differences invigorating and stimulating. Working with colleagues from more than 50 nationalities forces you to constantly adjust your views and see problems from a different angle. But it is not always easy to ensure smooth collaboration. One way to build cohesion is through annual staff retreats which help to break down barriers and create a bond amongst staff.
ADB also provides ample opportunities to volunteer in the local community, in particular through the Staff Community Fund. As part of our benefits package, staff members are given one day of leave for volunteering. Our department took advantage of this and on 3 February 2017 a group of about 80 staff members, led by our senior management, collaborated with Habitat for Humanity to support a local backwater fishing community in Navotas, here in the Philippines.
Lastly, I like ADB’s physical work environment. Manila may not be the easiest place to live, but ADB makes huge efforts to create a working environment that is conducive for its staff. We have a wealth of services at our headquarters building (cafeteria, coffee shops, bakery, banks, medical clinic, dry cleaning, convenience store, library, fuel station etc.). Those who prefer to skip lunch and be active can go to the gym or attend yoga or Pilates classes. ADB also sponsors other club activities, such as diving, tennis, photography, hiking and biking, and others.
How does ADB support the development of its professionals?
ADB offers an incredible amount of learning opportunities to develop its workforce, no matter in which area of the bank staff work. It really depends on how proactive you want to be in taking advantage of what’s being offered. We are given ten days per year for training – be it in-house or at an external venue. In addition, there are many opportunities to attend conferences, seminars, and workshops where one can hone one’s skills. ADB even provides a subsidy for continued education. Many staff members are taking advantage of it when they want to maintain their professional certifications or pursue further studies. Aside from these more formal areas of development, ADB also offers plenty of opportunities to learn from colleagues, mentors and experts. The biggest impact on professional growth, I find, comes when going to the field to witness progress on projects.
What advice would you give to prospective candidates?
Prospective candidates should demonstrate passion for development and a genuine interest in the organization and its work in the region. While strong technical expertise and international experience are a prerequisite, a candidate’s soft skills are equally important. ADB looks for candidates who can work well in teams and are willing to be flexible and adaptable.
Candidates need to be patient when looking for a job at ADB. Often the first application or interview may not get them in. Managers have many constraints when hiring, such as expertise, regional experience, diversity of the team, etc. If candidates cannot get a regular staff position immediately, they should look for consulting opportunities. These tend to be an excellent opportunity for the candidate to get to know the work and how they can contribute to the organization.