What do people do all day?

In Career Development, International Development, Peace Corps, Strategic Management on April 26, 2013 at 12:47 pm


An intern asked me about what I do all day, what my job is like.  So here’s what I told her.

At my last job, Program Development (writing new proposals and devising new programs) and Program Operations (general day to day management) were both done by the Program Officers.  Here at my new job, it’s more of the latter.

So, day to day, I’m basically providing oversight and guidance to the field program managers (through the CD’s) to make sure the program deliverables are being met, on time, and on budget.  There’s no incentive in this business to come in “under budget” because we are a non-profit, we don’t and can’t profit from being efficient.  Monthly fund requests come my way from the country finance managers, and I make recommendations.  Yesterday one FM requested about $85,000 for May, which I thought was too low, it should be closer to 120,000 or more, as it’s for a $2.5 million project for 12 months.  You can’t just divide it by 12, because about 25% of the budget will be charged at HQ as indirect/overhead and salary/fringe benefits charges (part of my salary, a finance person, and any others that can).
Also, I review all the donor-reporting for the technical programs (i.e., not the financial reports).  For the USG programs I am the main POC for my counterpart at USAID, OFDA, or BPRM.  So I submit the reports to the donor.  After I finally visit the field I’ll have more context and be able to contribute a little more to the reports, to make them more useful.  They become public record, it’s US taxpayer money funding USG projects, so in the end someone somewhere (like a reporter or an auditor) could make a FOIA request and read these reports.
Also, there are procurement requests where I have to provide approval.  Recently  one of my programs requested to purchase approximately $40,000 of “hygiene kits” and I had to coordinate about 6-7 signatures from staff spread out all over the world (finance people in Baku and LA, operations people in San Francisco).
Working on proposals can be fun, I got to work on an assessment in Niger and Burkina Faso earlier this year for my last job.  You come up with a ton of questions, gather the quantitative and qualitative data, and work as a team to come up with a solution design.  The writing can be fun because you feel like you’re fighting for people who need help.  It can also be exhausting because it’s like writing a thesis, USAID likes these proposals to be rigorous.
So, in general here at my new position, this is a line-them-up and knock-them-down type job for now.  You have to be able to keep organized and to prioritize.  It gets a lot cooler when you get to visit the field and get a little more connected to the beneficiaries.  In general, other than being a Peace Corps volunteer or maybe a doctor for MSF/Doctors without Borders, most Americans that work in international development are removed a few steps from the beneficiaries.  But hopefully we’re doing more good than harm. 🙂
  1. Hey Souley nice blog! Sounds like u do exactly what I do for a USAID funded project, the only difference is that am the one in the field sending you paperwork and requests 🙂 We do like our acronyms, I saw a triple up there


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