The 4th-year GNMI student Laia Hoyos shares her internship experience at the International Telecommunication Union, the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for all matters related to information and communication technologies.
For a very long time, I have known that I want to work for an intergovernmental organization since I have always been interested in geopolitics, international affairs, and human rights. Hence, when I had to start thinking about where I would like to do my curricular internship in my 3rd year of university, I decided to start searching for an internship in the diplomatic world.
The biggest challenge for me was the uncertainty of finding an internship that I would enjoy and feel productive because entering the United Nations’ system was not just difficult, but at the same time, you have to be lucky since there are many applicants and there are not many vacancies.
“I was part of the UN family for four months, the beginning of my professional dream”
After sending almost 50 different internship applications for different United Nations agencies, European Union, NATO, and embassies, among many other organizations, luckily, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) of the United Nations got in contact with me for the internship offer that I had applied to months ago. After pursuing an assignment delivery and conducting two interviews with my head, José María Batanero, I was part of the UN Family, and at the same time, the beginning of my professional dream.
For 4 months and a half, I worked with the Project Support Division (PRJ) of the Bureau of Development of Telecommunications (BDT) at ITU, which is a quite small department where we developed projects held in a wide range of areas of action across the world, such as regulatory and market environment; development technologies and networks; ICT applications; access to ICTs through special initiatives; capacity building; cybersecurity; emergency telecommunication; climate change; and statistics. The ITU is contributing in a very big scope to the entire development community and is constantly adapting to the changing environment and trying new things, always stepping up to the challenge, looking forward to big innovation advancing to commit to the 2030 agenda.
My work at the ITU
My role at the organization nor at the department was never the same, I was working on very different projects, and this made my work very interesting, motivating and dynamic. I analyzed ITU’s project portfolio identifying trends and the best practices in ITU in the design, set-up, planning, implementation, monitoring and closure of ITU projects.
A big part of my work was focused on reinforcing the communications of the projects, by organizing periodic meetings with BDT’s communication division and by producing templates and tools to support communications of such projects. To measure the information and proceed to a more accurate assessment of the information, together with my colleague we conducted an analysis of the challenges, risks and improvements for the ongoing projects in the portfolio, providing at the same time support to the set-up, planning, monitoring and closure of the projects. Additionally, I could have the chance to support other departments and sections of BDT.
Due to the Covid-19 situation, and because of the restrictions in Geneva, all ITU Staff were working remotely. Being on remote was quite a challenge sometimes, but it was also a benefit since I could work from wherever I wanted to. I could even have the chance to go to Geneva to visit the installations, in the Palais des Nations, and meet my head and some colleagues.
Nevertheless, online work was never a hassle nor an obstacle to communicating with people since all meetings were held online. There was a constant flow of communication among colleagues and departments, and being online made it easier to talk to people from other headquarters around the world. We even did e-coffee breaks together!
As with many traineeships at the UN, I was not paid for my internship, but since I would not have any costs of displacement or maintenance in Switzerland, this made it a lot easier as I could work from home without any extra costs. On the other hand, at first, technicalities and getting used to all the meetings, all the people and different technical departments and tools was quite overwhelming too.
When it comes to the relations with people and the work engagement, I must say I could not have had a warmer welcome. Everyone since the first day has been very kind to me and treated me as an equal, they have always appreciated the work done and offered their help if I ever needed anything.
Regarding the work I have been carrying on, I have to say I am learning a lot in many areas that I was interested in before but never really got a deep thought on them, such as project management and knowledge management. Working close to projects has been a powerful learning tool for me because it is one of my motivations for future work, and it is showing me skills that I did not know I had and that I am enjoying very much: project management planning, taking initiative on doing new things, team working and data analysis management.
I must say it has been an amazing opportunity to be part of the United Nations family, getting to know how their complex system works, and have embraced all the knowledge that my head and my colleagues shared with me and guided me in many professional aspects. At the same time, I enjoyed having been able to attend international events and meetings where I could listen and participate with very competent and smart people from different position levels inside ITU.
It was a very enriching experience, and I truly recommend it if you are interested to know more about the UN system, diplomacy and, most importantly, want to create a positive impact with your work and contribute to making a better world!