What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?
My main role is to research content for the FAO Forestry Education project aimed at developing educational materials for K9 – 12 students in Tanzania and the Philippines. I provide technical support as both a subject (forestry) and region (Africa) specialist to the Outreach team at FAO Forestry Division. I also take on various administrative tasks such as supporting the planning of high-level forestry events, international day of forest 2021 etc.
How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?
My current work bears a lot of similarities with graduate degree. I engaged in forestry research during my two and a half years of graduate studies and presently in my work place, I continue to research on various aspects of forestry (climate change, wildlife management, sustainable forestry management, forest products and trade). The research experience gained at UBC has been really useful in my current work. In addition, my participation in the leadership of some on-campus student groups (e.g International Forestry Students Association) provided me with event organization and project management skills, which have been useful in supporting my team in organizing various international events. My experience in graduate school also prepared me to work in a multicultural and international work place like the FAO, since UBC offers a diverse and international experience.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
Due to the pandemic, I was unable to move to Rome for my internship at the FAO Headquarters which poses some challenges. The main challenge is the fact that I work remotely from my home in Canada while the rest of the team are based in Rome or other cities in Europe. Hence, the 9 hours time difference between us poses a lot of challenges to my communication and contribution to the team. In addition, I have not been able to meet my work colleagues in person or work from the Headquarters in Rome where I was supposed to be stationed. The reduction of social interaction occasioned by the pandemic and the use of remote/virtual technologies to carry out my duties has not offered me the full experience of working with a United Nations agency.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
Yes, it is. I have always wanted to work with a United Nations agency. So I believe my internship at the FAO is a major step towards achieving my dream.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
I was interested in bagging an advanced forestry degree at a top research university in the world. UBC and the Faculty of Forestry were a great match for my interest. I was also motivated by the fully funded scholarship offered to me by the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at UBC.
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
I enjoyed the connections I created with people at UBC including students, staff and faculty. Some of these connections are still intact till today and I hope to carry the connections into the future. I also enjoyed traveling to participate in conferences in many countries made possible by the travel awards from UBC.
What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?
During my graduate studies at UBC, I was very focused and proactive with my studies and research. When my research did not go the way I planned it due to situations beyond my control, I was flexible enough to quickly adapt my research to new realities and seek new partnerships that help me achieve my goals. Besides my supervisor and committee members, I had a advisers who are either PhD students or Post Doctoral fellows who supported and advised me from time to time. These two groups of people offered unique and important guidance in addition to those from my professors. Also, I asked for help whenever I needed it and took advantage of the vast resources available to me as a graduate student at UBC.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
My advice to current graduate students is to take advantage of every resource and opportunity provided by UBC from educational resources for learning and research, to career and networking resources and opportunities. As much as they work hard to succeed in their classes and research project, they should also build competencies in other areas by taking up leadership in a student club, volunteering for a cause on campus, networking and participating in the campus life. The experiences and connections that are gained from such involvement may prove to be very useful in the future. In addition, students should have a plan on how to leverage their UBC education/affiliation to meet their career goals.
How did you find out about/obtain your current position?
I found out about the position from a group on Facebook devoted to posting opportunities for young professionals in forestry.
What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?
A major challenge I faced was the changing of my master’s research topic and country of study twice because of reasons beyond my control (i.e., conflict and permit issues). These challenges set back my research timeline by a whole year, but my resilience allowed me to persevere, design and implement a new research project in my home country of Nigeria, even though that was not my initial plan. In the end, I completed my master's successfully. I learned that sometimes things may not always go the way I planned them, however, if I do not give up and continue to maintain a positive attitude, I can still achieve a successful outcome.
How are jobs normally posted and filled in your organization or industry?
Jobs are posted in the FAO Vacancies section on the FAO website. http://www.fao.org/employment/vacancies/en/