Jennifer kindly spoke to us about her overseas assignments with MSF, which you can read in the interview below.
Can you tell us about your career pathway within MSF and how it has developed?
I started with MSF in a logistics position, which was a wonderful learning opportunity. In logistics you often manage large, diverse teams and wear many hats, which gives you the opportunity to learn about many different facets of the project and the organisation.
As a general logistician in a large project in Tanzania I was responsible for fleet and fuel management, a mechanics workshop, supply, warehousing, IT, communications, compound rehabilitation and three security teams across ten locations, as well as over 90 staff. I needed to work closely with both the medical and [capital-based] coordination teams to meet the needs of the project and solve problems as they arose. This helped me to develop a much deeper understanding of how MSF operates and the decision-making processes within it.
My next assignment was as a logistics admin role in a project in Cambodia. This role enabled me to build on my experience and learn the HR systems and software that MSF uses in projects. After working across many areas of the project in Tanzania and upskilling in human resources in Cambodia, with the support of my Head of Mission, I was able to move a project coordinator position in the same project.
You have worked in several different roles during your career with MSF, what do you think enabled you to progress from supply logistician to logistics manager to project coordinator?
I’ve worked in various different roles within MSF, as I took opportunities to fill gaps and gain experience as and when I could. My first role was as a logistician in an emergency project in Nigeria. At the end of my contract there I worked continued my time in Nigeria and worked as an admin coordinator in the capital to fill a gap, so I spent several weeks working with the coordination team and seeing a different side of the operations.
Similarly in Tanzania, I started as a logistics manager and then stepped into the role of hospital facilities manager as it was vacant. Also, as I mentioned above, I moved from logistics manager to project coordinator in Cambodia. Incidentally, that role of was largely open to me because I had said yes to the admin position in Nigeria, which had given me previous exposure to that role within MSF.
It's also important to note that while I definitely learnt on the job, this was more about learning MSF systems and ways of working than the core skills needed for these roles. We expect all international staff to effectively hit the ground running, which means that this is not a training organisation as such. There will always be an (often steep) learning curve, while you apply your skills and knowledge to the MSF systems, however it is essential that you come equipped with those core skills to start with. A good place to start is to look at the essential criteria on our website for all roles, and think about whether or not you meet these, or how you might gain, or build your experience to match this.