What do you do as Management Consultant for AECOM?
I work in the International Development UK team where my role involves bidding for and managing projects funded by UKAID, including the Department for International Development (DFID). The projects I work on vary considerably. From using innovation to increase access to finance for women to developing sustainable approaches to responding to disasters, our focus is on working with our beneficiaries to better respond to a rapidly changing world.
Tell us about working for Maxwell Stamp, first as a Financial Sector Practice Consultant and then as a Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction Consultant.
In the Financial Sector Practice my work focused on supporting underserved populations gain access to finance through microfinance and commercial banks. This included working with micro and small business owners to develop sound business plans and achieve scale and working with banks and microfinance institutions to better serve these clients.
In the Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction Practice I spent time in Ethiopia where I worked on a DFID-funded Programme, which aims to get young girls back into school, educating communities in Northern Ethiopia on the benefits of education and the consequences of child marriage and female genital mutilation.
What was coordinating events for the Red Cross like?
With the British Red Cross I worked in the fundraising team which was a lot of fun. We organised a series of events called Dance, Make your Move! The dance competition was open to children of all ages and from all over the country and offered the opportunity for children and young adults to design and perform their own routines whilst raising money for the British Red Cross.
You spent a number of years volunteering in Ethiopia and Lesotho before going to university. Why this choice and is it something you’d recommend?
I would absolutely recommend a volunteering experience to anyone looking to get into any international development area. In Ethiopia I taught English to patients in the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa and taught a range of subjects in a school for orphaned children.
Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. I worked there as a researcher in the Baylor clinic for HIV positive children and their mothers.
Having never previously studied politics or international relations in school, my BA in International Relations and Politics was a good introduction and overview to the field. Modules included International Relations Theory, Humanitarian Law, Latin American Politics and African Politics. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to get into international development but who is not sure which specific discipline they want to follow.
My Masters of Research allowed me to undertake in-depth research in a subject that interested me immensely. For this, I travelled to Ethiopia to conduct field research on microfinance group lending. The MRes also focused on the emergency response cycle, from early warning and preparedness to immediate response and long-term sustainable development. I am now putting this into practice in my current role, which is hugely fulfilling.
What has doing a Master’s degree brought you that you wouldn’t get with a BA?
It has narrowed down and focused my field of expertise and interest, which I think is, at some point, necessary.
Why the interest in development?
It runs in the family and I have always been interested in the subject. When I was younger we travelled a lot which spurred this interest further. I wanted to play some part, however small, in addressing some of the inequalities that I came across.
What are the particular advantages and barriers a woman pursuing a career like yours might face?
I've been fortunate enough to never experienced any such barriers, and I would like to believe that it is a sign of changing times. This said there are still barriers. For example, the work that I do requires frequent travel, which can be difficult if you have a family.
What would you recommend to a young woman who would like to pursue a similar career?
It is important to get some field experience, perhaps through volunteering abroad. Do something you really enjoy. Learn a language.
What are the most and least rewarding aspects of your career so far?
The most rewarding aspects are the places I travel to and the beneficiaries I meet. Seeing the benefits of the work I do first-hand, with people on the ground, is hugely rewarding.
Least rewarding is seeing that so much inequality still exists.
What are the key skills that make you good at what you do?
I am not afraid to put my hand up for something and go in at the deep end. I love to learn new things and meet new people. Being adaptable to your audience is particularly important.
What is the toughest lesson you have learnt?
That there are huge, and increasing, levels of inequality around the world and that it's probably not going to change considerably during my life-time.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you tackle it?
Completing my Master's whilst staring a new job was tough. I managed my time well and asked for support when it was needed.
What achievements are you most proud of?
My thesis for my Master's. It was something I did independently, and I enjoyed taking control of it and seeing it through to the end.
Do you have a role model and if so who and why?
Plenty. I am constantly in awe of many of the women that I work with who manage their family life and work life so successfully.
Leah Dembitzer | Management Consultant | AECOM International Development UK
Two years' experience
CV in brief
Previously worked as Consultant (Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction) and Consultant, Financial Sector Practice at Maxwell Stamp | Events coordinator at British Red Cross | Project manager at Twin Trading Ltd | Events organisation at The Fair Trade Fair & The Global Development Forum | Volunteer at Fistula Hospital (Ethiopia) & HIV clinic (Lesotho)
Languages spoken English and French
Exclusive email interview 7 January 2016
Inspiring girls and young women to choose a career in foreign policy
Copyright © 2016, Women in Foreign Policy. All rights reserved.