Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, Universidad Catholique del Tachira, San Cristóbal, Venezuela
It must have been my wanderlust that prodded me to leave the private sector. I wanted experience at an international level. When I realized there was a need for competent accountants in the United Nations, I knew this was where I was meant to be. I was hired at the general service level to work in finance with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
The transition from the private sector to the public sector was a bit of a shock to my system. Especially since entering the public sector meant working for an international organization as large as the United Nations. I had to completely change my frame of mind in terms of what it meant to perform competently in accounting. In the private sector, it is all about the bottom line. The main objective there is profit; that is the underlying motive for every decision made. The United Nations, on the other hand, holds high the objectives of maintaining peace and security worldwide by supporting efforts to prevent conflicts around the world. These objectives influence the way I develop budgeting plans, audits, and appraisals based around the dues and contributions that come in from the member states.
During my first year with the United Nations in 2000, the mission in Kosovo experienced a need to replace vehicles at a high rate. From behind my desk in New York City and fresh from working in the profit-driven private sector, all I could see of the situation was unnecessary spending that would further deplete our accounts. My first instinct was to inquire why they needed to replace vehicles that had been bought the previous year. When I asked the field for an explanation, they replied that the road conditions were extremely bad. They then cryptically added, “a picture says a thousand words”. The next morning I arrived at work and saw a photograph of a United Nations vehicle stuck feet-deep in mud in the middle of the road in Kosovo. It was at that point that I began to understand the difficult card this particular mission had been dealt. I actually had the opportunity to visit the mission in 2003. Upon arrival, these daily realities took on a new meaning when I witnessed them in person. Needless to say, the mission got the new vehicles that same year.
My trip to Kosovo was eye-opening. Going to such a troubled area, I was able to see how concrete, real-time implementation in action can make a difference. To be honest, it can be frustrating for an accountant to think in terms of the amount of money being spent to simply keep these missions operable. The aid does not come cheap, and sometimes you feel as if these conflicts will never end. But then you imagine that same place without the United Nations, and you know it would be much worse.
My career at the United Nations has shown me how finance assists the field missions of the Organization. Having proven myself to be hard-working and steady, I successfully passed the General Services to Professional Examination and have taken positions in accounting within both the Department of Field Support and the Department of Management. Working in finance for the United Nations has truly proven to be my calling. I take a bit of comfort in knowing that I am helping by financing the cost involved in conflict resolution - an indispensable necessity if we can even begin to hope for the possibility of world peace.