In 2014, Antine Legrand participated in the NETI 6th Cohort as an M&E Officer in Kinshasa. Upon graduating from the NETI Programme, Antine took on the role of Chief of Planning, M&E in Haiti where she continues to grow and learn about herself, UNICEF, and the great things the organization is able to accomplish even while under immense pressure.
Her story is the story of many NETIs and UNICEF colleagues – the story of a lifelong desire to keep learning and willingness to keep growing as well as dedicating yourself to the mission of defending the rights of every child.
What drew you to a career with UNICEF?
The mission of helping children worldwide, particularly in emergencies. Also, the very positive impression I had of UNICEF. I was an Education Specialist for an international development bank prior to joining UNICEF and I worked closely with UNICEF colleagues in Education. They were bright and happy people with tremendous dedication to their work.
What attracted you to the NETI Programme?
A friend’s internal account of how it was to be part of the NETI 2nd cohort. He absolutely loved the experience and pitched the programme to me very well! To be honest, NETI was not the only young professional programme I applied to and got quite far into the selection process. However, it was the only one for which I had an internal account on how it really is and it was one of the applications I was the most excited about.
I think the advantages of the programme are tremendous, such as the coaching and mentoring, the responsibilities you have and the exposure you get as well as the reputation of the NETI brand within the organization. It’s also a double-edged sword: people have high expectations for what you will have to deliver. The NETI Programme is a very good way to grow, both professionally and personally.
How do you think the NETI Programme has helped you with your career?
The NETI initiative helped me both during the programme and after the programme. During the programme: It was quite obvious that the programme helped me to navigate my new position and new structure more smoothly than I would otherwise have. There was support through the coaching and from the fact that you belong to a NETI cohort.
I also believe that the way management views you is different when you come with the NETI seal. I was working in a very big country office and being a NETI helped me get noticed. After the programme: I got the chance to be selected for a P-4 position almost immediately after the end of my NETI post. The programme was a major accelerator in my career, I jumped from a P-2 NETI position to my current P-4 position in only two years – I believe this is quite uncommon.
What are the best things about the NETI Programme?
The first thing would be the induction in New York and the feeling of being part of a cohort, which includes making friends for life in the span of three weeks, having networks to turn to when you encounter problems with your daily tasks, keeping in touch, and helping each other. Every trimester or so we organize a Skype session which spans across 3 continents. Because everyone is so excited to speak, it’s hard to understand each other but it’s fun!
The second thing would be the coaching. For me, it was – and it still is – very helpful. It’s something I would never have done by myself because of the cost and because I thought I wouldn’t like talking to a stranger about my professional challenges. But I found coaching extremely interesting. It encouraged self-reflection and learning to see what you don’t see naturally. I can’t tell you what I would have been without it, but I have a feeling that it helped me a lot.
What is the most memorable experience you have had as part of the NETI Programme?
The induction in New York, which involved three and a half weeks of getting to know my amazing fellow NETIs, putting in lots of hard work, learning new concepts, and having a few sleepless nights. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, from excitement to anxiety. As we were getting ready to be deployed, we met with senior management and built strong relationships with fellow NETIs, NETI alumni and the NETI team. All this was going on while we were also attending to getting vaccine shots and processing visas. It was a transitional moment as well as intense, challenging, educational, and enlightening. I love those moments in life. These are rare and precious!
What is your advice for someone interested in the NETI Programme?
Apply. Don’t be scared of the big numbers when you hear that there are thousands of applicants for only 15-20 positions. It’s worth trying.
What advice would you like to share with current NETIs who are building their careers?
They don’t need advice! All the ones I know are very capable of driving their own boat. They are smart, pro-active, sensible, and committed people; this is why I am very proud to be among them and just hope to meet more during my career at UNICEF.
What were the daily responsibilities at your NETI position?
I was a Monitoring Officer in the country office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). That means I worked on planning and monitoring of programmes, defining indicators, improving the way we collect data and report on results. It’s a big task in DRC where data is either nonexistent, partial, or often unreliable. It’s very interesting also because DRC is the size of Western Europe and one of the biggest UNICEF country offices in the world. It has several organizational layers: Kinshasa-central, Zonal, provincial, and even sub-provincial ‘antenna’ offices. You can imagine that considerably complicates the work of planners and people who monitor results.
My daily job consisted of some Excel sheets, but also visits to health centers and seeing kids receiving UNICEF backpacks in preparation for the school year. There were great moments of connections with field offices, building capacity and supporting UNICEF’s work directly. I have a particularly fond recollection of moments with colleagues in Eastern Congo. The field missions and working with partners are very interesting and even exhilarating. As such, M&E is a very important aspect of improving the way UNICEF works.
What are your plans for the future?
I have been the Chief of Planning, M&E in Haiti for a little over 6 months now. I arrived in the midst of defining the new 5-year country programme. After just a few months, we all had to face a major emergency (responding to Hurricane Matthew). Therefore, I have learnt a lot about what the organization can do while under immense pressure to deliver.
I keep on learning every day about my own abilities to do things I never thought I would do, how to manage a team, new amazing NETIs who came to support the Haiti Country office during the response, the dedication of my colleagues and how incredibly lucky I am to work with them. In the future, I will just keep doing my best to support UNICEF’s work in this country, my colleagues, and our partners.
UNICEF via ICON
This post is also available in: French