Our “My career journey” series speaks to international development professionals to find out more about their role and their experiences of working in the sector.
This time we speak to Andres Gomez de la Torre, CARE International UK’s programme and policy director.
What does your role involve and what are your current work priorities?
As CARE International UK’s programme and policy director I am responsible for overseeing our organisation’s international operations and contribution to a more equal and fair world. For this I work with our development and emergency response teams across the CARE International Confederation to develop and implement context-specific interventions in partnership with a range of local and international actors. Our aim is to support people facing injustice and poverty (particularly women and girls) to bring about the changes they seek in their lives.
As I have been in my role for only a few weeks, my priority at this moment is to get to know my team and our partners; as well as getting a good understanding of our strengths and the challenges we currently face. I am also investing time in understanding where we are coming from as an organisation and the direction and objectives we have set – with the idea to determine how best I can contribute to achieve our aims.
How did you get into the international development sector?
I have a legal and policy background and started my career in the private sector working for law firms and consultancies. This experience gave me the opportunity to get exposed to international/global issues and different cultures. Gradually I developed greater interest in human rights law and policy, and saw my move into the voluntary sector as a natural step towards working for systems, regulations and behaviours that favour those in most need. Key to me was the idea to work in partnership with a range of actors for common goals.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
That in the end it’s all about people! As such, through this type of job I have had the privilege to meet extraordinarily committed people; individuals and communities who constantly put their personal/group interests to one side in the benefit of a wider goal. I enjoy the opportunity to learn from others and to see first-hand how people, when working together, can overcome the most difficult challenges. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing people achieving their own goals and to think (or hope) we were able offer a small contribution to their success.
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What’s the most challenging aspect of working in international development?
The constant realisation that we live in a very unequal and unfair world is both a challenge but also what keep us going. And you can add a number of other challenges to the list, including uncertainty, constant change, insecurity, violent conflict, funding pressures etc. Many times we feel you need to take two steps back to be able to take one step forward, or that processes need to start again and again. But despite all this; it is worth keeping going on.
What advice would you have for someone who would like to do your job?
Never to jump into offering advice too quickly! But if you push me, to invest time in getting to know the people and contexts you work with – this will always pay off. To listen to “both sides of the story”; to value diversity and differences; and to never underestimate people’s struggles and their capacity to overcome challenges. A useful story someone recommended me once (and that I will recommend to everyone planning to join this field) is the one of “the fish and the monkeys”.