Reflecting on my time at Sustineo
by Madeleine Plocki
Since finishing my BA(Hons) I have found it difficult to get a foothold in the development industry. While I completed lots of extra-curricular and volunteer activities during my first degree, I did not feel that I gained the competitive edge that I was hoping to. I had too little relevant experience to find a job in the industry. Looking to fill this gap, during the final semester of my Masters in Environmental Management and Development I approached Sustineo regarding a potential internship. Initially, I approached Sustineo because of my interest in development policy and their experience in policy analysis across a wide range of issues. They had not had an intern before but I sent them an unsolicited email, (perhaps cheekily) suggesting I could be their first intern and they invited me in for a chat.
Together, Sustineo and I developed a concept for a research project covering an area of mutual interest that I could work on. Throughout my four months here, Sustineo provided a lot of support, particularly in developing the research project on ‘nexus thinking’. They guided me through the process of research in the private sector, something very different to the work I had previously done at uni. I learnt ‘real world’ skills. I learnt how write better. Through my research, I learnt about organisational processes and how the private sector engages in ‘development’, especially the tender process. I can now appreciate the difference between writing to answer a question or discussing a theory at uni, and writing to sell your skills and knowledge to a client or potential client. Just starting a career in development and consultancy, this knowledge is invaluable for me and it is something that I did not learn at uni.
The Sustineo team was very supportive throughout. I was included in formal and informal staff meetings and extra-curricular activities right from the start. There was no photocopying, nor coffee runs. There was always helpful feedback available, something which really helped shape and improve the work I was doing. This inclusion resulted in lots of informal learning around how the business operates, how government departments outsource and how tenders work. This is something I had not been exposed to before, and has contributed to my deeper understanding of the industry. After two degrees and two different universities, I really felt I only had a theoretical grasp of development and management practices. My time and research at Sustineo has helped me apply these theories to real examples, to test them, find where they stand up and where they do not work so well.
There are a lot of interesting projects happening at Sustineo, and it was fun to be a part of such a forward thinking, creative and experienced team. My main project has been a research paper on the Asian Development Bank and their potential future directions, but I have also written some exciting, shorter pieces which ended up on Sustineo’s website. I also participated in an event they ran in May in launching the Pacific Index. My time at Sustineo was educational and fun, I learnt about topics that interested me, and how the business works. All this while being a part of a wonderful team; it was everything I could have hoped for from an internship.