Jessie Kirk (2012-2013): Policy and Research Officer (Graduate Scheme), DFID
Q: What initially sparked your interest in the DAP programme? What was your prior experience with development, if any, and what did you hope to achieve by participating in the course?
A: I was working at the British Red Cross in Major Donor Fundraising and was really interested in taking a bit of a career shift into policy or research. I had a strong academic interest in international development and knew I was likely to need a masters to work in policy and research. A friend then recommended the DAP programme and particularly the practical field component of the course– and that was that!
In terms of my background, I graduated in 2009 in English literature – where I was particularly interested in Indian literature. After graduating I then accepted a 6-month volunteer placement in Tamil Nadu, India with a local NGO through the UK youth-led charity Development in Action (DiA). There I taught English as a foreign language and ran a small health education programme. On returning to the UK, I joined the British Red Cross. I also volunteered in my spare time on the youth management committee for Development in Action.
Q: What was your favourite aspect or feature of the DAP course? What was your favourite module or subject?
A: The DAP programme has a number of strengths. Firstly, it covers a wide breadth of international development issues from humanitarian to urban planning to food systems. Secondly, within this broad scope there is an opportunity to specialise and narrow your focus. I took the Gender Policy and Planning module and focused much of my work around my academic interest in gender and development. Others focused on sustainable development or took a particular geographic focus. Thirdly, it provided an excellent overview of the history and political economy of international development. Since leaving UCL, I’ve realised how important it is to have an in depth understanding of the politics of aid. And of course the fieldtrip and research project in Ethiopia was a massive highlight!
Q: How has your career developed since completing the course? Where have you been working since graduation, and how did you get into that role? How has the course prepared you for your current career?
A: I found that DAP gave me a really in-depth academic grounding in international development, and any good employer will value that. I actually spoke a lot about my research in my last interview. After graduating from the programme, I joined DFID through the graduate development scheme. I currently work in the research and evidence division and have completed secondments in a number of different policy and programme teams across the organisation.
Q: Do you have any words of advice for current or prospective students?
A: 1) The course is a great opportunity to really find out what interests you most. It’s such a valuable experience but hard work – so really focusing your essays and dissertation on an area that interests you will help motivate you! 2) Attend lots of events, debates, talks etc on interesting topics – I often found these gave a great synthesis of the literature or introduced me to new interesting issues. 3) Get lots of advice and tips from the professors and staff (both essay-wise and job-wise)!