Career insights: Davide Coltri
6 July 2018
Five years since he graduated from Education and International Development MA, Davide has developed a career building humanitarian response strategies in international crisis and conflict situations.
Now working as a Regional Education Advisor at War Child Holland, Davide gives us an insight to his education and career. Davide is a classmate of Reem Shammout who has also shared an insight into her career.
What were the highlights of your studies at the UCL Institute of Education?
The first thing I experienced was a very different teaching approach, compared to the one I was used to in my home country. The lessons built significantly on contributions from the students, discussion was encouraged and professors constantly made an effort to link theory to practice. Secondly, since the course attracted students from all over the world, there was an added value already in the diversity of cultural backgrounds, previous work experiences and interests.
Thirdly, the course was paired with regular seminars and events related to the content of the lessons, and experts in the field of Education and International Development were always invited.
Lastly, the quality of teaching was very high and I had a very supportive supervisor for my dissertation.
In addition, it was also fun! There was a core group of students I really enjoyed spending time with (mostly at the Student Union bar, sipping half pint after half pint because most of us were broken). This of course happened only once we were finished with our essays and compulsory readings
How has your career developed since you graduated?
The MA was an opportunity for a career shift. I had a completely different background (I was working as a double bass player and Special Education Needs teacher in Italy) and I lacked both the knowledge and experience to move to the NGO sector. I focused my dissertation on an Inclusive Education project implemented by Humanity and Inclusion (then Handicap International) in Kibera, Nairobi and I later on volunteered at HI office in London. Six months after my graduation I have been selected for a technical traineeship at Save the Children UK, where I further explored the area of Education in Emergencies.
Though unpaid, the traineeship opportunity attracted people from all over the world and having a sound theoretical background in Education was an essential added value during the selection interview. Of course getting an unpaid job after completing a MA was not what I was hoping for - I had already spent all the money I saved when I was working in Italy - but luckily I got a job as assistant librarian at the IOE (best education library in the world, in my opinion), which sustained me till I eventually started working in the field. The traineeship was an excellent opportunity and equipped me with the necessary attitude and skills for a career as Education in Emergencies Advisor.
When the traineeship finished, I joined the Humanitarian Surge Team at Save the Children UK. In that capacity I worked in Iraq, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Nepal, Tanzania, Turkey and Syria, either as Education advisor, Cluster Coordinator or Education programme Manager. After a break I joined War Child Holland as Regional Education Advisor and I am now based in Beirut.
How important is it to develop a strong professional network?
It is key. It is too often said that the world of those who work in humanitarian settings is very small - but it is a fact, thus having a strong network is essential. I ended up working with the same people in different places, from Tanzania to Iraq to Syria and Turkey. There is always an added value in having someone flagging opportunities to you, especially if you are trying to work as a consultant (which I did, for a short while). Also, being part of a network helps you staying up to date with latest development in a technical area.
What drives your passion for your work?
I believe in the transforming power of education, and in the fact that education can be a driving factor in reducing inequalities. Plus, I like working with people from different backgrounds and in teams.
What are your plans or goals for the future?
I am planning to keep working in the field of Education in Emergencies, and I would prefer to work in the field rather than Head Quarters. I am very passionate about the Syria crisis so I see myself involved until (hopefully soon) the conflict will end. In terms of technical areas, I would like to expand my knowledge in Inclusive Education. I am trying to reactivate the INEE Task Team on Inclusive Education so there might be some interesting developments soon!
Davide has volunteered as an alumni mentor and you can ask him or any of the thousands of other mentors for advice by joining the UCL Alumni Online Community. All UCL students and alumni can search the directory for a potential mentor from our pool of experienced alumni, make new connections and join a professional network.