Name: Saida Lulu
Age: 29 years
Bachelor of Arts, Double Major in International Studies and Communication (2011)
Current employer: SOS Children’s Village International
Current position: Regional Institutional Partnership Development Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tell us briefly about your work or role in your current organisation.
I support various countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa portfolio in grants acquisition, this includes supporting in proposal development. This requires knowledge in donors’ interest areas and what they are particularly interested in. It also requires knowledge in the current trends in the area of work, so the individual has to be up to date with what is going on in the areas they work in (and generally the world). I also support the countries in grant management ensuring that the programs are in line with donor regulations and that we are compliant and implementing as we proposed to, ensure that the program is benefiting the beneficiaries as it is supposed to, and monitoring work plans, results frameworks and budgets ensuring that we are on track as the contract with the donor is time bound. I support in all areas of the program cycle management including ensuring high quality donor reporting amongst other things.
As much as I love proposal development, the thing that gives me the most joy is seeing the impact of our work, no matter how little, to the people we work for. Seeing a child access what they require to have an equal opportunity to face life fairly is very fulfilling. And in this world we live in, making even one person happy, making a difference in even one person’s life, means a whole lot. Happiness does truly come from the small things.
How has your study in Monash Malaysia helped to prepare you for the working world?
I had great and supportive lecturers while at Monash. I wouldn’t say what I studied particularly applies in my work - times change, contexts are different and well, I am now building and maintaining relationships with institutional donors and what I was initially dreaming of was research in conflict, women and children issues. Well, the teaching methods were amazing. Dr. Yeoh had the most interesting ways of teaching and I particularly remember enjoying presentations during his lessons. I was very shy at that time and I didn’t like standing in front of people one bit. So, enjoying presentations was a huge thing – I could express myself well in front of a whole class room, preparing me for what was ahead. Then there was Dr Helen Nesadurai, one of the most amazing woman I know. I really enjoyed her lessons. I had a great support system, even if they didn’t know it. So thanks to them, I am now this person who feels like she can conquer the world.
Whilst at Monash, what type of opportunities did you participate in? Describe how these opportunities/exposure enhanced your employability skills.
As I mentioned, I was extremely shy. So I wasn’t into clubs and societies. I did support my cousin who was in the Faculty of Science, Almas Ramadhan Juma, once in vying for a seat in the student leadership body, which she won. I was very persistent in passing the leaflets and telling people why she was the best choice. I also had a study break for one semester while in Malaysia as the courses left for me to complete my degree weren’t available in that semester. Some semesters before that I attended a career fair at Monash Malaysia Campus and I met representatives from Asian-Pacific Research and Resource Center for Women (ARROW) and I took some cards. I emailed them persistently for an unpaid internship to gain experience and they gave in to me (persistence, something I learnt at Monash). They paid me a stipend but I was very excited. It was my first working experience and working with women who have so much passion for what they do. It was challenging and fulfilling at the same time. It challenged me to want to be like them, or even better. I still have some of them as my friends on social media.
After I completed that, I looked for an internship placement at the UN tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha Tanzania and I got it. This one was absolutely unpaid but I got the experience which readied me for my next job. During my last semester at Monash, as I was preparing to complete my final courses, I was also actively applying for internships and Assistant jobs back in Nairobi. I thought it was far-fetched because there were so many other qualified people who could get it but that didn’t stop me from applying, even with my one-page CV. As I was almost done with my final exams, I got my first interview invitation for a Research Assistant at an International NGO (Crisis Action). I wanted to spend a little more time with my friends but my mother encouraged me not to let the opportunity go. So I went for the interview, and thanks to the skills gained in Monash, I was courageous enough to express myself well during the interview and a few days later I got an offer letter. With a salary offer as well. My first real job! Oh the excitement.
What do you love most about your student life at Monash?
The cafeteria. Curry puffs were my favourite. My friends who I hope to one day meet again. The diversity of the place. Living in a new country and making lifetime friendships and connections while at it. The supportive staff at the university. So much to love. It was an experience I would relive, again and again.