Interview conducted by: Grusha Victor, PDC Alumni Liaison.
The Graduate Press (TGP) and Professional Development Committee (PDC) have teamed up to publish articles highlighting the professional and academic journeys of IHEID alumni working in different fields, sectors as well as different continents. Interviewed alumni will also share their experiences while studying at the Institute, including the activities and/or initiatives they participated in. We hope that, through these interviews, current students will get a better idea of the scope of work and possibilities that are open to them after completing their degree, whether it is an interdisciplinary Masters or a PhD.
Ms. Lizbeth Becerra Garza
SheTrades Invest and LATAM lead, ITC SheTrades
Lizbeth Becerra Garza is an Associate Programme Officer at the International Trade Centre (ITC), joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. She focuses on trade-related technical assistance, particularly on topics related to access to finance, and implementation of SheTrades’ activities in Latin America.
Could you briefly describe your career path, starting with your experiences at IHEID and any internships or jobs you had before your current role?
My first year at IHEID was mainly classes and many events. During the summer, I did my first internship with UNRISD, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, where I contributed to the preparation of various written outputs such as briefings and publications. I credit this time for shaping my focus on social development. After the internship, I went on an exchange to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia instead of doing the capstone project where most of my classes were on public policy and development. I was also a part of C4SI where I supported teams, and organised events and workshops. When I was finishing my thesis, I started interning at ITC, where I currently work.
What was the role of previous experiences, your summer internship and your exchange semester in creating your interest in this field and bringing you where you are right now?
I think doing internships and studying the different kinds of organisations and their work really helped. I’m originally from Mexico, before doing my master’s I worked for the government with the Ministry of Education. Before finishing my Bachelor’s, I did an internship at the Mexican mission to the OECD and it was very enlightening. My work with the government was a social development program giving scholarships to students in higher education. I learnt many things related to project development and management, social development, and education. When I came to the Graduate Institute, it was all about having a global perspective. When I interned at UNRISD, the focus was on research. And, yes, by doing internships and studying abroad, I started to realise what I wanted to do. My first passion was research, but through my internship experiences, I discovered my interest in project implementation, as it involved direct interaction with people and you can see direct changes in people’s lives. That made me interested in ITC, which implements many projects in the field. These experiences helped me develop skills and also realise my own interest and focus areas.
Are there any specific courses you took at the Institute that helped you figure out your career path and interest?
I think some courses helped more than others. Surprisingly, economics and econometrics served a lot when I was doing my research and also in understanding very technical papers at the different organizations I interned at. I took courses on education because I was working in education and development back in Mexico, also migration studies. As a result of taking both classes, I ended up doing my thesis on the educational challenges faced by returned binational Mexican-American children.
How were you able to find these internships and also eventually started working at ITC?
I think something great about the Graduate Institute is that it is based in Geneva. When I was targeting internships, for example, I would see if a person was working there, that could be a friend of a friend of a friend or someone that will know someone from the Graduate Institute and I would try asking for a coffee chat to find out more about them. This is something maybe someone based somewhere else wouldn’t be able to do. My first internship was with UNRISD. I applied to an internship published on their website, I took my time to understand their work and create a tailored- cover letter and CV. I also had to do a written test, and it was very helpful to have thoroughly studied the organization before applying to the internship. The second internship at ITC was a good coincidence, there are a lot of events going on in Geneva, and at the Graduate Institute and I attended some. I wanted to know what was out there and started talking to people and exchanging cards. At an event I attended related to the SDGs, there was an ITC stall, and I was curious to know about their work. The representative present was a part of the project I am working on now. When I was looking for internships, I went back to the cards I gathered when attending events and started contacting people, one of them was the ITC representative I met, with who I ended up having a chat and I expressed my interest in the organization.
I understand you work as an ITC SheTrades Invest & LATAM lead. Can you provide more details about your typical day/week?
Well, no day is the same. The work is very dynamic. ITC SheTrades Invest is a project that aims to enhance access to finance for women entrepreneurs in the least and developing markets by bridging the gap between women and capital providers. We take an ecosystem approach because access to finance for women is affected by a range of factors, including economic, social and political. We also engage with stakeholders. Some of the things I do is organise gender lens investing roundtables, with stakeholders, international organisations, regulators, women entrepreneurs, business associations etc. We understand their good practices and challenges and identify action points and solutions to address financing gaps. We organise e-coffee sessions, webinars etc where we talk to capital providers and allow them to share what they can offer to women, and an opportunity for women to ask their queries, or pitch demos to investors. With Latin America, we currently have decentralised platforms for project implementation, but with a local context, and it’s usually hosted by a local export promotion agency or business-oriented institution. We have one in Uruguay and Argentina, and we’re about to launch one in the Dominican Republic. My job is to support all activities we have with the institutions and in the region.
I still see myself growing within the organisation and taking on more responsibilities.
What do you think is the best way to earn an internship at ITC?
I think it’s very, very important to have a look when internships are posted on our ITC web page. Read the terms of reference and see if this project interests you. Have a look at social media, because social media will give you insights about what it is that they are doing at the moment. ITC is based in Geneva, try to have a look on LinkedIn, try to see if there is someone there that you could talk to. You could try to send out an email requesting a coffee trying to find out more. Make your major message interesting and try to get a conversation soon. Try to do a good cover letter highlighting why are you interested in the position, what skills make you fit for the job, and how could you contribute to the work the team does, also tailor your CV highlighting previous experiences and skills that will make you a fit for the job.
What suggestions would you give to current students in terms of equipping themselves skill-wise, academically, and experience-wise to have better job prospects after their studies?
I think something that I recommend to Graduate Institute Students is to benefit from the events the institute organises, it’s amazing, all the networking you can do and a lot that you can learn. For some organisations, languages are very important. Try to practise any other language. Try to get to know people from all over the world. You never know, going to these types of events can get you a job opportunity. And it’s something that I will recommend, going out to events, trying to reach out to people. LinkedIn is a really useful resource that students can use to go out there and try to find a job opportunity, not only in Geneva but all over the world. The Graduate Institute organises a lot of career fairs, where they bring in alumni. It is really useful to have a chat with them, Also to talk to career services, as they can guide you or point you towards having a chat with alumni that are working in the organisation that you want to work with.
Have fun, enjoy, go out, go to events, and network. I’ve seen a lot of the colleagues I was working with, ended up in various parts of the world in different organisations. You know, if you’re looking for something, if you’re passionate about something, and if you show it in your cover letter, and if you try to connect with the right people, I’m sure you will find a job in the field of your interest.
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