Brenden Jongman: Young Professional – Disaster Risk Management

BrendenWhat is your role within the World Bank?

I work in the field of disaster risk management. Global economic losses from disasters such as floods, cyclones, droughts and earthquakes exceeded US$300 billion in 2017, which made this the most costly year on record. The poorest people are often hit hardest by such events, because they often live in low-lying areas in less robust housing, and have limited capacity to recover from financial shocks. The Disaster Risk Management practice in the World Bank aims at reducing the impacts of disasters on poor and vulnerable people around the world. We assist countries in disaster risk reduction (such as dikes, drainage, land-use planning and earthquake-resistant building construction), response and recovery after events, and financial solutions to help buffer the economic impact. I work in the Africa regional team, mainly focusing on Madagascar, Mozambique and the Seychelles. In Madagascar, for example, we are working with the Government to reduce flood risk and improve urban living conditions in the nation’s capital.

What challenges do you run into?

There are so many challenges! Technically, disaster risk management is a complex topic that requires a good understanding of socio-economic development, climate change and policy making. Operationally, my field is in the intersection of many other fields and requires close collaboration across different departments. This in addition to the already complex process of preparing and implementing World Bank projects. We need to work within the priorities of the governments, with our local country offices, and the reality in the field. When projects lead to involuntary resettlement of people, for example, intensive processes and many studies are required to make sure this happens in the best possible way.

How does the YP program work?

The selection process to enter the YP is rigorous and takes more than a year – you will be selected on your experience, motivation, technical strengths, and motivation for development. Once selected, you enter a department of the Bank, as well as a consortium of YP colleagues across the different departments of the organization. Many of the YPs rotate to another unit after one year, to gain an even broader experience. However, rotation is not mandatory and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. You quickly become good friends with many of them (yes, many ‘happy hours’!). The program itself lasts two years, during which you get good opportunities to rotate between different units and explore the various facets of the organization. There are also a range of YP activities organized, such as meetings with high-level World Bank staff, training and leadership trainings, and peer coaching programs. The program is designed to prepare you well for a long-lasting career within the Bank.

What extras did it bring you compared to ‘regular’ young staffers at the Bank?

In my view, the YP program is the best way to enter the Bank. I was already working as a consultant at the Bank before joining the YP program, so I knew the organization a bit. However, the YP gave me a great new perspective. By joining the consortium of like-minded people across different units, and through the various introduction and training program elements, I quickly got a much more comprehensive understanding of the organization and the work we do. It also helps you think of the various career paths and how to get there. This comprehensive introduction and network is something that regular young staff don’t have from the beginning.

What happens after the YP Program?

The YP program itself lasts two years. After those two years, you become a regular staff member and your contract is guaranteed for an additional three years.

What advice can you give to an applicant?

My main advice is always to show that you have the required ‘T-profile’. You will need to demonstrate that you have deep expertise in a certain field (a majority of successful applicants has a PhD, but strong practical experience works too). At the same time, you will need to show that you understand how your specific expertise relates to the wider development agenda and the work that the World Bank is involved in. In my application, for example, I focused very much on the links to flood risk management (which is my expertise) and poverty reduction.

The World Bank YP Program will be opening their application season from June 14 – July 31, 2018.