Osee Junior Ouangala Gondja | Associate Information Systems Officer, Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa
Welcome to the United Nations Career Journey Podcast brought to you by the Office of Human Resources at the UN Secretariat and UNDP, the UN Development Programme.
In our conversations we talk to colleagues from around the world about their career paths. We explore what career satisfaction means to them — what keeps them inspired and motivated in their daily work.
My name is Kate Doyle and today we’ll hear from Osee Junior Ouangala Gondja, an Associate Information Systems Officer based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the Economic Commission for Africa.
Welcome Osee and thank you so much for joining us today.
So to get started could you share a little bit about yourself with our listeners?
I am Osee Junior Ouangala Gondja, a national from Central African Republic. I’ve been working for the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa since March 2020 as an Associate Information Systems Officer.
You come from a country that many of our listeners know little about. What was it like growing up in the Central African Republic?
Central African Republic is a beautiful country where it’s good to live. Despite the current social, political, economic, and military crises, I’m proud to have grown up in Central African Republic…to have studied there and to have started my working life there also. It was not easy growing up with regular school closings because of strike movements, water and electricity shortages, poor health systems and infrastructure but my parents did their best to take care of our education — my siblings and I — and provide the minimum to support our daily needs. So yeah, the challenges I faced and overcame when growing up helped me to be resilient in many situations.
I see. How did the civil war affect you and your family when you were growing up?
When war breaks out in a country it can affect people in many ways. Living with the uncertainty and not knowing what will be happening during this moment is indescribable. So I was living in Bangui during the crises in 2001, 2003… the ones in 2013 and 2014. We had to abandon our home may times…we were looted and some friends and family members were killed. So my family and I experienced internal displacement as we had to abandon our home for 1 month in 2013. As you can imagine it was really difficult to live in a camp with around 40,000 other IDPs during the rainy season, with lack of security, water, food, and hygiene.
It must have been very frightening having to leave your home in those years that you mentioned.
Yes it was very frightening for me and for my family. So yeah we tried to manage our stress…staying very in touch with our family and friends by phone and social media helped also to stay positive. And for me personally being with my family and hoping that the war would be finished one day….and having the possibility for a better future…I have a feeling that helped me also to stay strong. And leaving the country wasn’t an option for me.
Well, it sounds like a lot of difficulties even traumatic times that you had to go through as a child but what are some of your favorite childhood memories?
Yes of course. I have some favorite childhood memories. For example when I spent five years in a boarding school run by Carmelite religious for my high school. It was a good moment I passed there. So from this period I think I had a good education programme. It’s where I learned discipline…respect for other people, culture and time management, teamwork.
Another one…I won a national mathematics award for high school category in 2002. I got the prize from the Ministry of Education and the Ambassador for France. And the President of the country also received us to congratulate us. So I was selected with other candidates to represent our country at the Pam African Mathematics Olympiad in South Africa. It was my first time to travel abroad and the experience of meeting other young people with the same interests in mathematics was unique.
Ok Osee let’s turn now to your career path. You have over 13 years of experience in information technology and systems and two Masters’ degrees. You began your career in the private sector, at a company called Orange Centrafrique, a telecommunications company in Bangui which I believe is the capital I believe of Central African Republic…what was that like?
It was my first professional experience and I learned a lot. My first responsibility was to support the deployment of a mobile network across the country so I travelled to almost all the cities of Central African Republic to make this happen. My director and head of department trusted me and gave me the chance to demonstrate my skills and competencies by giving me more responsibilities and autonomy at work.
And after Orange Centrafrique you moved to UNICEF as an Information Technology Officer. What led you to make that change of job?
After 5 years of working for Orange Centrafrique, I felt the need to move to other challenges and opportunities.
My duties with UNICEF were to provide global information infrastructure and also provide internet for satellite installation for local internet providers. Also I managed some servers…some applications. I’m there to help people working for UNICEF to do their jobs. I believe that each support that I provided to colleagues working in the field counted. Without technology and communication support it would have been too hard to communicate, to process payments, to deliver supplies or submit reports. So I believe I contributed to help make better lives for children even though I was not working directly for programme development.
So you moved to UNICEF you and then you took the Young Professionals Programme exam again, right after a second try?
Yes my first attempt was in 2012 when I was not successful. Then I joined UNICEF in December 2013. And I took the Young Professionals exam again in December 2016 and it was my last year of my eligibility and finally this time I was able to make it and I was put on the roster for a future position.
And then in March 2020 you took up your current position at the Economic Commission for Africa in information systems. What a time to start a new job in a new country just as the pandemic was beginning. What has that been like for you over the past two years?
Yes I was very happy to get the offer from the Economic Commission for Africa. However, being deployed at the beginning of the pandemic was a very stressful experience. The office was locked down three days after my arrival. I had to deal with a lot of HR processes, briefings, and induction digitally over Zoom or Teams. So it was testing also to find a home approved by the security but the most challenging was to find school for my children. The French school was closed and not able to provide feedback for my kids’ admission. So I had to find another solution — by taking an online school from a school in France to keep most of them busy during this period. Another challenge faced was telecommuting in Addis. There is regular power and internet outage. And fortunately, after a while, I was able to solve most of the issues one by one, and also to get on with my jobs and have good collaboration with my teams and supervisors.
What is your daily work like these days? What are some of the key projects you’re working on?
My daily work these days consists of managing the network and the security and leading a team of five engineers and trying to follow up on all the issues that you may have on the network and provide necessary support from the service desk or staff requests. Actually, the most important project we are working on is very technical but I can try to simplify. We are working to upgrade our network infrastructure and improve the security with a partner named Cisco.
What do you find satisfying about your job?
I receive all the support that I needed from my supervisor and head of section. The training and learning opportunities given by the organization also help me improve my skills in the networking and security area. So I learned new things from my position as there is big difference between the infrastructure and technology I am currently managing with my team and the ones I used to manage in my previous positions. So definitively, a work environment with trust, open communication, respect of diversity and culture, clear organization and department objectives, adequate resources to assume my duties, make my current job greatly satisfying.
Has there been a learning tool that you’ve found useful during your time with the Secretariat so far?
Yes of course. I participated in the first cohort of the mentoring programme in September 2020. So I really appreciated the benefits I got from this programme. I had very fruitful discussions with my mentor. She helped me to solve some issues I had at the time and also gave me some guidance for my career aspirations. And I have also access to some learning platforms provided by UNECA, my office. So like Pluralsight, Linkedin Learning and Cisco Digital Learning …these platforms helped me to improve my skills and also to get some professional certifications.
So on the work-life side or the personal side of things, how have your wife and children adapted to life in Addis Abba after moving from Central African Republic?
My wife and children adapted well to life in Addis Ababa. The only downside is that it is not easy for my wife to find a job in Addis Ababa. For the children they made new friends and sometimes they celebrate the birthdays for those friends. They also like when we go out to the parks and restaurants as a family. So everyone likes the life in Addis.
And how you do you spend your time there when you’re not working?
Normally I spend my free time by playing basketball or walking or running. And also I like playing piano and guitar. And especially to support the Francophone Catholic community during church celebrations. I also spend one hour every week for bible study with kids aged 5–7 years from the same community. I often go out with my family to visit parks, enjoy some restaurants, or have some fun with the friends that I made here.
And when looking to the future where you like to be career-wise in about 5 years ago or so?
Getting hired through the Young Professional Programme process gave me the opportunity to occupy a P2 position. My two-year mandatory assignment will be over in March 2022 so I expect the possibility to move to another duty station or to apply for a higher position like a P3. So in about five years I would like to be in a P4 position with management level or technical expertise. So I am working on both possibilities and preparing myself with required training and certification for the next level.
And lastly Osee, could I ask you: what makes you proud about working for the United Nations?
I am proud to work for the United Nations and bring my humble contribution to peace and security efforts, human rights, children’s rights, sustainable human and economic development. UNICEF, my former employer, made me proud of the support provided for our children in Central African Republic, covering education, health, water access and sanitation for example. And at UNECA where I’m working now also makes me very proud for the good work done here to promote social and economic development in Africa.
Thank you so much Osee for your time today. This was a really interesting discussion and I wish you and your family the best as you continue to build your life in Addis Ababa. And I wish you the best on your career journey as you move forward.